DELICIOUS FOOD AND SUNNY DAYS: A weekend in Paris

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It was a sunny weekend in Paris. With temperatures over 30 degrees, the weather was ideal for hanging out in parks and cooling off in cafes, so that’s what we did most of the time.

I’ve been to Paris many times, so I mostly enjoy wandering around local neighbourhoods finding new cool places.

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These we my favourites from this trip:

  • La Buvette: A great find south of Montmartre. This local bistro has an amazing selection of wines and serves yummy light bites. We had the best sparkling wine, a selection of small dishes and chocolate mousse. 100€ for three including tip.
  • Atelier des Lumieres: This new museum in a converted warehouse creates immersive art displays by projecting famous artworks all over the walls. Their first exhibition focused on Klimt (tickets 13.50€). It’s also a good area to explore, as there’s a beautiful canal nearby and a chilled atmosphere.
  • Angelina: a famous patisserie popular with tourists. They serve delicious dessert and the best drinking chocolate. Lunch for three for 110€ including tip.

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ART IS NOT AN END BUT A BEGINNING: The Venice Biennale in pictures

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This was our third time at the arts Biennale in Venice (we went in 2013 and 2015 as well).

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As ever, there was absolutely loads to see.

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And the two days we had to explore just flew by.

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Long days of art-spotting…

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…followed by nights of sipping Aperol spritz by the canals.

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I could do this for a living!

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But as I can’t, at least I know I can come back for more in two years.

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As Ai Weiwei, said…

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“Art is not an end but a beginning”.

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SUNNY DAYS AND IMPRESSIONIST MOUNTAINS: In the steps of Cezanne in Aix

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Cezanne lived in Aix-en-Provence and the city really makes the most of it. A good way of exploring Cezanne’s Aix is following the In the Steps of Cezanne walking tour – you can do a guided version for 9€ or simply get the map from the tourist office and follow the trail yourself.

You get to see some interesting places, such as where the Cezanne family lived at different times, but it’s also good just to see different parts of the city and get an idea of how Cezanne lived.

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TERRAIN DES PEINTRES

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The landscape around Aix features in many impressionist paintings. A good place to see it for yourself is Terrain des Peintres, a hill not too far from Aix where Cezanne painted multiple landscapes from 1902 to 1906 featuring Mont Sainte-Victoire. It’s one of the best places to visit in Aix.

From the city centre it is a 30min walk uphill, with Cezanne’s studio on the way – you can get the bus there but really it’s best just walk. It’s far enough from the city centre for it to be a quiet space to chill.

The view from the top is really nice, you can spend some time taking it in or – if you’re feeling inspired – making your own version.

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ATELIER CEZANNE

On the way to Terrain des Peintres you can visit Cezanne’s studio (ticket for 6€). He built a beautiful space surrounded by nature and made sure that inside the studio you get the same level of light you’d get outside.

Everything on display was owned by him, and you get to see lots of the objects he used in is his work. It is an authentic and inspiring display, and it’s beautifully curated.

You can also take a break on the grounds of the studio, as there are many tables under fig trees around the place.

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MUSEE GRANET

You can see some of Cezanne’s paintings in the Granet Museum (tickets for 8€). The museum is set in a beautiful building and it displays a good mix of paintings, including some temporary exhibitions.

The big draw is the Cezanne room on the second floor, in which you can appreciate the work of Aix’s most famous inhabitant. Also on display is a good collection of Giacometti’s sculptures and drawings.

The ticket to Musee Granet also gives you access to the Jean Planque collection, a great exhibit of paintings by the likes of Picasso and Braque which are displayed beautifully in a nearby chapel which has been refurbished and turned into a museum.

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DRAWING IN AIX

I wanted to take the opportunity to do some drawing while I was in Aix, so I did some research online. I did find one place offering art classes but unfortunately these were not available when I visited, so I just took some supplies and followed Cezanne’s steps to get inspiration (with mixed results).

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THE BEST ART SHOW IN THE WORLD: An artistic scape to the Venice Biennale

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Two years ago I decided to visit the Arts Biennale in Venice and it was great! So I wanted to come back to see this year’s edition.

The Venice Biennale is a paradise for art lovers. There are two main sites, Arsenale, a massive exhibition space with room after room of all sorts of contemporary art from all over the world; and Giardini, an open garden with pavilions from many different countries. There’s also lots of art all around town.

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Because we had visited Venice before, we decided to stay at this lovely place in Arsenale. It was the best decision – we were close to the city centre but not in the middle of the tourist crowds.

We decided to visit each of the main venues on a different day (last time we needed to see both on the same day and it was definitely too much).

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We visited Arsenale on our first day there, which was good as it is the most intense of the two places. Then we visited the different country pavilions in Giardini on our second day, when it was sunny and just generally lovely.

The rest of the time we spent waving at boats going by our window, or drinking delicious Aperol Spritz by the canal.

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Isn’t life grand?

