Category Archives: Photography

Paris Day 2

On Sept 15th, 2011, I began the lifestyle that will define me for the next few months; that of a backpacker. My goal is to explore the world, learn about other cultures and meet new people all through the aid of digital tools and social media. Armed with an unlocked iPhone and 7 days worth of clothes I am making my way based on recommendations of friends and followers.


The Louvre before sunset

On my second day in Paris I gave up trying to find a constant connection for my devices and decided to knock as much off of my checklist as possible and planned to leave the next day. So I got up early and found my way to the Catacombs. Lis Rock and others were pretty adamant about it too

I had long heard about Paris’ dramatic underground tomb & tunnel system so I made it a point to get to it on this trip. The cost of entry was 8€ + 3€ for the audio guide. The walk through is entirely self paced through an unguided pathway. Any diversions in the tunnels have been gated off to prevent visitors from getting lost. The path has very few modern signs or notes in the tunnels and almost none of them are in English making the audio guide well worth it.

The combination of the calm voices of the audio guide and the long walk wound up being a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of the Paris streets. Kinda odd when you consider being surrounded by the remains of thousands of the dead.

After walking up the 83 steps back to the street level I immediately found the gift shop across the street (surprise, surprise). There I picked up some postcards and a bottle of Absinthe. On my way out I decided to ask the gentleman working there where in the area I could get a sandwich. Immediately after I asked I could see the excitement on his face, he then told me that his absolute favorite place in Paris was just three blocks away on a little corner by a roundabout. He quickly jotted down directions and emphasized “best sandwiches in Paris. No tourists.” This was exactly what I wanted to hear.

I took his advice and headed up the block and over to a little place called Le pPin d’Auguste (unfortunately not found on FourSquare) and found there was only one other customer. After she finished ordering I attempted to ask for a sandwich in the crudest most gratingly awful French ever spoken. The girl behind the counter laughed and told me, in English, that normally she wouldn’t have time to make a sandwich from scratch but she would for me since there was no one else around. A few minutes later I was eating the most delicious ham and cheese ever on the best French bread ever. Well done Catacombs gift-shop guy, well done.

After that I needed to recharge mentally and physically so I stopped at a Starbucks, got on Wifi for a bit, and caught up with the world and took suggestions for the evening.

From there I headed back to Notre Dame like the day before. This time I quietly explored the area while mass was in session and I marveled at the amazing stained glass work from the inside. I then relaxed in the plaza for a while and then decided to take the advice of Tim Dreyer on Twitter to check out the Musee de l’Orangerie and see their impressionist collection. With that in mind I used my map and found it to be on the other side of the Louvre courtyard area so I headed off that way. By the time I got there though it was closed, I looked at the signs and checked, and it wasn’t supposed to be for another hour. I don’t know why but they had closed early this evening. Damn. Out of luck and unsure what to do next I headed to the riverside to watch the sun set behind the Eiffel Tower.

Out of ideas for the evening and more exhausted and hungry again I took a walk along the riverside. Eventually I came to the Musee d’Orsay, which was also closed, but I stumbled upon a statue of Thomas Jefferson that caught my eye and a street vendor who was grilling some sausages. I stopped, bought a water and a sausage and just as I went to leave the guy asked me, in very broken english, if I had been to the Tower. Not wanting to get into semantics about when I was there (two years ago), I told him I had. He then handed my a silly purple souvenir Eiffel Tower keychain. I thanked him for his generosity and headed in for the night to work on photos and relax at the hostel as I was getting up early the next morning to head to Munich.

Full photo set.

London Part 2

On Sept 15th, 2011, I began the lifestyle that will define me for the next few months; that of a backpacker. My goal is to explore the world, learn about other cultures and meet new people all through the aid of digital tools and social media. Armed with an unlocked iPhone and 7 days worth of clothes I am making my way based on recommendations of friends and followers.


I got up Monday morning and Blair was determined to show me what she claimed was “the best place to get bagels” in Europe. A claim I was instantly skeptical of, having grown up in New York, I’ve been spoiled for much of my life with great bagels.

It turned out that the place Blair wanted to take me to was somewhere that Lis Rock had already suggested via Twitter from her travel experiences and interestingly there is a competing bagel shop right next door as well so we decided to try both and decide which I preferred.

