Category Archives: USA

USA, Washington DC – Presidents galore, a sprinkling of cherry blossoms, cocktails and the new museum of African American History and Culture – lots going on in DC – wear comfy shoes

The portrait Gallery was opposite our hotel – the Kimpton Monaco which was reasonably priced and easy to walk from or subway from to just about everywhere including the Regan Airport. Of course we wanted to see the new Obama portraits too – from an art perspective I preferred Obama’s.

Here are a few who came before (in very different artistic styles) (and amazingly the Nixon one was a Norman Rockell) plus a few others who could have been president – well anyonce can can’t they????

If you get a chance to get into the National Museum of African American History and Culture – get it. Tickets are available the month before and are free but in hot demand so ask your concierge too – that’s how we go ours on our last day. So worth it. I only did the culture sections as that took three hours – when I go back I will tackle the history floors which are all underground. This montage shows Chuck Berry’s Cadillac as well as the tower of books just about Abraham Lincoln (from the Ford Theatre Museum where he was shot)

Cocktail grazing with Urban Adventures DC after the National Portrait Gallery is a good way to go.

And finally the glorious cherry blossoms. We had a cold spell but because it followed a warm one we hit the prime cherry blossom viewing time.

USA, Washington DC – monuments and museums

Ages since I was last in DC and it remains a wonderful place of larger than life monuments, parks and museums – all are some of my favourite things and most of them are free too. Just wandering about and snapping pics of buildings that are iconic and seen in so many movies as well as newspapers and tv is great fun.

I also did a great evening tour with DC Urban Adventures which enabled me to see all the monuments at night – a whole new experience and well worth it.

I have visited a load of museums while here and there are still so many I have yet to visit so might come back later in the year. On Day one I visited the Hirshorn, Sackler and Freer art museums and was delighted to see art named after me and of course as usual thrilled to see anything by Yayoi Kusama – so of course I loved the massive pumpkin on the lawn as well as the superb Bowie photo.

And the magnolias in front of the Smithsonian castle were in full bloom too.

USA, Miami – last few days included Art Deco buildings, Everglades and Little Havana.

Have had a great time getting to know the Miami region over the past few weeks which was even better given I had the chance to catch up with friends from the US, UK, Austria and Australia who all happened to be visiting at various points.

The Art Deco buildings – exterior and interior are looking really great. Originally they were large private homes of the wealthy and then they were used by the underworld for many decades so are all designed to have a through hall (front to back) for quick escapes when needed and many have a tiny bar (used as a front for more nefarious businesses) and often the hotel was always “full” if anyone asked – another front! Nowadays they are real small and unique hotels on the beach with loads of character. Miami Vice seems a long time ago.

No trip to this area is complete without an airboat tour to the Everglades. Gorgeous scenery as you either drift by slowly or travel at very windy speed. Further excitement added by spotting one or two of the 1.5 million alligators who live in Florida (not sure who counted them?).

Finished the day with a drenching from a typical Miami storm in Little Havana and watching some cigar rolling with my mate Liza.

USA, Miami Wynwood Walls – Art and a few Ducati bikes for good measure

I went back to this cool area about 15 minutes from Downtown Miami for a walking tour of the curated art within Wynwood Walls as well as the street art in the surrounding streets.

Much of it is replaced every year as part of the Art Basel events every December so I think you could go back every year and have a totally different experience. I do love to see places regenerated and attracting new visitors – this was a no go area not so long ago.

If you find yourself there I also thoroughly recommend lunch at Kyu. This restaurant is a spin off from two of the original Zuma chefs (if you know Hong Kong or London you may have been). Excellent bites and the best Vietnamese porkbelly bao bun I’ve ever eaten even in Vietnam!

Below is a mix of Wynwood streets and also a couple of pieces from the Margulies Collection Gallery.

And these Ducati bike were at a special exhibition at the nearby Design District. Even I think they are cool and I know nothing much about this stuff.

Miami, More art galleries – the Rubell in Wynwood and the Bass in Miami Beach

There are a lot of galleries (mostly contemporary) in Miami most of which I have tried to see. Some are far better than others – Rubell I loved; Bass not so much. Still they are in nice buildings with air con and often close to the beach and/or cool bars so what’s not to like really.

