Friday, January 20, 2017

Travel Tyro: NYC in the Snow

New York City is magical itself, but sprinkle in some snow and it takes on a whole new level of enchantment. Recently, I spent a long weekend in the city reuniting with old friends and revisiting favorite spots. After reappearing from the subway one afternoon, the city suddenly looked like a real-life snow globe, which of course was perfect for a quick walk around Central Park. Once the snowfall became too thick to carry on, I trudged my way back downtown, rejoining the mass population of New Yorkers hiding away in cafe corners that never before felt quite as intimate and cozy. 

latte of the day: bluestone lane

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Travel Tyro: Oxford, England

Travel roughly 60 miles away from London and you will find yourself transported to one of the most intellectual places in history: the University of Oxford. Universally known for its prestigious academia, Oxford became the first home for secular learning in England over a thousand years ago. As you stroll through the "city of dreaming spires" with its golden-hued limestone buildings in the Neoclassical architectural style, you will find yourself walking along the path of some the world's most brilliant scholars (and perhaps secretly hoping that by some sheer stroke of luck you might expand your own intellect through osmosis). After all, the university's impressive list of alumni includes world leaders, British Prime Ministers, Nobel Peace Prize winners, Olympians, and literary geniuses.

The university's network of 38 colleges, libraries, and churches alone provide many interesting tourist attractions that are not to be missed including the sweeping cityscape views at the St. Mary the Virgin Church Tower and the real-life Hogwarts dining hall at Christ Church; however, there are many places of interest sprinkled around Oxford that are also oozing with history, prestige, and charm. After finishing a tour of Bodleian Library, simply continue north on Parks Road to the joint Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museum for a truly eclectic and one-of-a-kind museum chock full of anthropological and primeval gems. Just a stone's throw away you'll also find the Ashmolean Museum which is the oldest public art museum in Britain. Yet before you leave, take time to wander around the city centre which guarantees the discovery of some local gem with old-world charm like Scriptum's Fine Stationery and the Grand Cafe, England's first coffee house.   

Radcliffe Camera & Bodleian Library

Views from the Tower at St Mary the Virgin Church 

Oxford University's Christ Church College

Bridge of Sighs

Inside Christ Church Cathedral

The Great Hall at Christ Church College

Alice in Wonderland Shop

The Grand Cafe— first coffee house in England

Scriptum Stationery Shop

Ashmolean Museum

Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Pitt Rivers Museum

The city is only about an hour train ride from London and the heart of Oxfordshire County, close to the coveted Cotswolds in the south east region of England. 
Any time of the year, but it's more lively when university is in session which makes for better people watching and authentic scholarly vibes. 
Oxford University: As the oldest university in the English-speaking world, Oxford has educated two British kings, 27 prime ministers, and countless famous writers, scholars, and actors and continues to be one of the most prestigious universities across the globe. For reference, here's a "short" list of famous Oxonians.
Christ Church: Founded by Henry VIII and transformed into a college in 1546, visitors flock to tour the inside Great Hall which inspired the dining hall scenes used in the Harry Potter films and real-life university dining halls across the pond (here's looking at you, Harvard). 
Radcliffe Camera & Bodleian Library: One of the oldest libraries in Europe, Bodleian offers various tours of both their historic and modern reading rooms. The library's Neoclassical style Radcliffe Camera is also one of the most photographed buildings in Oxford. 
Tower at St Mary the Virgin Church: Stop at the university's St Mary the Virgin Church to scale the 127 steps of the narrow church tower to view the city's skyline. 
Bridge of Sighs: Officially know as the Hertford Bridge that links the university quad to Hertford College, the bridge is an iconic landmark of the university campus that resembles the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. 
The Grand Cafe: Skip the English tea and grab a cappuccino at the first coffee house in England. 
Ashmolean Museum: Founded in 1683, this Oxford University art museum is the oldest public museum in Britain and first purpose-built public museum in the world.
Oxford University Museum of Natural History: The Victorian Neo-Gothic architectural style of the museum was influenced by John Ruskin's idea that architecture should be shaped by the energies of the natural world. Charles Darwin famously defended his Origin of Species here while Lewis Carroll often visited and used some of the museum's collection of animals in his famous novel, Alice in Wonderland
Pitt Rivers Museum: In 1884, English soldier and lifetime anthropology enthusiast, General Pitt Rivers, donated his extensive collection of over 26,000 archaeological objects to the University of Oxford. Since then, anthropologists and collectors around the world have made donations, expanding the museum's collection to over half a million objects today. 
Scriptum Fine Stationery: Walk down the 600-year-old Turl Street in Oxford and you'll spot a beautiful two-story stationery shop with hand-stitched leather journals, monogrammed letters, pens, wax seals, and other unique trinkets.
Alice in Wonderland Shop: A shop filled with charming memorabilia dedicated to Alice in Wonderland. Alice Liddell— the real-life inspiration behind Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland would buy sweets at this local shop as a child, which Carroll used as inspiration in his book when Alice visits a magical shop run by an old sheep selling curious things.
Whether you are a history buff, art lover, scholar, or Harry Potter fan, Oxford is the perfect place to escape London for the day.
Tyro Tip:
Here's a fun and in-depth look from the NY Times of the Oxford locations that inspired Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. As you wander around the city, you'll recognize quite a few!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Back in Black

Because nothing says city chic than an all black outfit, I've been wearing this outfit on repeat after finding this versatile and edgy asymmetrical wool coat over the holidays. When paired with oversized sunglasses, a large handbag, and sleek ponytail, my friends are also convinced I look like an Olsen twin. I can't say I hate it...

