Sustainable Tourism (and how to travel while respecting the environment)

Being a tourist doesn’t necessarily need to be a synonym for being a careless, selfish douche bag. You CAN be a responsible traveler. You CAN help the environment. You CAN help the local economy (without your money ending up in the wrong hands). You CAN be a great person while being a tourist. But before I give you any ideas for what you can do to help the planet, here’s a brief summary of what’s going on that needs to be changed.

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It’s no secret that our planet is in danger. It hardly ever snows in certain parts of Norway anymore, we had 18 degrees and sunshine in Paris in March, and still a lot of people claim that global warming does not exist – while lighting their cigarette and driving their diesel fueled car on the way to the airport to take the fifth flight that week. We breathe in the dirty air, and we daydream about weekend-getaways to nice little cabins in the woods or cozy mountain lodges somewhere far away, somewhere where the air is fresh and the grass is green. Maybe even a picnic in the park. No, not the city park close to home. That one’s too dirty, too close to the noisy traffic and there’s trash everywhere. No, we don’t wanna go there. We wanna go somewhere remote, somewhere where we can be one with nature.

It’s no secret that rain forests are being destroyed. Partly because of climate change, but mainly because humans decided to deconstruct it for their own winnings. You know, to make all those cheap industrial biscuits, potato chips, chocolate, drugstore makeup, you name it – palm oil seems to always be one of the main ingredients. This is bad news for us, but even more so for the poor animals who die as a consequence of rain forest destruction.

It’s no secret that animals suffer from tourist’s selfishness. Generation selfie, I beg you, please don’t let yourself or anyone else get hurt just because you want recognition from strangers online. When you pick up those two starfish out from the water to take a cute photo – like the one’s you’ve seen on Instagram, you’re actually killing the starfish. And so did the people you wanted to copy. When you ride an elephant, take a selfie with a tiger, swim with dolphins or take selfies with cute little monkeys on a leash, you’re supporting an industry that profits from animal abuse.

It’s no secret that people suffer from other people’s greed. Generation selfie and the generation before us, we have become accustomed to the fast way of living. We want to keep up with the latest fashion, the latest technology, the latest food trends – and we are not willing to pay a lot for any of it, when given the option. But for every fast-fashion or fast-food item sold, there’s someone who has to work all night and day in terrible conditions and earning close to nothing, just so that you can save a few bucks.

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Here’s a guide to how you can travel while respecting the environment

  1. When traveling short distance, choose trains or buses over flights. Personally, I love traveling by train. I love looking out the window, noticing new places and wondering what they must be like to visit. Also, it’s easier to stretch your legs and take a walk around on the train than on a plane!
  2. If you’re planning to go to the park, to the beach or to a remote area where there might not be any trash cans anywhere in sight, bring your own recyclable bag for your waste. Hold onto it until you find a trash can!
  3. Instead of going to the supermarkets, go to the farmer’s markets. You’ll support the local agriculture, the local economy and you’ll know exactly what you’re putting into your body!
  4. If there’s an artisan market or bazaar in town, that’s where you should do your shopping! Handmade cosmetics, artisan jewelry, hand-woven bags, hand-sewn clothes – the money you spend on these items go to the people who created them. You’ll support the locals, their artistry and you get slow-fashion items completely unique from any of the stuff your friends have back home!
  5. Before signing up to any kind of tourist attractions with animals, use your web-browsing skills and read, read, read! Animal sanctuaries is an example of something that might either be completely fine or absolutely horrible, depending on the organization. Dig a little deeper than the basic tourist-reviews and you’ll find out for sure if this is something you should or shouldn’t spend money on.
  6. If you want to take a picture of a starfish, a dolphin, butterflies, birds, sharks, whatever creature it is that greets you on your travel, please do so. But please do it without touching them. They deserve to be treated with the same respect as you do.
  7. I said it before, and I’ll say it again. Support local agriculture! Visit a vineyard, go on a wine tour and purchase a few bottles of wine from the producer. If you’re more into breweries, visit a microbrewery and learn about the craft. Or maybe you’d rather see how cheese is made? Or coffee? Chocolate? There’s something for everyone in every country – and I can honestly say, the most fun tours I’ve ever been on were those where I was in direct contact with the producers of what I used to view as ‘everyday products’ until I realized how much work is put into creating them.
  8. Visit Botanic Gardens! Their role is to help address the issues relevant to restoring ecosystems. They provide knowledge and expertise in conservation biology, restoration ecology and ethnobotany, and raise awareness among the general public of the need for, and benefits that can come from, successful ecological restoration projects.
  9. Support the independent businesses. Instead of always going for the big chains for your accommodation and your meals, visit the independent ones. The owners put their heart, their soul and all their savings into their businesses and they depend on every costumer they can get. The big chains, the big guys, they’ll be fine. They’ll always have their following. But the little guys might not always be that lucky.
  10. If you see something, say something. If you witness someone abusing an animal, disrespecting the locals and their community or littering the streets – speak up. This planet needs a lot more everyday heroes to come to its rescue. You can be one of them!

