Imagine a cemetery where the decor mirrors the state of the city surrounding it; imagine elegant plinths crumbling away and rusting railings guarding them. This is the reality of Cementerio Colon, a sprawling 140 acre site in the Vedado district of Havana, where the lines of graves are so long that there are actual streets carving up each section.
There’s as much decay here as in the city centre, but there’s also a sense of belonging, with the tributes left to loved ones being much more personal and emotional than anything you’d encounter back in the UK. Yet many of the graves are poorly maintained because the relatives left behind have escaped Cuba and managed to emigrate elsewhere, leaving some corner of the cemetery to fall into obscurity in their absence. This is what I found when I spent a morning inside the gates…
The town of Rye in East Sussex is exactly what I’d imagine the whole of the UK looked like if I hadn’t lived here all my life. Consisting of historic buildings, chocolate box views and what can only be described as ‘quaint’ shops (even though I loathe that word), this is definitely the tourist board’s gold standard version of the British Isles. A former Cinque Port and part of legacy-rich ‘1066 Country’, it combines maritime heritage with the feel of an Agatha Christie village.
There’s something about watching photogenic fashion tribes that conjures up a David Attenborough or Bruce Parry voice-over inside my head. Something that says I’m in the presence of a species fundamentally different to my own, no matter how much I might want to understand them or imitate them. Ultimately there’s a little bit of fear in not knowing what their next move might be, or whether they’re about to bare their claws. Welcome to London Fashion Week, where the beautiful and the strange gather.
You don’t need to be a fan of street art to enjoy Bristol, but it helps. In the homeland of the mysterious Banksy, who inadvertently brought graffiti chic to the masses (by way of the mechandisers who made money out of reproducing his designs), it’s only right that there should be a focus on the city walls as a canvas.
As some of these photos reveal, I spent a lot of time in Nelson Street, which – as I’ve recently discovered – is home to Britain’s largest street art project, called See No Evil. This project involved 72 artists from around the world contributing graffiti, which is permanently displayed here.
“This place gives me the creeps,” said the American tourist next to me. “It’s so ghoulish. Don’t you agree?”
Let’s just say I didn’t. The Sedlec Ossuary, situated an hour’s train ride from Prague in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kutna Hora, was one of my main reasons for visiting the Czech Republic. This is the world-famous resting place for some 40,000 bodies, arranged artistically by a wood carver, at the orders of a local family back in 1870.
Ok, so it’s time to focus on the kind of sights that drew me to visit Havana in the first place. Of course, I knew that the crumbling buildings in candy colours would appeal to my love of all things vintage, but one particular spot leapt out during my research: Plaza de Armas, a beautiful square lined with independent stalls selling all kinds of retro pieces, including a hefty amount of books. As a regular visitor to vintage fairs across the south of England, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to find my own piece of kitsch in Cuba.
Saucy seaside postcards might look a bit tame these days when compared to today’s pop culture references (Miley Cyrus’ twerking and sledgehammer licking antics, anyone?) but, back in the 1950s, the tongue-in-cheek images produced by artist Donald McGill were seen as risque and even borderline offensive. Most of the British public – readily stereotyped as sexually repressed and a bit dull – couldn’t get enough of his work and they lapped up the puns, however the heavy-handed censors of the 1950s weren’t far behind.
Whilst I’ve accumulated a daft amount of photos taken at sea or surrounded by greenery, the real colour of Thailand during my trip would have to be orange. Little orange glows took me from the monastery at the Big Buddha in Koh Samui to the Queen’s Cabaret in Koh Tao and the cookery class of Chef Tummy in Koh Pha Ngan.
That’s why I thought it would be more appropriate to base my photo essay not on the blues and greens that surrounded me, but on the orange that somehow flowed from a monk’s robes drying on a washing line to a ladyboy’s costume being worn proudly on stage.
Give me a great bit of street art and I’m a happy bunny. I know that Rome doesn’t have the same kind of gritty urban reputation as New York or London, but it’s actually a great place to find some unexpected gems on a wall or in a shop window, in between checking out ancient ruins (which I’m glad haven’t been covered in spray paint, but have more subtle additions).
Here are some of the best examples that I could find during my visit, from bizarre animals to a religious art interpretation.
Anyone with an interest in art history will obviously love Florence, but there’s so much more to it than the galleries you read about (although, let’s face it, the Uffizi is impressive – when I visited there was some kind of US military official being given a private tour and even he looked interested).
When I visited back in June 2007, it was bloody boiling, and I spent most of the time trying to track down a cool beer and some shade, but it was ultimately an incredible few days. Here are the highlights, in embarrassingly grainy 2007-style photo quality.