In the end I preferred the second place’s butter better and they did have poppy seeds which the other did not. These bagels had little in common with the American style bagels I’ve been used to. They were smaller, softer, typically plain (as opposed to seeded or spiced) and near as I could tell neither place offered the option to have them toasted, so my preference was far from a conclusive decision.

After breakfast Blair and I wandered off through the city to the flower market where we listened to street musicians and enjoyed the hustle and bustle of people around us. We then took off exploring through the city checking out the architecture of the financial district and St. Paul’s Cathedral and explored the shopping areas of Covent Garden before taking the advice of Jim Binder once again and checking out a pub called the Nag’s Head. The Nag’s Head was an irish style pub with an extremely short bar and a variety of Adnam’s beers on tap. Blair and I rest there with a pint and some snacks before moving on to meet her husband Patrick for dinner at a pub around the corner from their flat when he returned that evening.

The next day Blair and I went out again and head over to The Victoria and Albert Museum on the suggestion of my aunt. where we found “The Power of Making” exhibit which explores the ways people are creating things of beauty or function out of other things one would not expect. An example of which would include an awesome Crochetdermy bear.

We explored some more from there before getting dinner at The Albion with Patrick and catching some friends of his for a drink nearby and soon calling it a night as the next morning I was off to Paris via the Eurostar.

My time in London was quiet and laid back as I would have expected… from here on out the real trip was set to kick off.

Full London photo set.

London Part 1

Heading to London from Brighton seemed like it would be easy enough, however when I arrived at the train station I soon found that service to London had been cancelled due to some sort of security issue. All was not lost however as one of the friendly train attendants was able to help me figure out a route into the city that required a variety of transfers.

Eventually I made my way to east London and specifically to Cheshire Street where my friend Blair and her husband Patrick live. Although she’s originally from South Carolina, I know Blair from Chicago where she attended the School of the Art Institute’s graduate program as a painter. At some point Blair left to study abroad for a semester and met Patrick, fast forward a few years and they are married and living together in London.

Coincidentally my visit to London coincided with the Bermondsey Street Festivalin which Blair was showing some of her artwork. Unfortunately though it also coincided with Patrick being out of town for a friend’s bachelor weekend.

After resting a bit at Blair’s flat we made our way over to the gallery for an opening cocktail reception. There I met several of her friends and other artists participating in the show. I had thrilling discussion with one gentleman, Alex, on the artistic merits of digital tools for artwork and the case for and against, as well the brilliant Japanese animation film Akira.

The next day Blair and I set out with several of her friends to the actual Street Festival but after an hour or two I decided to split off from the group to venture out and explore London. I figured I would take the time to get to know Gowalla‘s newly revised iPhone app and it’s Gowalla Guides feature. For those unfamiliar with Gowalla, it’s a location based social networking service that previously was built around “checking-in” to a venue similar to Foursquare, which I wrote about when it debuted at SXSW ’09.

Recently Gowalla decided to concede the check-in war and revamp their app in a different direction that features city guides and recommendations of things to do. I plan on discussing this in greater depth in a separate entry eventually seeing as I was a big fan of the old app I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to give the new one a go.

First things first I head off to find the Apple Store Regent Street. Yes, I’m a nerd, I know but in all seriousness Apple stores are a godsend to travelers. Free Wi-Fi, clean bathrooms, water fountains and usually (but not always) a place to sit down. Apple is also very particular about where they build their stores and the architectural designs of them, so if you can find a city’s local Apple store you can usually assure that you’ll not only see a beautiful structure but you’ll also find a lively shopping district with good (but likely expensive) places to eat.

Once I felt I had caught up with everything I needed at the store I popped open the Gowalla guide to take a look at what was nearby. When I saw that London’s famous Picadilly Circus was a short walk away I head off in that direction, from there made my way to Green Park and eventually Buckingham Palace.

The Palace is a sight to behold that unfortunately was closed by 6pm when I arrived, but I was still able to see the guards from the gate, talk to some of the assigned police officers and get a bunch of great shots from the monument across from it.