HOW TO DO IT:

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  • Go: The Arts Biennale happens on odd years from May to November. Flights from London aren’t particularly cheap so book in advance.
  • Tickets: Tickets to the Biennale cost 25€, including entry to Giardini and Arsenale (you can visit those on different days on the same ticket).
  • Stay: We stayed at this amazing place which we found on Airbnb. There are lots of good places around, so pick an area and go from there. We stayed in Castello which is very close to the Biennale but also only about 15 minutes from San Marco square.
  • Food: The first time I visited Venice I wasn’t massively impressed with the food, as everywhere looked like a tourist trap. This time it was much better, mostly because we weren’t staying in the city centre. Da Paolo was a good choice for our first dinner. We also stopped at Osteria alla Tana, which is a great affordable stop just outside Arsenale – perfect for relaxing after hours of walking around the many exhibits. But just by venturing a bit further from the city centre it is possible to find nice restaurants.
  • Do: Aside from the Biennale, Venice is a beautiful and iconic place to visit. But it can be quite touristic too – from the busy San Marco Square and Rialto Bridge to the expensive gondola rides, it can all get a bit much. But the Doge’s Palace is beautifully decorated with paintings by Titian, Tintoretto and many more, so it’s definitely worth a visit. And a walk around San Polo is a great way to see a more authentic side of Venice.

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I’m already looking forward to going back in 2017!

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THE LONDON GUIDE: Insider tips for the best art in London

London has some of the best museums in the world, and many of them are free to visit! For such an expensive city, London is very generous with its art. Here’s my quick guide for making the most of London museums:

1. NATIONAL GALLERY

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Right at Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery is a great place to see amazing art. You can easily spend a whole day wandering around, staring at masterpieces such as the Arnolfini Portrait and The Ambassadors (two of my favourites). It’s also a great place for British art, with anything from Turner to Hogarth.

It’s free to visit and there are many free talks and even drawing lessons!

Around the corner is the National Portrait Gallery. Visit on one of their late shifts to enjoy special talks and live music.

2. TATE MODERN AND TATE BRITAIN

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Split on either side of the Thames, Tate Modern and Tate Britain are among the most well-known galleries in the UK.

The Tate Modern specialises in (obviously) modern art, with exhibits cleverly displayed in a range of broad themes. The building is an attraction in itself, with the massive Turbine Hall serving as a unique venue for large displays which are specially commissioned annually.

Tate Britain is the home of British art (my words). Here you can see the best of the Pre-Raphaelites alongside Henry Moore sculptures. The building has been renovated recently, when all the displays were reorganised strictly by date.

Both are free to visit (temporary exhibitions are paid). Check for special events as well as free tours.

3. THE BRITISH MUSEUM

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It’s impossible to visit the British Museum without ending up reflecting about colonialism. This museum holds a massive collection of historic objects from all over the world, from Easter Island Moai to Egyptian mummies.

Entering the permanent collection the first thing you will see is Rosetta Stone. Just a few rooms away are the equally famous Elgin Marbles – the insides of the Parthenon are not in Athens after all.

The British Museum is located within a beautiful building with a Greek façade which is replicated inside the museum with a modern twist. The main court houses nice souvenir shops and a good cafe. Free to enter except for temporary exhibitions.

4. EXHIBITION ROAD: V&A, Natural History Museum, Science Museum

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Exhibition Road in South Kensington is home to three amazing museums.

The V&A is just too wonderful to describe. The beautiful building is home to the largest collection of design objects in the world, with room after room filled with beautiful displays. Join one of their free tours and then chill out at their fancy cafe.

Across the road is the Natural History Museum, where you can see dinosaur fossils alongside dodo models. It’s a great museum, but avoid weekends as it’s always too packed with children.

Next door is the Science Museum, a fun and interactive museum which include exhibits like a lunar module. Again it’s full of children on the weekends, so it’s best avoided then.

All of these are free to enter, except for special exhibitions.

5. OTHER POPULAR MUSEUMS

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  • Royal Academy: Very centrally located, it’s not free to visit, but it has great exhibitions on all the time.
  • Courtauld Gallery: Housed in the beautiful Somerset House, this is the best place to see impressionism in London. Tickets at £7.
  • Wallace Collection: The building has just opened after a long renovation, so it’s a good time to visit. Stop for a meal at their popular restaurant.
  • Transport Museum: I visited this recently, and it was really fun! Tickets are expensive at £16, but you can visit as many times as you wish throughout the year.
  • Soane Museum: An unusual home filled with a unique collection.

6. GALLERIES

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There are countless galleries around London, with new displays available every day. Just wander around Hoxton or Soho and you will find lots of places with great art.

Famous galleries such as the White Cube or the Saatchi Gallery are always a good starting point.

Within the Southbank Centre, the Hayward Gallery has great temporary exhibitions, with tickets at around £10.

HOW TO PLAN:

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There are endless options of museums and galleries in London. For up to date information, TimeOut and the Art Fund have comprehensive listings of what’s on at any given time.

Go get lost in a museum!