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Me and my little friend, in a butterfly conservatory 

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I never laid a finger on this beautiful creature

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Coffee plantation in Boquete, Panama

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Woman making argan oil in Marrakech, Morocco

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Purcari Winery in Moldova

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Me, in Norway

 

 

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Working abroad – What are you waiting for?

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I remember it as if it was yesterday. The cold January morning, waving goodbye to snowy Norway, boarding a plane, crossing the Atlantic, and there I was. Six months after applying for my ultimate dream job, the wait had finally come to an end. I was there. Finally, I was in Orlando, Florida.

Filled with emotions, expectations, excitement and even more nervous than back when I was fourteen and was about to get my first kiss from a tall, skinny guy with the most unfortunate acne breakout. Imagine that. Or don’t. Disney World was way more exciting than any kiss I’d ever gotten from anyone ever. I say that, because I’m a big kid and always will be. I also say that because I believe that there is such a thing as a fun job. A job that will make you feel good about yourself. Motivated. Happy.

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Sometimes it’s not even the job itself that has that effect on you, but the feeling of starting over with a blank canvas. Leaving everything behind and starting over is obviously a very big risk, but I’ve never met anyone who ever said they regret doing it. Even if the job itself wasn’t that great, or the location wasn’t what they’d expected it to be, everyone I’ve met who have worked abroad, all agreed it was a life-changing experience and not in a million years would they have done it any differently.

My latest work experience abroad was also my most recent regular kind of job. Last summer I worked as a Norwegian language teacher in Paris. I was headhunted by a company who needed someone to teach beginner’s level Norwegian to French professionals planning to relocate. My students were wonderful people and fun to work with, and the experience itself was as educational for me as it was for them, as I learned to view my own first language from a different perspective. And can you really complain when you’re able to see the Eiffel tower from your workplace?

I asked some people to share their own stories from working abroad

Nicole, 30, from the US: “I have been working in Berlin, Germany for almost six years, including two one-month Project Management gigs in Dubai through a German client. I was a freelancer in everything from Admissions at an Executive MBA program, field trip leader for a Harvard summer program abroad, translator, Project Manager, remote Costumer Service for a German start-up, Relocation consulting for new expats and now I’m a College Registrar at a small private Liberal Arts University part-time (that last one is not freelance). I also taught English in Prague for six months in 2009-2010. As you can see, it’s quite a variety of experience and I have a lot of stories!”

Esther, 32, from California: “I taught at Cambridge International School in Bratislava, Slovakia about 4 years ago. It was awesome! The school at the time was still in start-up mode so it was a lot of work, but I loved what I did and I loved how far my money went in Bratislava. I lived like a queen! I taught PreK, 5th grade, and 7/8 art, science and drama to students from around the world. The best part was my students. They loved me and would draw me cute pictures or tell me sweet things everyday. Now I am moving to Bali with my son to teach at business retreats there. The journey never ends unless you let it!