OOTD: Coat: Ralph Lauren | Jeans: Rag & Bone | Boots: Ann Taylor | Handbag: Kate Spade | Sunglasses: Kate Spade

Thursday, January 12, 2017

William Merritt Chase

Earlier this week, I made my final descent back north for my last semester of college. While I'm still coming to terms grips with the reality of that (honestly, how did I four years go by already?), I've been up to my ears in boxes, unpacking all of my stuff after living out of suitcases for the past few months abroad. I have to say, it's rather nice having more than four pairs of shoes to choose from when getting dressed in the morning! While my room still looks somewhat like a disaster zone, I opted to take a break the other day to peruse the William Merritt Chase exhibition at the MFA before it ends this month. I definitely can't say I regret my decision, even if I stayed up until midnight looking for my sheets (opps). 

To be completely honest, like many people, I had never even heard of Chase before the exhibit which is a tragedy in and of itself. Often overlooked by his contemporaries like John Singer Sargent and Mary Cassatt, Chase doesn't nearly get the credit he deserves given his versatility as an artist. From  portraits to landscapes, still life, genre, studio, and beyond, Chase's paintings capture all spectrums of everyday modern subjects. Yet, the true talent lies in his unique ability of combining experimental techniques with both past and the present influences (think Old Masters realism and contemporary Impressionism features). As you examine the 80 paintings throughout the exhibit, you will discover the work of an artist who was always evolving and absorbing the inspiration around him. 

The William Merritt Chase Exhibition is truly one of the best art exhibits I have seen and is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston until January 16th. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Travel Tyro: Versailles

When the twenty-three year old Louis XIV finally gained control of his crown in 1661 after nineteen long years of a regency, he set out with one goal in mind: absolute power. The young king wasted no time in flaunting his power. The result is Versailles, one of the world's largest and most opulent royal palaces ever built.

Initially built as a royal hunting lodge for his father, Louis XIII, Louis XIV spent the next twenty one years and an estimated 2 billion USD to create a palace that would become the official royal residence of the king, government, and court before the French Revolution erupted in 1789. Situated almost 10 miles away from the chaos of Paris, the grounds cover a sprawling 2,014 acres with the palace alone containing 700 rooms over 67,000 square meters of floor space— the equivalent of 12 American football fields. 

Christened Louis-Dieudonné or “gift of God”, Louis XIV believed in his divine right to rule as the will of God and adopted the sun as his royal emblem accordingly. Immortalized in history as the Sun King, Louis likened himself as the sun or center of the universe with which the planets or France revolved around. In essence, the palace became more than symbols of wealth, luxury, and dominance, but a place to glorify Louis XIV. 

Perhaps the most famous example of the king's manifested power is the Galerie des Glaces or Hall of Mirrors where courtiers would crowd to watch the king walk from his bedroom to the chapel, hoping to catch his eye or beg a favor as glass chandeliers hung below an ornately painted ceiling depicting the victories of his reign. The hall itself extends the entire length of the central building while floor to ceiling mirrors and windows cover the walls, allowing the sun's rays to reflect into the building— a subtle reminder of the king's presence everywhere in Versailles. 

After his death, Louis XIV's grandson, Louis XVI inherited the palace before he and his famous wife, Marie Antoinette, were beheaded during the French Revolution. After the dissolution of the French monarchy, Versailles was nearly destroyed. Luckily, it was spared and transformed into the Museum of the History of France in the 19th century. Today, over four million people visit Versailles annually as it continues to draw universal wonderment centuries later. 

Where: Le Château de Versailles, just outside of Paris, France
To get to Versailles you can take the RER train (not to be confused with the métro) for about an hour ride
When: Any time of the year, but summer is best to take full advantage of the gardens. Despite the sunny weather, it was quite windy and cold the day we went in mid-October, so we did not opt to explore the entire grounds.  
What:  There are actually several different tickets you can purchase to access the various attractions at Versailles that include:
Le Château: The main palace at Versailles with ornate rooms full of marble and gold splendor. Inside you'll also find the iconic Hall of Mirrors
The Grand Trianon: Standing northwest on the ground of Versailles, this small pink marbled palace was built as a retreat for Louis XIV when he wished to remove himself from the formalities and drama of court life. After the French Revolution, Napoleon restored the palace and stayed here several times. It is now as a guesthouse for the president of France.
The Petit Trianon: A group of structures with a working farm, Louis XVI gifted the Petit Trianon to Marie Antoinette as a private retreat from the pomp and circumstance of the court.
If you do want to see the entire grounds, definitely plan a whole day.
Why: Versailles is one of the world's largest palaces, a World Unesco Heritage site, and one of France's grandest examples of beauty, art, and architecture. If anything, the cinematography from this movie should win you over.
Tyro Tip: I suggest going early in the morning as soon as the palace opens to avoid waiting in a long line.
Also, there is a small Ladurée shop inside the Château! When in Paris...