Beautiful Italy Part One: In the Beginning

Many years ago, I decided I wanted to visit Italy. Not sure why it took me so long to finally JUST DO IT but for whatever reason, in 2019 I finally purchased a ticket to Milano for November 2019. Come November it was clear that Venice was flooding more than usual due to rising water levels so I decided to move my trip to April 2020 given I really wanted to attend design week and the Salone del Mobile which occurs every year in April. Well, just my luck after waiting so many years, it soon became apparent that it was not for reasons we all know too well. The pandemic hit particularly hard smack dab in the center where I planned to go. I thought to myself, no worries. This will all blow over, so I rescheduled my trip for September 2020…. then April 2021…. then, well, let’s just say I cancelled the trip all together but kept my airline ticket knowing that when travel does come back there is no way my $550 ticket will still be offered at $550. Intuitively I knew prices would go up so when they offered me a refund I said no, I’ll keep my cheap ticket and wait it out. Wait it out I did, but unfortunately Norwegian Air went bankrupt by mid 2021. I did receive the refund, albeit 6 months later, but I felt lucky I even got the money back which I did not expect. All and all, the only money forfeited was a $35 EasyJet ticket between England and Milano, which I could probably get a refund but the amount of time and effort it would take to get it back…is not worth it for a mere $35.

So finally I made it to Italy last month and the wait was well worth it. I have maybe 500+ photos to spread out over several blog posts, so it begins. Stay tuned for part 2…

Venezia Gondolier

Beautiful Museums+Architecture

Museums like the Guggenheim and the Louvre are ingrained in our culture and are best known for their impressive collections and beautiful architecture. These institutions often make it onto top museum lists, and for good reason. People love them, but I’m here to introduce you to some lesser-known, but equally noteworthy museums that are architectural marvels in their own right. From science and technology to art and history, these modern galleries from around the world are works of art that you can admire without even setting foot inside.


Visit the largest museum in Canada during your next trip to Toronto. The Royal Ontario Museum features exhibits of art, world culture, and natural history and attracts more than one million visitors every year. The historical buildings of the existing structure are complemented by a bold new façade of prismatic glass and metal. According to Studio Libeskind, the architectural firm in charge of the project, the crystal-like atriums presented unique design challenges making it “among the most complicated construction projects in North America.” Besides the impressive multi-million dollar expansion, other reasons to visit include the museum’s vast collection of archaeological specimens as well as its array of design and art pieces.


Since 2014, the Louis Vuitton Foundation’s art museum in Paris has introduced visitors to exhibitions promoting modern and contemporary artistic creation. The museum is a production of world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. Its design presented builders with unprecedented technical challenges, namely its clustered white blocks (that the team called icebergs) and twelve glass “sails” supported by wooden beams. The interior design is just as impressive as the exterior — opening up to vast, lofty halls with plenty of natural light. The glass walls and ceilings not only provide epic views of downtown Paris from top floors but also play with the museum’s artwork through light, mirrors, color, and more.

MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Located on the coast of Lake Michigan in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin is one of the largest art museums in the United States. The Milwaukee Art Museum is home to nearly 25,000 works of art including an extensive Georgia O’Keeffe collection. The museum is comprised of three buildings including the War Memorial Center, Cudahy Gardens, and the Quadracci Pavilion — the iconic glass building that opened in 2001. The 90-foot glass ceiling features a 217-foot moveable, wing-like screen that unfolds twice daily. Called the Burke Brise Soleil, these “wings” open at 10 in the morning, flap at noon, and close when the museum closes. The pedestrian suspension bridge conveniently connects the museum to the city.

MIHO MUSEUM in the Koka Forest, Kyoto, Japan

Located in the dense forest of Koka near Kyoto, Japan, the MIHO Museum offers visitors a unique architectural experience that blends manmade structures and natural surroundings. Designed by famous architect I. M. Pei, the steel and glass structures of the museum were designed to contrast against the panoramic views of the mountains and valleys below. Visitors first walk through an arched tunnel to reach the museum entrance, which is one of the only above-ground structures in the complex. In an effort to preserve the natural environment, about 80% of the museum is underground. The exhibits at MIHO frequently change with a focus on ancient works from the Egyptians, Romans, and Asian cultures.

MUSEO SOUMAYA at PLAZE CARSO in Mexico City, Mexico

The Museo Soumaya has become a highlight of Mexico City’s art scene with its shimmering, anvil-shaped exterior and impressive art collection ranging from MesoAmerican history to modern day. While the museum technically consists of two buildings, the most popular is the new structure at Plaza Carso, where the primary museum collection was moved in 2011. This nine-story building made of 16,000 aluminum hexagons was designed by Fernando Romero, who commonly focuses on fluidity in his designs. As one of the most-visited museums in Mexico, it’s no surprise that its list of A-list displays is lengthy. Don’t miss the vast collection of artwork by Rodin including the famed sculpture “The Thinker” — a permanent exhibit here.


The MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts focuses on contemporary art and architecture. Upon opening in 2010, this museum designed by architect Zaha Hadid received a Stirling Prize for architecture by the Royal Institute of British Architects. The massive complex consists of two sections — “MAXXI Art” and “MAXXI Architecture” — along with an outdoor courtyard for large-scale works of art. The interior stairways and walking paths overlap to create an exciting and dynamic environment for visitors. The museum’s most prominent architectural features are its curved, concrete walls and suspended, black staircases. Its interior colors and structures are a nod to the overarching theme of the museum — to promote contemporary art and architecture.

Beautiful Travels


A Horizon Within

Some of us are born with a crack in our souls. Itchy feet. Eyes that are unable to focus on anything other than the far flung. We were folded once, and then left like that for too long; there is a line inside us. I know it is there, because it speaks to another line, outside. They whisper at one another, gaze at one another. They will never rest until they are moving closer. There can be no doubt; the line outside beckons; this simple fold between land and sky. It is the answer to a complex equation, made trickier by topography, trees, the jumble of the city, and the relative density of air. It is a trick of the eye, brought about by the curvature of the Earth, muddled with atmospheric haze. I align the fold inside me to it, just as I point my deckchair to the sea.

I have, at times, tried to ignore its call. But the horizon is demanding. Its desire to draw me ever closer gnaws at my dreams, crawls across those quiet moments where I should find contentment. It pries me open, like an oyster, and the fold becomes the crack that lets the world in. It ties strings to my insides, pulling on each one as it whispers its promises. I will pick you up, it sings, in my tumbling embrace. Rock you like flotsam on my waves. Throw you back on the volcanic sand where I found you, forever changed. It promises an undoing quite unlike any other, its fury matched only – perhaps – by the devastation of love. I stumble, squinting, bent out of shape, unable, quite, to find my way back in through doors that have grown narrower somehow, into rooms more careworn than I remember them. It unscrews the hinges on that word home.

I imagine that there was a time when people were content to live out short lives, circumscribed by the boundary of a muddy field and a scattering of low, smoky cottages, an inn, a tower. But I know that this crack in my soul is older than that. Written in my DNA is a story of migration: from hunger to plenty; from oppression to freedom; from poverty to promise; from thronging alleys to a wild frontier. We follow hummocks and hoof prints in the wake of great beasts that sustain us; the promise of gold in the hills, dreams of fortune and fame. The mud of the road is churned. Oceans become ponds. Borders swept away, languages silenced, old stories drowned out by the tramp of hoping feet. Even when dictators and despots try to tie our bodies to the land, clip the feathers at our heels with stamps and permits, watchtowers, strip searches, our minds, unfettered, up and fly away. The longing is ever present; to open our eyes, to broaden our minds, to mix our genes.

Wanderers. Pilgrims. Varanasi, Bodh Gaya, Jerusalem, St James’s Way. The Grand Tour: the wealthiest of sons, the most insistent of gilded daughters. Comfort in a welter of trunks and bags. A chaperone, a tutor, a guide. A troop of servants in their wake. Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life. I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun drenched elsewhere. The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life.” Anaïs Nin; Cuban, French born, Californian, navigator of the heart: “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.”

The foot on the path is, however, only half the story. The road has its romance, as do the rocking waves that carry me to unknown shores. The thrill of waking somewhere new; the weight of a pack on my back; every thrill, every turn, every tedious moment of anticipation is matched, almost perfectly, by the joy of home. ‘Home,’ as Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote, ‘is the nicest word there is.’ This worn in, Sunday love for the place I know best – every nook, scuff, and wrinkle of it – is matched by the desire to leave it. There are days when the walls press in, when it is all I can do to stay put. On others, it takes more energy than I can muster to open my front door. These two urges circle one another, pacing. I try to bring the horizon home, weighing down my suitcase with mementos from journeys real and imagined. Photos of columns and doorways. The juicy geometry of desert plants. Thick white and blue glaze on rough terracotta. A dusty weave trapping bright threads and fragments of mirror.

When I am on the road, the opposite desire wins out. I vote with feet and wallet for homely comfort. For moments of familiarity, for putting down my bags and sinking into something that feels not so far away after all. This world responds to my desire, shapes itself in my image. Just as home becomes a facsimile of every foreign shore, so every foreign shore, brick by brick, becomes a vision of home. With a sigh, the tension gives way to irony. The path to the horizon widens, smoother with every footstep, each day, each month, each year that passes. The horizon reacts; twitching, shrinking. Soon someone will set up a lemonade stand, a tea house, a rest stop. I find myself on an air conditioned bus with snacks, free WiFi, a flat screen in the seat back in front of me; 25 channels in 12 languages. I arrive between billboards to a concrete concourse, self check in, then slumber across the face of the planet. I arrive in identikit, climb aboard the same bus and watch the same movie in a language I don’t understand to convince myself I am somewhere new. I sit in my room, surrounded by the comforts of home. I wander streets lined with coffee bars selling even better coffee.

I squeeze my eyes shut. I look inside me. Can I scrub the horizon out? Can I flatten the fold? Smother its calling, stall the yearning, stem the flood? Rewrite my DNA and find satisfaction in a muddy field and a clutch of low houses? No; this genie hasn’t ever seen the inside of a bottle; the crack inside me cannot be sewn closed. I don’t want it closed. I may as well try to dig out my heart altogether.

