The Marseillais MuCEM

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MuCEM, April 2016

An architect’s dream, like something out of a render.

Designed by Rudy Ricciotti, the MuCEM rests on the coast along Marseille’s center. This museum provided exhibitions pertaining to the Mediterranean, however I was preoccupied with admiring the building and being outside in the beautiful weather, and confess I didn’t spend any time in the exhibitions.

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Double skin of the MuCEM, April 2016

Let’s start with the obvious – the facade. This giant rectangular building is covered in this sinuous concrete mesh shell. I repeat, concrete (a mouthwatering realization for architects). Walking through this double skin, with the shadows dancing on the pathway, my inner architect was giddy. This space – the threshold (the conceptual dream land of architects) – was not inside nor outside, you can inhabitant the in-between (another mouthwatering moment).

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Fort Saint-Jean and MuCEM, April 2016

This building is connected to the old Fort Saint-Jean by this singular bridge crossing the port – the ultimate ‘old meets new’ symbolism.

 

Crossing over to the fort, there are levels upon levels filled with gardens. While I was there, there also seemed to be a flower market taking place.

It is interesting that this fort and the new museum are considered to be part of the same museum, and yet they are from two completely different worlds.

 

The Marseillais Calanques

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Calanque Sugiton, April 2016

Alternative title: Becoming a mountain goat.

I spent the day at the Calanques in Marseille (or more particularly, the Calanque Sugiton) and it was one of the best hikes I have ever been on, complete with scenic vistas, perfect weather, and sunburned shoulders.

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Calanque Sugiton, April 2016

In case you are wondering what a ‘calanque’ is exactly (a term I had never heard before this trip), it is a narrow inlet of the sea along the mountainous Mediterranean coast.

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Calanque Sugiton, April 2016

I’ll admit, I am hard to impress, but as I climbed the rocky trail and reached a peak overlooking the coast I was amazed. I hadn’t known what to expect but I guarantee this hike surpassed any preconceptions – pictures from Wikipedia didn’t come close to depicting the experience standing atop this rocky passage.

The beating sun, the gentle ocean breeze, the sound of crashing waves, the fear of toppling over the edge of the shear cliff.

Everything added up to a great adventure.

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Calanque Sugiton, April 2016

If you do venture to this great national park I would highly recommend bringing water, sunscreen, a map, and a picnic lunch – none of which I had the foresight to bring. I like to think of myself as an outdoors-woman, but clearly a very ill prepared one.

A Day in Milan(o)

I never intended to go to Milan.

The day before my flight was scheduled to fly to Paris from Venice, a strike of air traffic controllers in France caused all flights to be cancelled. There were simply no flights flying from Venice to Paris for the next two days, and although being stranded in Venice is not the worst thing, I did have classes I needed to be in Paris for!

My solution? Take a train from Venice to Milan in the morning, spend the day in Milan, and take the high speed train from Milan to Paris that night. Not only was the problem solved, but it gave me a day to explore Milan. Or rather, Milano in Italian.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Near the Duomo di Milano, this arcade is one of the oldest shopping centers. From the outside I didn’t expect to enter this expansive and ornate passage. Inside the arcade is  lined with shops, which are probably some of the most expensive stores in the world.

Sforzesco Castle

This 15th century castle was impressively huge, but what was even more impressive for me was the enormous Parco Sempione directly behind it. The castle itself is full of museums and art collections, but it is free to walk around the grounds and explore.

Piazza Gae Aulenti

There is a distinct line in Milan where the historical part of the city stops and the modern part begins. In this modern wonderland, you will find a variety tall buildings that all look as if they are straight from a render. My favourite part was Piazza Gae Aulenti, which was encircled by tall glass skyscrapers with most of the piazza devoted to a large pool of water. The interesting part was that there were voids cut into this pool that allowed you to see underneath, into the building (plus these voids had the added benefit of allowing sunlight into the space below).

The Venetian Churches

Venice is jam packed full of churches. Scattered throughout the island, these churches each have their own history. They have now become a main tourist attraction, and many charge an admittance fee. Almost every street has a church on it, or at least that is how it feels looking at a map, but unless you are consciously looking around you may miss it because they churches are so deeply embedded into the urban fabric.

Here are some of the notable churches that I visited while in Venice:

San Marco Basilica

This 11th century basilica acts as one side of the large Piazza San Marco. Arguably the church of Venice, it is constantly swarmed by tourists. I happened to be there on Palm Sunday (note the palm leaves in one of the images above), where they had a ceremony in the morning, although I am not entirely sure what happened due to the sea of heads in front of me.

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Doge’s Palace, Venice, March 2016

Doge’s Palace

Alright, so this isn’t a church but it is located adjacent to San Marco Basilica. This is a palace built for the Doge (the highest official of Venice – not the internet meme…)

San Giorgio Maggiore

Designed by Andre Palladio in the 16th century, the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore resides on the island San Giorgio Maggiore. Almost the entire island is dedicated this massive church. It can be seen from San Marco Square, however sometimes the fog is so thick you can only faintly make out the shape.

Santa Maria Gloriosa Dei Frari

I just happened to walk by this church and was impressed by its size. This is one of the churches that charges for admission, so I did not shell out to tour the interior but I did take a peak and saw the huge vaulted ceilings.