Street Art in East London – Alternative Walking Tour

The Alternative London Walking Tour was a highlight from our trip to London. It is a tour that features the diverse culture and history of London’s East End all revolving around street art. A shout out to Abby Bean who recommended this tour to us and covered it on her blog – A (soy) Bean.

What is special about the art in East London is that there are incredibly intricate pieces, may of which are created with permission by the building owner, done by artists from all over the world. One such example is this piece by Belgium artist ROA:

Crane, ROA, Artist, London, Alternative Walking Tour

Crane by ROA in London.

ROA is well known and his works can be found all over the world in large scale. London is home to a few outstanding examples of his work. The Crane by ROA above was painted by hand in about eight hours according to Keir, our tour leader. That’s a fast brush.

ROA painting in London, Alternative Walking Tour

Painting by ROA in London. Not 100% sure what animal this is.

Many people associate street art with quickly scrawled tags and property damage. I think the pieces above and below break from these assumptions. There are a number of artists around the world such as ROA who look to elevate the art form and enhance the setting where it is found. Just look at this ‘Elephant Octopus’ mural recently completed by Alexis Diaz.

Alexis Diaz, Elephant Octopus mural, London , Alternative Walking Tour

Alexis Diaz mural in London. Looks like an Elephant Octopus to me.

This meticulously crafted piece is catching eyes in an alley just off of Brick Lane. I thought it was one of the more impressive pieces I have seen on our trip – in a museum or otherwise. These larger scale pieces you see above were created with permission from the owners of these buildings. Not all street artists have this luxury. They may look for other ways to quickly, and illicitly, display their work. A personal favorite of mine were the works of Invader, or, Space Invader.

Space Invader, London, Alternative Walking Tour

A Space Invader piece in London. Looks like this one lost a fight.

Invader uses ceramic tiles to enliven walls all over the world. Many of his pieces are inspired from the pixelated aliens from the game. The example above seems to have fallen victim to a chisel removal attempt. Others of his work are of larger scale and certainly go outside the box.

Space Invader, Star Wars, London, Alternative Walking Tour

Star Wars Space Invader in London.

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. This actually exists on the side of an office building in East London for Star Wars (and Space Invader) fans everywhere to enjoy. Pieces from Space Invader are fairly common once you know where to look for them! Other artists also have signature techniques.  DALeast is an artist who also falls in this category.

DALeast, Mural, London, Alternative Walking Tour

Mural by DALeast, London

DALeast, Mural, London, Alternative Walking Tour

DALeast Mural, London

DALeast’s technique is instantly recognizable and translates perfectly to this format. I think that the surrounding setting is also a huge part for these pieces. Would they have the same effect in a gallery on a unblemished white wall? They certainly stand out in the city on their huge wall-canvases – much like this piece by Martin Ron.

Martin Ron, Mural, London, Alternative Walking Tour

Mural by Martin Ron, London

This mural by Ron is beautiful and also has a message. The animal in the lower left hand corner being pointed at by the huge hand is a badger. Did you know that there is a Badger cull going on in England right now? I didn’t until this mural started that debate in our group. Help do your part to stop this atrocity by signing the petition HERE. The goal of Ron’s piece is to get a message across, but other artists are pushing the physical medium farther. Vihls has a technique that does just that.

Mural, Alexandre Farto, Vhils, London, Alternative Walking Tour

Mural by Alexandre Farto (AKA Vhils) in London.

The depth created in this work by Vihls is stunning. His technique involves first plastering the whole wall and then physically removing parts of the wall (often using a jackhammer) to create an image with great depth. This portrait looked very realistic in person. Seeing his work up close in real life is quite different than looking at the picture above.

The Alternative London Walking Tour is pay what you wish. Whatever you choose to pay, you will get good value for your money. Just make sure you sign up in advance on the website. There is a rich world of art in London outside of the museums that you may walk right by if you don’t know where to look or what you are looking at. I found it quite liberating to see wonderful works in the open air instead of behind a rope line in a museum or gallery. In a museum you need some luck to be featured prominently. To be noticed on the street? Only talent and some passers-by. Our guide, Kier, is an artist himself and shared his knowledge of the local art scene and the provided insight into pieces throughout the tour. He really brought the art to life for us and opened our eyes to street art even beyond London. (Even the NYTimes is noticing that street art is news-worthy. Shortly after our tour they posted this article about New York street art!) We heartily recommend Alternative London if you are ever in London for a few days.