I sit, breathing hard. In wonder. In the books on my shelves; a life inserted like a pressed flower between each pair of pages. The pictures on my wall; lives captured in light and squeezed under sheets of glass. A name signed with the drag of a stylus through wet clay. Threads dampened with someone’s spit pressed between someone’s forefinger, someone’s thumb. Each spice a childhood memory. Every note sung, plucked, or struck the beat of a heart folded in two with a horizon of its own. The fold in me reaches for the fold in the other. The horizon is the point we meet. As I reach, so I am reached for. As I am the starting point, so I am someone else’s destination. I travel without travelling. I go without going. I feel myself transported towards all these unknowable others. Symmetry without rotation or return. This is the search, I realize. To really move is to be moved. Each journey can only end not somewhere, but with someone.

R Aslan


Beautiful Mystical Morocco

I have a huge case of wanderlust lately pouring over where I want to travel to next. Morocco is on the list and one of my favorite sites, Atlas Obscura, provides all the incentives to make it happen.

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Traverse the complex and colorful contours of that Morocco. Get lost in the narrow streets of the old medina in Fes, thick with the smell of spices and freshly tanned leather, and wander the still-intact mosaics of an ancient Roman town. Explore the market square of Marrakech—as busy today as it was in the 11th century—as the dissonant chorus of Alahullakbar rolls over the city at sunset. Reenact iconic scenes at a sprawling movie set dropped in the desert. I’m in, they had me at “getting lost in narrow streets with smells of spices”.

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Beautiful Hidden Havana

Looking to travel to Cuba? Before you go, check out Atlas Obscura for the perfect itinerary. The itinerary features many of the best suggestions submitted by Atlas Obscura readers who have previously explored Havana. Delve into immersive history, religious traditions, music and dancing, artist interactions, and curiosities galore. Read all about it here.

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Photos from Atlas Obscura

Beautiful Museum

If you are ever driving from Nashville to Memphis something you won’t want to miss is the Tina Turner Museum. As a huge fan of her, her music is as apropos today as it’s ever been. In fact, I suspect Lady Gaga takes inspiration from her performances.  Born Anna Mae Bullock in Nutbush, Tennessee, she became a Swiss citizen in 2013 and relinquished her American citizenship.

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The one-room Flagg Grove School was one of the first schools for African Americans in the South, built in the 1880s. It was originally located in the small town of Nutbush, where Turner grew up and attended grade school in the rustic building in the 1940s.

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The school, among the first in the South for African-Americans, was built in the
1880s by her great-uncle, Benjamin Flagg.

Ike And Tina Turner Perform In Amsterdam tina_turner_concert




Beautiful Puglia, Italy


Will somebody please drop me off in this place and let me stay for awhile? It is gorgeous! Who really cares where it is but for those who do…at the heel of the Italian peninsula lies Puglia, a region best known for its Tuscan cuisine as well as its arid, rustic landscape on which a splendid display of whitewashed towns and villages highlights the scenery. The area produces much of the country’s wine, olive oil, produce, and wheat used to make pasta. The cuisine alone is enough to make me want to go. In the north, the mountainous terrain of Gargano greets the Adriatic with dramatic white cliffs overlooking azure waters, and as you travel down the coast, the view transforms into sand pebble beaches mingling between ancient farmland. At the southern tip lies the beautiful town of Lecce, known as “Florence of the South” for the splendor and profusion of its baroque architecture from the 17th Century.




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Images by Kate Holstein

Beautiful Cuba


The one place on my bucket list lately is Cuba. The fact that it’s been forbidden for the last 60 years makes it even more alluring. For those looking to visit you can book a tour through Coast to Costa out of LA. Alas you can peek behind the curtain and experience the magic of Cuba. More about the tour company here. For those who have visited feel free to any “not to be missed”  sites.

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Photo credits Alessandro Giraldi,
Erich Mcvey, Tom Blachfor for
My Modern Met.

Beautiful People

This family, inspired by a TED talk by graphic designer
Stefan Sagmeister, made the ultimate escape: throwing
all the baggage of civilization away and taking off to live
on a remote island north of the Arctic Circle for a year.
Fabulous indeed, read about their inspiring story here. Enjoy.
All images are by Winston Chen
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Beautiful African Village

In 2009, Flickr user Rita Willaert traveled to an isolated
village named Tiébélé in Burkina Faso, West Africa,
where every house is an expression of art.

One of the oldest ethnic groups in the country,
the Kassena people, reside in this village but it’s
no ordinary village. It has been the residence of
the nobility of the Kassena people, such as the
chief and the royal court, since the 15th century
when they first settled in the area.

Every house in the village is intricately embellished
with traditional earthen architecture of the isolated
Kassena culture. Some of the art carries symbolic meaning.

This village is extremely shut off from outsiders in the
interest of ensuring conservation and the integrity of
their structures, and to protect the local traditions.
Some of the most elaborately decorated houses are not
living quarters but mausoleums for the dead, laid to rest
in the same compound.

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