I wandered on further through the Palace parks and noticed I was able to see the famous “London Eye” from the park and decided to walk towards it, eventually discovering Big Ben and the bridge between them. The area around Big Ben was very alive with street performers and tourists and I got a good laugh from them before I decided to take the advice of Jim Binder via Twitter and caught a cab over to The Old Red Cow for a bite and a drink. Sure enough Jim’s suggestion was spot on and The Old Red Cow was a cozy bar with a great atmosphere, a friendly bartender and a heck of a burger. Shortly after that I head back via the Underground and called it a night.

Photo set now posted here.

Brighton in Review

Last week I began the lifestyle that will define me for the next few months; that of a backpacker. My goal is to explore the world, learn about other cultures and meet new people all through the aid of digital tools and social media. Armed with an unlocked iPhone and 7 days worth of clothes I am making my way based on recommendations of friends and followers.

I arrived in London Tuesday morning and soon made my way via bus down to the coastal city of Brighton. It was early afternoon when the bus pulled into my stop where I met Jeremy and we walked over to the Clearleft offices. There I got a good rest in their nook and enjoyed my first legitimate cup of British tea. The office got a good laugh when I wasn’t sure how I wanted it (I went with milk and minimal sugar after asking the crowd.)

From there we made our way to Jeremy’s home. We enjoyed some delicious homemade pizza made by Jessica and had few glasses of wine and then it was off to bed, only to awaken the next morning to explore the city.

The next morning I took another pitstop to the Clearleft offices and then headed south with the intent on wandering the coastal pier area but soon found myself at the Brighton Pavilion, a bizarrely out of place, but beautiful structure. The Pavilion was built for Prince Regent (later King George IV) as a seaside retreat to be deliberately over the top, and it shows even today as it poorly mimics eastern architecture and design practices in a way that winds up being charming in it’s own right.

Wandering the area I stumbled upon The Brighton Museum and Art Gallery and found myself spending more than an hour exploring it’s halls and learning about Brighton’s history. The city was first known as a health resort spot and later as an epicenter for underground rock culture complete with fights between motorcycle rockers and mods on mopeds. All in all, my kind of place.

Once I tore myself away from the museum I finally made my way to the pier where I purchased a 99 flake and then was promptly attacked by Brighton’s infamous seagulls, eventually escaping into arcade portion of the pier.

That night we got together with the Clearleft folks for drinks and attended a night of “Geek Comedy” as part of the Brighton Digital festival. It was definitely the only time I’ve heard jokes about CD-ROM video games, rocket scientist sex magik and carbon atoms in the same show. It was a blast.

The next day on the suggestion of Jessica I visited the old pier on the west side of the city. Due to fire and suspicious activity the old pier has collapsed into the channel and what remains is mostly a haunting charred skeleton of a structure just a few meters from the shoreline.

That evening I met up with Jeremy and Jessica at The Grey’s Pub for a hearty meal and a round of drinks.

Brighton was a great time, it was a comfortable and friendly place to visit with obviously more culture than one can take in a few short days. In addition, Jeremy and Jessica couldn’t have possibly been better hosts, I look forward to seeing them again soon.

Photo set here!

Next up: London!

Grid Meets Road – World Travel in the Digital Age

On the 19th of September I will embark on an adventure that will almost certainly change my life. I am heading overseas to Europe to travel full time until February of next year.

Along my way I will use digital devices and social media tools to explore and find what to do in each respective city. I will document my experience on this blog, Flickr, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, FourSquare, GowallaTumblr & and maybe even YouTube. I will attempt to find places to say either with friends from these services or using sites like CouchSurfing and AirBnB.

The idea is to “crowd source” my adventure, asking for you, the reader, to supply me with input as to where to go, what to see etc.

My end goal will be not just to explore the world but to really test the limits of our global communications network, the so-called “global community”. Can we, “the internet”, actually supply what one person needs to know on such an adventure? How connected are we really through these services and how easy (or hard) is it to maintain the relationships with your loved ones while traveling full time?

I have also submit a panel to next year’s SXSW Interactive Festival and hope to be able to share the results of my trip with you there as well as eventually publish a book on the experience.

I will share more details about the trip as we get closer to leaving but for now I could use your help.

Please do me a favor and vote for my panel to be accepted to SXSW… the voting period ends tonight Friday the 2nd at midnight. You can do that here.

And if you’re so interested you can donate to my experiment as well here.

Anyone who donates me any money (doesn’t matter how much or little) will have their name on a slide at our SXSW presentation should it be accepted. Thanks!