Prior to this tour we were already noticing pieces from other cities on our trip. I will post some others that caught my eye soon. In the meantime, you can read some more about London! Please check out some of the great vegan options in London in our series of one, two and three posts!

We have arrived in Paris!

This morning Dan and I woke up at the crack of backpacker’s dawn (so around 6am) to catch a train to Paris. We took the Eurostar and I would highly recommend it! It only takes two hours and fifteen minutes and involves no planes or airports! My kind of travel. We booked the train tickets months in advance so we got a great rate. Here I am looking exhausted but excited to go to Paris.

Molly and the Eurostar

Molly and the Eurostar

And now we are in Paris! Everything is always awesome in Paris. But to make it extra exciting, look at our view:

The view from our apartment window

The view from our apartment window. Click on the picture to see the details.

That is the garden of the Palais-Royal. Yes, the size of our “apartment” rivals the infamous pod, but who cares! We are in the heart of Paris and everything is fantastic!

More to come soon now that we have reliable internet.

Tasty vegan eats in Glasgow, Scotland

In terms of vegan-friendly-ness, Glasgow is at the top. The city has 5 totally vegan restaurants. In fact, according to HappyCow.net, it has 5 vegan restaurants and only 3 vegetarian restaurants! I think one of the reasons why I am so impressed with Glasgow’s vegan food situation is because I wasn’t expecting it to be so awesome. The best part: All the food was really tasty! We ate at 4 of the 5 vegan places and visited the 5th (we had just eaten or we would have tried #5 out too!), and across the board the food was great.

We also noticed that the vibe was very similar from restaurant to restaurant. They all were very comfortable and large, with free wifi, and appeared to have similar handwriting across the chalkboards. From speaking to a waiter at Mono (the final place we tried), it seems that they were all founded by the same guy, but each restaurant’s chef creates his or her own menu.

So I thought I would give you the roundup on Glasgow’s vegan awesomeness, to encourage everyone to flock to Glasgow and get eating!

Saramago:

Saramago is located right next to/part of the Centre for Contemporary Art in Glasgow just off of a main walking street. It’s an excellent place to take a break from walking/art-seeing, has free wifi, and tasty food. Also, make sure you at least go into the CCA so you can see the beautiful building. Saramago’s bathrooms are actually in the CCA, so you may see it a bit even if you don’t want to.

Saramago and a pensive Molly

Saramago and a pensive Molly

Saramago interior

Saramago interior

Saramago artichoke hearts

Saramago artichoke hearts

Saramago tempura

Saramago tempura

Saramago grilled aubergine

Saramago grilled aubergine

Saramago dolmades

Saramago dolmades

Saramago root veggie chips

Saramago root veggie chips

Saramago brownie sundae dessert

Saramago brownie sundae dessert

Saramago coconut lime raspberry cake

Saramago coconut lime raspberry cake

As you can see, we ordered lots of food. Which lead to it being a bit expensive… But very tasty!

Stereo:

We actually went to Stereo twice, but only took pictures once. Our biggest comment about Stereo is that it is H-O-T in there! Open some windows, guys! Also, if the pictures below look familiar it is because we posted about Stereo in our “South Side of Glasgow” post!

Stereo

Stereo

Stereo interior

Stereo interior

Vegan haggis pizza, salad and house coleslaw

Vegan haggis pizza, salad and house coleslaw

TLT with salad and chips

TLT with salad and chips

The 78:

The 78 had our favorite desserts in Glasgow. And the good was stellar, too. But seriously, look at those desserts! Those of you who know me will be shocked to learn that I ordered that chocolate torte. But I ate every single bite of it! The only thing I would have changed was to add more raspberries. But everything is better with more raspberries, right? The chocolate was amazing, the ginger crust was the perfect compliment. A fantastic dessert. And, oh yeah, Dan loved his brownie sundae as well! Also, we forgot to take an exterior shot. Don’t be mad!