Danielle, 25, from the UK: I’ve done quite a few jobs abroad so feel free to pick and choose! My first job abroad I was 19 and worked for First Choice, a big holiday company, as a drama and singing teacher in their hotels. I was teaching kids from the age 4-17 who wanted to do some performing on their holidays! I did this two summers in a row. First in Portugal, then in Turkey. Next I worked as a circus coach with a travelling circus school in America. We traveled all up and down the east coast teaching kids some awesome circus skills and then putting on a full on show with them at the end of the week. Then, when I finished university, I moved to Kyoto, Japan to teach English. I worked with all ages from babies to businessmen! Finally, I currently live in Tenerife, a Spanish island off the coast of Africa, working as a social media executive for a digital marketing agency!

Erinlee, from Canada: I’m a personal support worker and most people think that’s just helping people with toilet duties. There is a whole side of life able bodied forget non abled bodied people do. That’s travel, vacation. I’ve been blessed to go to Mexico with my boss and the Bahamas, and although I went with a family friend, their request was to nanny with mom of 3 back to Sudan. Now that was short and sweet, but amazing!

After reading all this, I’m sure you’re feeling inspired and motivated to get out there and land a cool job in a foreign country!

So what is the easiest way to find your dream job abroad?

Obviously, there is the option to travel to the destination of your choice first, and then ask around and hand over your CV to different businesses. However, the easiest and most economical way to do it, is to search for a job online. Because, face it, you don’t wanna sit around at your rental apartment or hotel room and wait for who knows how long. You’ll lose time and money. Besides, we live in a digital world!

We all know how easy it is to get lost in the sea of job service websites and it’s not always easy to know which one’s to choose or where to start.

Personally, I recommend SearchJobsAbroad.com as it’s a very user-friendly job service with a large range of jobs worldwide to choose from. All you need to do is upload your CV and start browsing!

As summer is just around the corner, there’s plenty of companies looking for seasonal workers. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to spend the summer entertaining kids in Italy or working at a theme park on a Spanish island (those are actual listings on the site)! There’s also a lot of companies looking for someone to stay with them long term. I mean, working as a costumer service agent for a fashion brand in Barcelona sounds like something I’d love to do. Or as a photographer in Mumbai? That’s awesome! Or maybe you’d rather teach English in Vietnam? Or be a fitness instructor in Thailand? Work at a luxury resort in Morocco? And the list goes on…

Take my advice. Stop daydreaming and start taking chances. Who knows, you might end up having the time of your life!

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A day at the market in Essaouira, Morocco

I went to Essaouira for the DIPINTO17 Retreat for Creative Entrepreneurs – but as you all know, a retreat is never “all work, no play”. A retreat is first and foremost a learning experience, motivational, inspirational – and a great way to make new friends and learn about the culture of the host country. While visiting the traditional market (the souk) in Essaouira, I got to experience shopping in a way I hadn’t done since I went to Tunisia with my parents. I got re-introduced to the concept of haggling. Modest as I am, it’s not something I feel comfortable with – but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. Right?

There I was, watching and learning from others before – somewhat – getting the hang of it. After all, back in Tunisia it wasn’t me who took care of the haggling. I was a seven year old kid back then. I remember my parents buying me a lot of souvenirs from the island of Djerba, and little did I know how much effort they had to go through to buy me those souvenirs for a reasonable price.

Reasonable price is never the price written on the price tag. That price is a rip-off, and only naive and modest tourists (like myself) will ever pay that price for something you can get half price if you just grow a pair and speak up. When I first arrived at the souk in Essaouira, I ran around like a headless chicken, not knowing what to do or what to say. My only advantage was that I speak French and could pretend to be a penny-pinching French tourist instead of the vendors thinking I’m some rich American throwing money around and buying everything from everyone. Yes, those are stereotypes, and no, they’re not always true. I know that, you know that, the Moroccans know that.

