Archive for September, 2013
‘Israel’s cool coastal city is an electrifying mix of stylish hotels and high design landmarks- all along miles of white- sand beaches’
This is how Tel Aviv is described in the October issue of Travel+Leisure magazine.
Last April I was contacted by one of the Photo Editors of Travel+Leisure Magazine, asking me if I was by any chance in Tel Aviv and available for a shoot. The timing was perfect and I was assigned to shoot the monthly column T+L Decoder for Tel Aviv. The Decoder is actually the definitive guide which covers the best places to Eat, See, Shop and Stay in one city. Tel Aviv was chosen for October issue. Needless to say how excited I was and honored to shoot Tel Aviv. A few days later I got a list of places and locations I had to cover. As someone who lives in New York for a while now and comes to Tel Aviv for holiday visits, I must admit I was thrilled to discover new locations in the city and capture them from a different point of view. Not a local.
Beside shooting the various locations, I also had to keep in mind an interesting, graphic and impressive image for the guide’s cover. When I mentioned it to some of the ‘objects’, they got enrolled and excited and all wanted to be chosen for the cover. When I was in need for people as objects, some of my friends happily volunteered to be photographed as they also wanted to see me in my ‘working mode’.
The article was written by David Kaufman, a great NY based writer who, as I’ve heard, loves Tel Aviv. Here is the online version of the article. (I highly recommend to download the interactive iPad version)
Hope this article and the images will take you soon to Tel Aviv.
If you want to see young guys talking about laundry detergents or getting some folding tricks, head towards WasBar (available in Gent and Antwerp, Flanders)
WasBar is a winning concept of a launderette and a cafe, which is now getting a twist and raising its functional appeal with the addition of a hairdresser and a working space, all under one roof in a well designed space.
Here is a great clip that explains about the place and its concept.
The founders of WasBar are two young guys, Dries Henau and Yuri Vandenbogaerde, both live in Gent, known as a University city, with lots of students who live in dorms or student apartments that sometimes lack the laundry machines. Dries and Yuri themselves, used to take their laundry to their mothers during the weekend, and I guess at a certain point they got tired of it. They asked themselves ‘What does the student want?’ They came out with the assumption that students want to spend their time more usefully and enjoy while waiting for the whirring machines.
So they decided to create a special place for that.
Their concept won a TV competition for young entrepreneurs (The flemish version of The Apprentice) and they opened the space in Gent on October 2012 and recently expanded to Antwerp.
Dries and Yuri pay attention for everything. They chose a young and hype design studio, PinkEye which created a suitable designed and colorful space for the students and the young professionals in Gent. I loved the graphic identity of the place; from a clothes-pin crossed with a bottle opener logo, to the pink-light blue and mint green color palette, not to mention that each laundry machine has a name! The laundry machines are named after women while the tumble dryers are named after men.
The space is opened till 10pm and there is no better thing than overhearing two young guys in their 20s discussing laundry matters.
In July, AFAR Travel Magazine sent me to Flanders to indulge in the rich culture of the region and to enjoy the Flemish way of life. I was visiting four different cities (Gent, Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp) in six days and shot tons of pictures. I met a lot of interesting people who were very proud of their country and profession, I tasted few different kinds of beers, I even sniffed and inhaled chocolate and experienced the original Gentse Feesten in Gent. It was a hectic, enjoyable and an eye opener trip.
To learn more about my Flanders’ experience, make sure to read my complete Guide to Flanders on AFAR.com.
From the four cities I’ve visited, Antwerp is the one I wished I had more time to spend there. The city has a successful balance between culture and commerce, high end fashion and local tradition. It is strategically located on the Scheldt river, and has some great architectural highlights alongside 16th century guild houses and Art Nouveau gems.
Buildings such as the Train Central Station, which was completed in 1905 and serves as the main hub to Antwerp
The Law Courts by the architect Richard Rogers, with the spiked roofs and the bright yellow lines alongside the stairs.