The Rubell started off as a private collection of a young couple who bought things they liked. Now their collection has become so popular that part of it tours other cities in the US and they are having to move to larger premises – some of the items they originally bought were less than $500. Here are some samples

The chairs were as squishy as they look and very comfortable. The lady on the pink carpet has a perennial twitch of her right hand – the mix between human and robot; the lady in the plastic bag reflects a lawyer on the garbage heap now replaced with an automated and cheaper alternative.

The female artist on the left uses well known motifs from traditional artists and does her own thing with them; the male who is completely three dimensional is dipped in some sort of laminate and while totally modern strikes a classic Grecian statuary post and the reclining lady is actually a model who is part male part female.

The lady on the left is a made via 3D printer; the Chinese artist top right just stopped people in the street and asked them to give him everything they had on them and he turned it into art; and the daughter of the Rubell couple made the fully functional nutcracker from the mannequin – you are allowed to crack the walnuts!

Finally, from my less liked Bass here are three pieces. The drawing of Josephine Baker comes from the French restaurant next door and is easily my favorite of the four.

And there is always time for some relaxation by the ocean – this time it was Shuckers for a lovely casual lunch.

USA, Miami Beach – The shock of the beach v. the “beshert” (Yiddish word) Holocaust Memorial

Although I am staying downtown it is also nice to head to the beach occasionally and of course South Beach is the place to go. It is a bit of a shock to be lying by the beach drinking cocktails when only a few blocks away is an excellent Jewish Museum of Miami and more confrontationally the Holocaust Memorial which is very moving.

So here is the beach – as gorgeous as expected and even the advertising just floats past you on a portable movie screen so you don’t have to make much effort to read it!

It was the excellent guide at the Jewish Museum of Miami who suggested I hike over to the memorial. It is an excellent small museum in the former synagogue. Meyer Lanksy the infamous Jewish gangster lived in Miami Beach and gave generously to the local synagogue and was the only Jew who was refused the right to be buried in Israel; Many signs on restaurant and to enter clubs said “gentiles only” not that long ago; the first senator of Florida was a Sephardic Jew who arrived by way of Cuba; the famous Joe’s Stone crab shack on the Beach is 4th generation Weiss family owned and while the stone crab is expensive they still sell cheap burgers and chicken as the original owner said “I don’t care how fancy shmancy we become we always need to also provide food that the ordinary worker can afford” and they still do.

And here is the first thing you see when you approach the memorial which is close to the Botanical Gardens on 17th Street. Apparently when there was debate about where this should be put up – bearing in mind that in the 60s and 70s 75% of the Miami Beach area south of 5th was Jewish – the local church did not want this “in its shadow”. When the debate came up one Holocaust survivor said that she and her husband had been a concert pianist and both had one arm taken off in the camps so they could never play piano again – she argued for this memorial so “she could get her arm back”. Gives you goosebumps. So does the fact that the address of this memorial is 1933-1945 Meridian Street – pretty much covers the years from Kristellnacht to the end of the war. It was “beshert ” – a Yiddish word meaning “meant to be”.

Aside from the sheer scale of this memorial it is shocking yet peaceful at the same time. Worth a walk around for some quiet contemplation about the sheer scale of what happened back then – less than one hundred years ago. When you walk into the square naturally illuminated entrance you see all the names of the camps as you hear childrens’ voices quietly singing – very moving.

USA, Shopping in Miami – the Design Distict

In an 8 block location that used to house “Little Haiti” you can now find the Miami Design District. Almost complete it is a shopping experience a little akin to Rodeo Drive with many flagship designer stores in impressive surroundings.

First thing to enjoy are the windows – I was especially excited to see Louis Vuitton and Yanoi Kusama artwork in the same location. As for the orange corridor running along The Fendi store – well that took me right back to the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto last year.

As you wander around the Design District there is plenty of street art to look at too as well as the latest in cool -and easily accessible – hammocks,

Of course in such a swanky area even the car parkades need to be special and different – and as you can see they are that.

Also enjoyed a visit with a my NYC friend Lisa who now lives in Fort Lauderdale so she, Beth and I had a great catch up.