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The market in Essaouira is a lot more relaxed than the one in Marrakech. Here, there are no snake charmers, no monkeys on a leash, no one trying to nearly force you to get Henna tattoos done, no one getting mad at you for not looking at their merchandise. Although I love certain things about the souk in Marrakech, and although the chaos and energy can sometimes be fun and although it adds to the experience,  I will have to admit that I prefer the traditional market in Essaouira.

The vendors are generally quite relaxed. If you don’t enter their shop, they will not say anything. And once you enter the shop they will ask you if you’re looking for anything special and help you find what you’re looking for. And obviously propose other options.That’s it. And that’s the way I like to go shopping.

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The number one beauty product to invest in when in Morocco – the motherland of Argan oil – is exactly that, argan oil for hair and body. And where better to buy it than in Essaouira, the part of Morocco where the oil is produced. I asked a vendor how much he wanted for a travel size bottle, and he pointed at the price tag. It seemed like a reasonable price to me. My new friends from the retreat – including a local – gave me a surprised look and asked me shockingly if I really did pay the price written on the price tag. I was confused. Of course I did. It seemed cheap. And doesn’t an actual price tag mean that the price is fixed? Apparently not.

“You should have haggled!” they said. I tried again somewhere else. I entered a shop selling beautiful pashmina scarves. I took a deep breath. The vendor offered a price. Was it high? Was it low? I had no idea. We negotiated. I suggested fifteen dirhams less. He suggested five. We met halfway, I paid and we shook hands. I was still confused as to whether or not I should have gone harder or if I was too hard on him. I took another deep breath and moved on.

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Leather wallets. I wanted to get one as a gift for my partner. I found the perfect one and I negotiated harder than I had done in the previous shop. I almost felt sweat dripping from my forehead as I tried to act stubborn and hard to sell, when all I really wanted was to say “I can’t do this” and just pay, shake hands, smile and leave. But I did it. I negotiated!

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I wanted to take a lot of pictures at the market but worried I’d offend the vendors if I photographed their merchandise without buying anything. So I purposely photographed only the places where I bought things from, the places where I’d asked for permission first – and a few sneaky shots taken in a hurry. While photographing my surroundings I noticed an adorable little kitten sitting on a man’s knee while the man was playing guitar. I couldn’t stop looking at the cute little kitten, and felt rather embarrassed when I suddenly made eye contact with the man – who probably thought I was staring at him all this time!

And then there was the strange experience that turned out to be the highlight of the day. One of my friends from the retreat had entered something that looked like Ali Baba’s cave, a tiny room with multiple treasure chests (yes, treasure chests) filled with gorgeous jewelry. The happiest man I’d ever seen, with a bright blue turban, welcomed me and three of my new friends (we had been separated from the rest of the group) to his cave and offered me and another woman a seat while the guys waited in the back. “What do you like? What do you need? You can try anything!” he said joyfully and dug his hands into one of the treasure chests and offered us a handful of random jewelry. “Try whatever you want” he said. One of our friends tried a bracelet that turned out to be a tad bit too tight and the vendor laughed and said “You eat too much couscous, my friend!”. “Here – try this one!” he laughed and suggested some other options. Before she knew it, she had three bracelets on her arm. She also tried on a beautiful necklace. Everything was gorgeous. She liked it too, but put on an act to not seem too easy to sell. “You are a strong Berber woman!” he laughed, referring to the Moroccan Berbers, an unconquered people.

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I tried on a few bracelets. Many of them were way too big for my tiny wrists (the only thing tiny on me). “You don’t eat enough couscous!” he laughed and offered me to try another one. A bracelet I fell completely in love with. I also tried on a lovely necklace but wasn’t sure whether I wanted to buy it or not. “It is perfect for you” he said, trying to convince me to buy it. I hesitated and told him “If I buy too much, I’ll have no more money for couscous!”.