Huis Van Roosmalen, which is a private residence, owned by designer and art collector Will Van Roosmalen. The house was finished in 1985 and designed by Bob Van Reeth. I love the black and white stripes and the curved structure.
and the Zuiderterras, which was designed by Bob Van Reeth as well and looks like a ship moored on the Scheldt’s river and serves as a cafe and a restaurant. All these architectural wonders make the city more interesting and surprising.
Antwerp is known as the center of the world’s diamond trade, and since 1980s, thanks to the emergences of Antwerp Six, designers such as Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester and Walter Van Beirendonck, drove the city to fashion cutting edge and led the creation of institutes such as the ModeNatie.
The city is very active. It has a great fashion scene, it hosts an impressive collection of restaurants and bars, has various museums, great architecture and a young and trendy vibe. I highly recommend to visit Antwerp during the Summer times, when the days are long and it is getting dark after nine.
Here is my Antwerp’s intake and my express guide to the capital of Flanders; Where to shop, sip, eat and visit.
Shop: Graanmarkt 13
Named after the building it is located in, Graanmarkt 13 is ‘a special house where every floor tells a story’. This beautiful building that used to be a bank, was bought by Ilse and Tim, who live with their two kids on the 3rd floor. I was lucky to meet Ilse, the owner, who gave me a tour around this beautiful concept store and restaurant. Graanmarkt 13 has a restaurant on the lower level, overseen by the young chef Seppe Nobels, who, by the way, uses only local products and grows the herbs on the rooftop terrace above the restaurant. The entrance level is the store and gallery, where fashion, jewelry and home accessories hand picked by Ilse herself, are displayed beautifully. The second floor serves as offices and a gallery, where sometimes designers can show and present their clothes. Isle, who used to be a lawyer, told me it was her dream to create such a concept store, and I must say, it’s a beautiful one.
Graanmarkt 13, Graanmarkt 13, 2000 Antwerp
This should be one of the stores to see when you visit Antwerp. It is quite a small place but it has an impressive collection of high quality gloves since 1884, the year it was established. The store interior seems like it stayed the same since that year. The great collection of gloves, ranging from lambskin gloves trimmed with rabbit fur or pigskin gloves lined with cashmere, is all stored in green colored drawers that line the walls. When I ask the salesperson how many gloves she holds at the store at that moment, she answered about 10,000 in store and in stock. People all over the world are attending the store and order this well known gloves brand.
Huis Boon Gloves, Lombardenvest 2-4, 2000 Antwerp
I was very happy to discover Seven Rooms store in one of my morning strolls in Antwerp. I was on my way toward Marnixplaats square, which became a favorite location for me, when I saw the colorful sofa in the entrance of the store. It triggered my curiosity and I had to check out this huge white space. Seven Rooms was opened in January 2013 and it is a combination between Aldo Torelli, an Italian Fashion Agent, his Japanese wife Mie Sazen, and Gustav Bruynseraede, a Belgium retailer. The Concept Store is called Seven Rooms, because there are seven ‘units’ in that open space; Bedroom, Bathroom, Kitchen, Garden, Living room, Library and Walk in Closet. Each ‘unit’ has the right functional accessories. The whole experience is revolves hospitality. When I got in and met with the store manager, she made sure I would feel right at home, and welcomed me with coffee and cookies. Mie is the one who travels the world to find unique brands and things that look different than what the other designers bring to Belgium. The store has been a great success. Despite its high end brands and prices, I highly recommend to visit it.
Seven Rooms, ST Antoniusstraat 12, 2000 Antwerp
Sip: Cafe Hopper
Cafe Hopper is a well known ‘institution’ in Antwerp’s nightlife and Bohemian scene. It is a small place with simple wooden chairs and a piano but it is always packed. If you are not familiar with the local scene, you might think Cafe Hopper is just a simple place, but it attracts local and international jazz musicians and it is packed day and night. The cafe is located in Leopold De Waelstraat, a central square surrounded with great other restaurants and cafes, but despite its simple look, it considered one of the most mythological places in the Zuid. (South)
Cafe Hopper, Leopold De Waelstraat 2, 2000 Antwerpen
It is always good to know where the ‘cool’ local people hang out. I believe it is the best way to experience the local scene. One of the places I have discovered is Vitrin, an all-day cafe with a cocktail bar and an outdoor chairs and tables, packed with young and hype Antwerpenese.