In the end we all ended up with jewelry for a ‘family price’ discount, and the funny vendor even handed out some freebies for our two male friends. Now this guy could sell anything to anyone, just by being the funniest and most dynamic vendor I’ve ever met. I didn’t even go there to buy jewelry. I went there for the entertainment. The jewelry was just a pleasant bonus. Someone give this man a one man show!

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What a day it had been. What an experience. Oh, how I’d love to go back to Essaouira with an empty suitcase and just stay at the market for one more day – or two. And that’s coming from someone who has a phobia of haggling.

Photos below are from a restaurant I want to visit next time I’m in Essaouira(we didn’t have time while we were there). There’s live music in the evenings, and just look at how amazing and artsy this place is!

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While heading towards the market, we saw a lot of this.

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And this. I love the colors!

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Our villa was a 20-25 minute drive from the city centre. Domaine La Colline des Oliviers .

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How everything went wrong – and how to be okay with it (Trondheim, Norway)

When buying Christmas presents for my loved ones, I am always one step ahead of everyone I know. Ridiculous as I am, I start planning and preparing everything months in advance. This year was no exception. A trip to Trondheim, after spending the holidays with my family in Stavanger – now THAT sounded like a wonderful idea!

My partner loves snow and we don’t really get to see it that often as it rarely snows in Paris. So what better gift than a trip to somewhere where we’d be guaranteed snow? From what I’d heard, there’s always a lot of snow in Trondheim during the winter months. Excited about snow in this Norwegian winter wonderland, I googled my way to a website advertising for dog sledding tours in Bymarka forest in Trondheim. And while browsing through Instagram, I saw some beautiful photos of the northern lights seen from Trondheim. I booked a dog sledding tour and I started daydreaming about the Northern lights. I’m Norwegian (from the southwest) and I have never seen them. Ever. This was not just the perfect gift for my partner. This was the perfect gift from me to myself as well!

But as things turned out, Mother nature had other plans and decided to show me the middle finger and rain on my parade. Literally.

As we got off the airport shuttle, Trondheim greeted us with dark clouds and heavy rain. 4 pm and already pitch black outside, my partner stepped right into a puddle and cursed loudly in French. Earlier that week, I had received an e-mail from the dog sledding tour company, informing me that the tour was cancelled due to the weather forecast. Rain every day. Dark clouds, wind, rain. In other words, we would most likely not see the Northern lights either. So much for a perfect gift.

I was devastated. I had lost motivation to visit the city and I felt like I had let my partner down. But we managed to overcome the disappointment – after all, we were visiting a city that neither of us had been to before and both had wanted to visit for a long time. This charming city managed to cheer us up, despite the bad weather and canceled plans. And these were our highlights:

Nidarosdomen (Nidaros Cathedral). This famous cathedral is even more impressive than I had expected it to be. And it’s only a few blocks away from the hotel we stayed at(Comfort Hotel Park)! The cathedral is built over the burial site of Saint Olav, the king of Norway (11th century), who became the patron saint of the country. This medieval cathedral is the worldwide northernmost of its kind. If you’re planning to visit, bare in mind that it’s not permitted to take photos inside of the cathedral.

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Gamle Bybro (Old Town Bridge). While visiting my parents during the holidays, my stepfather mentioned this charming little bridge as a must-see while visiting Trondheim. The view of the river and the wharfs is gorgeous! The bridge crosses the Nidelva river, connecting the main street Kjøpmannsgata to the neighborhood called Bakklandet. The bridge was constructed in 1681 by Luxembourg-born soldier and military engineer Johan Caspar von Cicignon. Back then, the location was of military-strategic significance.

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Bakklandet neighborhood is famous for its charming wooden houses and narrow streets. It is impossible not to fall in love with this neighborhood, which is probably why it’s also one of the major tourist attractions in the city. My partner and I visited Dromedar Kaffebar in Bakklandet and enjoyed some local pastries and delicious coffee drinks while staying warm, away from the pouring rain.

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Speaking of coffee… for some real, high quality coffee, check out Jacobsen & Svart Kaffebrenneri. Owner’s quote from the website; “I chose to put my family name on each coffee bag, because it’s a commitment. A commitment to perform, perfect and be proud of what I do” and “It’s simple, no bullshit and a honest approach to Nordic coffee culture”. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it over and over again: Scandinavians love coffee and coffee shops. It’s a part of our identity.

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Tyholttårnet (Tyholt tower) has more to offer than just being a 124 meter radio tower. It’s also an observation deck, giving you the greatest view of Trondheim. Inside of the tower there’s a revolving restaurant, which makes one complete revolution per hour. If you think it’s a high end gourmet restaurant, you’re wrong. The restaurant, Egon, is a Norwegian restaurant chain offering anything from pizza to quesadillas to steak to well, quite a lot of options for a reasonable price. As unromantic as that may sound, the atmosphere in the restaurant is amazing and you shouldn’t miss out on it once you’re in Trondheim. My partner and I celebrated New Year’s Eve at this restaurant. For the occasion, they had a fixed three-course menu and the atmosphere was festive and indeed very romantic. Which is exactly what I wanted for New Year’s Eve. We watched the fireworks from the tower and kissed 2016 goodbye.

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Nedre Elvehavn. Once a mechanical workshop, now a vibrant hot spot full of restaurants and bars. To honor this former industrial site, some of the original buildings and artifacts have been kept, including a dry dock and a crane.

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Fosenkaia Gjestehavn (Fosenkaia Guest Harbor). Strolling along this harbor was lovely, especially since it didn’t rain most of the time while we were there. The harbor seems to be either a current or a former industrial site and is located right behind the central train station. My partner who’s an engineer and fascinated with anything industrial, asked me to take lots of pictures, so I did.

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Vår Frue (Our Lady Church). Located in Midtbyen (town center), this church is also worth a visit – and a place to volunteer if you’re interested! The oldest part of this church dates from the 12th century and was rebuilt after fires during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries and finally restored in 1739.

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Stiftsgården. This is the royal residence in Trondheim and is possibly the largest wooden building in Northern Europe. It has been used by royalty and their guests since 1800.

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Needless to say, even though things didn’t go according to plan, and even though the weather was rather depressing, we had an amazing time in Trondheim. Mother nature can rain on my parade as much as she likes. I’ll still get back on my feet and find an umbrella somewhere. The Northern lights and dog sledding tour remains on our bucket lists for now.

more photos below

Nidaros Cathedral

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Bakklandet

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Old Town Bridge and Wharfs

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Nedre Elvehavn

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Fosenkaia Guest Harbor

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Our Lady Church

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Art is all around? Guided tour with Street Art Paris

tour was complimentary, but opinions are all my own

who: Street Art Paris

what: guided walking tour, discover street art in Paris

where: Belleville (meeting point 107 rue Oberkampf)

why: Discover Paris from a different angle and learn interesting facts about Parisian street art and artists (local ones and visitors)

Is all graffiti vandalism? Is all street art graffiti? What exactly is street art anyway – and is it really an important part of Parisian culture?

For centuries, the city of Paris has been an inspirational and educational source for creative souls and have attracted artists from all around the world. As a result, Paris has acquired a reputation as the “City of Art”. The city is known for the famous art displayed in the famous Louvre and Musée d’Orsay and the famous architectural style of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomph. Mainstream community have mixed feelings about the city’s street art – and some may even refer to it as vandalism. Thankfully, times are changing. History is changing. And recent events have made it more clear than ever that we need the freedom of opinion and expression. And what better way to express yourself than through art? Isn’t that what the famous paintings displayed in the Louvre were all about, as well? This is why it’s important that you take a minute to appreciate the underground creative community. This is the art of today.