Vitrin is located in the ‘Zuid‘ (The South) area of Antwerp, known for its recent gentrification of young and artistic crowd. The cafe is in the Marnixplaats Square, which is surrounded by other cafe places, restaurants and bars. The two owners of Vitrine are Michiel Thys and Kenny Aernouts, who opened Vitrine in 2011, as they wanted to create a place that will be low key and simple, and yet, people will feel comfortable and welcomed. If you go there during evening time, or you just fancy a drink, ask for the special- a spritzer made with cava, aperol and sliced orange.
Vitrine, Marnixplaats 14, 2000 Antwerp
Located just across the street from Vitrin, also in Marnixplaats square, you can find the great seafood-only restaurant Fiskebar. The place is like ‘Scandinavian flavors meet Belgian tradition’ and is heaven to fish and seafood lovers. The place is simply styled; white tiled walls, chalk-written menu on the walls and wooden chairs. There is the bar area, which is mostly for small dishes and appetizers or the main dinning room for full courses. In the Summer times, better enjoy sitting outdoors and watch the crowd.
Fiskebar, Marnixplaats 12-13, 2000 Antwerp
See: MAS Museum
Museum aan de Stroom, or MAS, (or Museum on the Stream) is one of the most significant cultural and architectural building in Antwerp. The museum is entirely dedicated to the city of Antwerp, with some changing galleries and exhibits mostly around the escalators area. I visited the museum twice; First time at night and second time during day time. It is fascinating in every hour of the day. The museum facade looks like a stack of red boxed connected by see through tubes. These curled wave-shaped floor to ceiling windows allow you to have a marvelous overview of Antwerp’s docks.
Take the escalators to the 9th floor and exit the rooftop to see a 360 view of Antwerp. If you climb to the first and upper floors of the museum and you face the square, you can notice a painted mosaic of a skull, based on a painting by the Belgian painter Luc Tuymans.
MAS, Hanzestedenplaats 1, 2000 Antwerp
Being in Antwerp and not visiting the ModeNatie Museum is like being in Beijing and not walking on the Great Wall. If Antwerp is considered the capital of Fashion, the ModeNatie is a must. The Complex includes Flanders Fashion Institute, MoMu Fashion Museum, the editorial department of A magazine and the fashion department of Hogeschool Antwerp. The building has an interesting interior of geometric lines and dark wood stairs that can stand in contrast to the flowing shape of the fabrics that are part of the exhibit and display.
When you visit the museum, don’t skip the Copyright bookstore that keeps a great collection of Art and Fashion books. I loved it!
Mode Natie Museum, Nationalestraat 28, 2000 Antwerp
When I grow up I want to design a hotel…Yep, same like this one…the citizenM hotel in Bankside London.
I’ve heard about citizenM when I was visiting London on July. I was having a meeting and a portfolio review with WallPaper Magazine and in preparing myself to the meeting, I read the WallPaper Travel section and came across the citizenM post. The hotel happened to be located just across the street from WallPaper offices so I made sure to go and see the hotel with my own eyes.
Yes. I admit. I love Shapes and Colors. (and if you follow my blog for a while now, I’m sure you have probably noticed that) so no wonder I was drawn into the huge lobby of citizenM immediately and wandered its colorful labyrinth. Then I got to the working space area that really made me envy I wasn’t the one sitting there working on my computer.
Wandering the lobby, I’ve noticed the nonchalant atmosphere among the guests, who seemed to feel like it was their own living-room. I loved it!
When I got back to New York, I had the pleasure of meeting Noreen Chadha, who is managing the up and coming citizenM in New York. Noreen was kind enough to share with me the story of the hotel chain and I’m so excited to share it with you.