107 Rue Oberkampf, the guided tour’s meeting point. This is no coincidental address. This is the location of Le MUR (the wall), which once was a billboard site – now a contemporary urban art spot which has since 2007 been an officially sanctioned street exhibition space. In France there are currently 14 walls like Le MUR. Twice per month an artist is commissioned to fill Le MUR with a new piece of art for the public to enjoy. We got there just in time for the transformation of an empty black wall to a fascinating piece by Toulouse-based artist Snake (visit the website of Le MUR or go to rue Oberkampf yourself to see the finished piece!)

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I’m sure you’ve heard of the clothing brand OBEY. Founded by American street artist and illustrator Shepard Fairey, who first became known for his “André the giant has a posse”(OBEY) sticker campaign and gained wide recognition for his Barack Obama “Hope” poster in 2008. Today, Fairey has an impressive resumé with work included in the collections at the Smithsonian, the Victoria and Albert museum in London – and many others. We found André the giant on two different locations.

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Chiotte is the vulgar slang word for toilet in French. Which is why the logo of local street artist Chiot is, well, toilets. You migh have to look up to see his art, as these colorful toilets are most often painted on chimneys. The artist works at night with absolutely no security and is a highly respected one in the community.

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Kashink is one of the few active female artists in the French street art scene. Her signature style is the huge four eyed characters with thick lines and bright colors. She only paints men – and she paints them fat, hairy and often gay. This piece was painted illegally – at daytime!

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Moving on to Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, popular site for street artists but most recently known as one of the sites for the attacks in November last year. Street artists made it their mission to recreate an atmosphere of peace and unity and draw positive attention to this street – which is very similar to what people did at Place de la Republique after the attacks, when they decorated the square with flowers, candles and letters to their loved ones. At the end of the day, we’re all the same, we all want peace and happiness. We just have different ideas of what our decoration should look like.

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I don’t know who did this one, so if you happen to know – please comment below so I can credit the artist.

If you live in Paris, you may have seen these bicycles – well, what’s left of them – before. He calls himself Ride in Peace, a French artist and bike courier who fixed a lot of old bikes to use them for art displays like these.

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This is the signature style of Manolo Mesa, a Spanish artist who paints with a stick and is famous for using the “ghost effect”.

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I absolutely love this mural. The theme is Nepal and the art is created by Doudou Style and Pearl (the girl and the panda). French artist Pearl specializes in realistic portraits and finds inspiration in African art. Doudou Style is a Parisian painter, graphic designer, illustrator and animator.

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Tucked in a side alley in Belleville,  you’ll find Rue Dénoyez – the most important street in Paris for the graffiti community. The entire street is one big canvas and it is perfectly legal to paint there. Some of the artwork found on this street is simply amazing, like this portrait by Manyoly, an artist from Marseille who finds inspiration in photos she’s taken of women she met on her travels.

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This one’s by Eddie Colla, an American artist known for his wheat paste and stencil art. He often paints humans with masks, like this one.

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Place Fréhel, which is often referred to as “the missing tooth”, is a square that didn’t exist before the collapse of buildings on Rue de Belleville in 1986 turned it into a no man’s land. For a long time it was just a place without a purpose, but it is now used as a public garden and a canvas for street artists. The most famous art found on this square has been there almost ever since the year Place Fréhel became what it is. This piece is by French artist Benjamin Vautier aka Ben and the phrase written is French for “beware of words”.

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This piece was painted by art teacher and painter Jean Le Gac and portrays a detective searching for x-street. I’m sure the joke must sound better in French.

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And here’s a more recent piece. Titled “we are late”, by Pox.

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Intra Larue is an interesting artist. This French woman gives a feminine touch to Paris and to all the places she visits – with her boob sculptures. These sculptures are always painted differently and placed high and low on random locations.

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The city of Paris is also decorated with something else I’m sure you’ve noticed on various locations. Meet Invader , the artist behind the mosaic “pixel art” and the mobile application game that lets you collect points as you discover these little guys. Kind of like Pokemon Go, isn’t it?