It all started when Rattan Chadha, back then a textile tycoon and now the founder of citizenM, was always looking for a different kind of hotels while he was traveling for business. During his fashion days, Chadha had about 100 designers traveling all over the world, from London to Milan to Paris to New York, and they were always complaining about their hotels. These were cool creative people, and they wanted to stay in a hotel where they could connect with the brand and with the lifestyle. They wanted to have a drink at the bar and meet likeminded people. But they always ended up in a Holiday Inn or a Marriott, because of budget. This was a common frustration, and it got Rattan thinking about a new opportunity. He got a team of people, all hospitality-connected, all frequent flyers and together they came up with a list of frustrations but also with some creative solutions and suggestions.
citizenM, The New Generation of Traveller
Chadha and team realized the hospitality world is no longer divided into just two segments of travelers; The 5-start traveler or the Budget traveler. No. Nowadays travelers are mix and match and no longer boxed in one category; They might stay at different types of hotels for different trips, fly economy, take public transportation and yet, they want to dine in the hottest restaurant in town. They might wear Zara or Uniqlo but will also have a Rolex on their wrist.
The new generation of traveler is the citizenM (M is for Mobile). The citizenM traveler is a frequent traveler going to the major cities of the world, travels for work or pleasure or both. He is conscious about value, cares about quality, luxury and quite protective of his time. He doesn’t want to waste time, but wants things to be easy, efficient and friendly.
Once the mobile citizen profile was established, it was easier to figure out what does a citizenM traveler want from a hotel; The result was 5 main things:
* Lifestyle- ‘You are where you sleep’. When you walk into a hotel you want to connect with the vibe and the atmosphere. You want it to fit with your lifestyle. You also want to feel comfortable and at home. And when you are at home, you spend most of your time in your living room or your kitchen, and you mainly use your bedroom for sleeping. So this is what hotels should be like. Instead of a small lobby, citizenM Hotels; lobbies are built like oversized living rooms. All hotels are designed by Concrete, Amsterdam, and the furniture are all by the Swiss luxury brand, Vitra. Each hotel has contemporary Art that comes from the chain’s private Art collection and the chain has an in house stylist who travels all over the world, collecting authentic items to put in the hotels’ living rooms, so it really does feel like a home.
* Efficiency. Self check in and check out. You can be checked in within 60 seconds. citizenM likes working paperless, and most communication is via emails. Your room-key is an RFID card, that also doubles as a luggage tag and you can use it any time and at any hotel of citizenM. You can also use the room-key to pay for food and beverage.
* Luxury. Even though rooms are quite small, you will have a luxury sleeping experience thanks to the 2×2 meters beds with the custom made mattresses by Sealy, Italian linen and super fluffy pillows. The shower amenities are all designed by Alessandro Gualtieri who spent months perfecting the citizenAM and PM fragrance for the hotel chain.
* Technology should be simple, user friendly and has to work! All rooms run on a customizable ambient server. Each room has his own mood-pad (designed especially for citizenM by Samsung and Swisscom). The mood-pads are all one-touch, easy to use. You can change the color of the lighting, the intensity of the lights, temperature, different types of alarms (wake up gently by a woman counting down and the lights slowly turning on, or wildly with the lights on bright and the sound of pingpong balls or elephants thrashing through the room). There are no hidden costs in the room. So you can enjoy free WiFi, free movies on demand and free phone calls (run through VOIP).
* Genuine, human service. This might be one of the most important values of citizenM; Their Staff. The hotel doesn’t believe in segmenting people into functions or positions, and instead, the hotel trains its staff to be multi functional. The staff is citizenM’s brand ambassadors and they embody the typical mobile citizen themselves. Each and every one of them is trained as baristas to make you great coffee, as mixologists to shake you a perfect cocktail, but they can also check you in or out, help you in the room, and they know the city well so they can help with local tips and advice. Therefore, I was so amazed when the bartender who welcomed me also showed me the rooms and gave me a private tour.
Each staff member is purely hired on his/hers personality and those who are going to make you feel at home the moment you walk in the door. (Trust me, I am talking from my own experience). It doesn’t matter if they have tattoos or pink hair, as long as they are great and welcoming people who know their job.
citizenM hotel is all about affordable luxury, comfort and design. As a travel photographer, who is always looking for a great, comfortable and eye-catching design, I am curious and drawn to these kinds of hotels, such as citizenM.