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Our guide, Virginie, took us to the Belleville park – a park you’d only really know about if you live in the nearby area. This piece is a commissioned artwork created by talented local artist Seth.

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More by Seth (the maison de l’air building)

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This powerful piece of art is by Wild Drawing, an Indonesian artist based in Greece. The piece was made to honor the victims of terrorism.

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The tour guide obviously saved us some of the best for last, when taking us to see the mural with current theme “The dream”. This gorgeous piece by Hopare was done completely free hand.

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Do you recognize this lady? It’s FKA Twigs. The piece was made by talented artist Alex .

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Credits to Street Art Paris – for sharing all knowledge about these artists and their work. If you happen to be in Paris and want something fun and educational to do on a weekend – why not book a street art tour like this one? And if you’re a creative type interested in learning the art of graffiti, check out their graffiti mural workshops!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why York (England) holds a special place in my heart

York. A historic walled city in North Yorkshire, England. Founded by the Romans and once capital of the Roman province of Britannia Inferior, and later of the kingdoms of Northumbria and Jorvik. Growing up in Norway, we learned a lot about the vikings and their conquests. We learned a lot about Jorvik and I’m sure there are some Norwegians out there who still claim York – sorry, Jorvik – as their own.

My British stepfather and my Polish mother came to Norway as immigrants and even though they both claim they feel more connected to their native country and its culture, I can tell that they’ve become more and more Norwegian as time goes by….which is probably one of the reasons why they ended up buying a holiday apartment in York, when they first started searching for an apartment in England.

My parents know – and I know – that there are plenty of reasons to love York, besides the Viking history and Nordic street names (Swinegate, for example, meaning Svinegata and refers to a place were pigs were kept). Here’s a few reasons I can think of:

UNESCO

The city of York is part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a city of Media Arts. The city has invested in its cultural institutions, initiating plenty of iconic activities such as the York Mystery Plays and the Illuminating York Festival.

Safety

Coming from someone who have moved around and traveled a lot, I can assure you you’ll feel safe in York – and I would highly recommend it as a destination for solo travelers!

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Tourist Attractions 

Visit the beautiful Cathedral York Minster, the medieval Clifford’s Tower, one of the many museums (Castle museum or the Jorvik Viking centre) or take a Yorkboat tour along the beautiful river Ouse.

Harry Potter

This city definitely has a Harry Potter-esque vibe to it. Wouldn’t it be nice to stroll along these little streets with your shopping bags, or maybe sit down somewhere with a good book – maybe Harry Potter – and sip a cup of tea and just enjoy this fairy tale-like atmosphere.

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Parks

York is blessed with beautiful parks. During the warm summer months you’ll see people everywhere, having a nice little picnic, going for a run or a bicycle ride, or….making out with their loved one, in the grass.. There’s also a bunch of geese everywhere for some reason – and they are not only in the parks! (And lots of white doves too, like these guys).

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Ethical Shopping

There are a lot of secondhand shops in York. And when I say a lot, I mean tons. Everywhere. Many different charity organizations have their own shops, which gives you the option to choose which cause you want to donate to. I usually visit all of them and buy a little something here and there, to support as many organizations as possible. The clothes are usually sold ridiculously cheap anyway.

Nightlife

York has a great university and is a very student-friendly city with lots of bars. But then again, wherever you go in England there will be lots of bars/pubs. I’ve been to a few different ones in York, and it’s safe to say there’s something for every taste and every price range.

Christmas

Celebrating Christmas in York is magical. They have an amazing Christmas market where you can buy local Yorkshire produce for your Christmas feast – or some lovely decorations or warm outerwear. When it snows in York – on all those little houses in the city center – it looks just like taken out of a fairy tale. Mesmerizing. More information about this year’s Christmas festival here .

These are all “old” photos and I didn’t have any photos from winter in York, so you’ll just have to take my word for it and enjoy these photos from June 2015 instead.

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My mother and I, enjoying the countryside not far from York

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