The 78 onion rings and hummus plate

The 78 onion rings and hummus plate

The 78 burger

The 78 burger

The 78 quesadilla

The 78 quesadilla

The 78 chocolate raspberry ginger torte

The 78 chocolate raspberry ginger torte

The 78 brownie sundae

The 78 brownie sundae

Mono:

Mono was the final vegan place we made it to while we were in Glasgow, and I think it may have been my favorite. It probably didn’t hurt that we were there right at opening time so we had the (giant) place more or less to ourselves. It was the perfect place to decompress for a few hours before catching our bus to Liverpool. Great wifi, fantastic food, and an awesome venue that also has music and a cool zine shop and record shop in it. We highly recommend it! I mean, just look at the food…

 

Mono

Mono

Fancy lemonade at Mono

Mono smoked tofu pesto mayo sandwich

Mono smoked tofu pesto mayo sandwich

Mono awesome pepperoni pizza

Mono awesome pepperoni pizza

And there was also vegan sticky toffee pudding for dessert, but the picture seems to have disappeared! So you can visualize it in your head. A slab of awesome, gooey cake with a scoop of ice cream on top, drizzled with caramel sauce! Yup. Aren’t you sad I can’t find the picture??

There is one more vegan restaurant in Glasgow, a bar called The Flying Duck, that we simply didn’t have time to visit. But they have vegan bar food, so definitely look it up if you have a craving while in Glasgow.

So those were our awesome eats in Glasgow. I highly recommend Glasgow – and Scotland in general – as a place to visit as a vegan. You will have tons of vegan options throughout Scotland (I promise!), and Scotland is so beautiful it will make your soul hurt.

What does 97 square feet of space look like?

The Pod Works Hotel in Liverpool would like to ask you a question: What would you do with about 97 square feet of space? Please see below.

Podworks Hotel

Pod Works Hotel “Pod” – More interior space than than most American cars. Bathroom located just to the right of this picture.

The answer is probably sleep and not much else. Since the “pods” do not actually have windows, you will be waiting an awfully long time if you are the kind of sleeper who relies on the sun to wake you up. An exceedingly comfortable bed does not help matters. Pro tip: You may want to go ahead and set that alarm if you want to go and see the historical sights.

The Pod Works Hotel is an interesting lodging destination that forces you to re-evaluate how much space you really need. So, what do you get when you combine the following?

  1. An awesome, yet underground, downtown location
  2. Adorable dollhouse-sized rooms with comfortable beds
  3. About a $50.00 per night price tag on most days

Probably an awesome, affordable hotel in Liverpool and a great night’s sleep. I hope, after reading this, everyone is better able to appreciate their space and current living conditions! I’m looking at you, Manhattan studio-apartment renters.

There are still some kinks that The Pod Works Hotel needs to work out such as no Wi-Fi in the rooms and only a sporadic connection in the lobby. Also, there are only about 25 channels but half of them seem to be BBC variants or other news programs. Raise your hand if you knew there was a “BBC 4″ channel that only starts broadcasting at about 7PM every evening? Still, the Pod Works worked perfectly for us as a place to rest our weary heads at the end of the day, for a price we could afford.

Has anyone ever stayed in a room smaller than the one pictured above? If so, please leave a comment!

A fun, alternative day in Glasgow, Scotland

Jumping forward about a week from Dan’s post about vegan food in Dublin, we finally arrived in Scotland. Glasgow is so beautiful it hurts. It’s what I imagine New York City looked like at the turn of the 20th Century. Our lovely hosts explained it to us this way; the old Medieval city was knocked down and a Victorian (mostly) gridded city was built in its place. So it is a nicely preserved Victorian city. In other words, it is freakin’ beautiful.

Beautiful victorian building in Glasgow

Beautiful Victorian building in Glasgow

But as long-term budget travelers, we can’t just see the main sites everyday. That would mean lots of money (though all of Glasgow’s major museums are free, a big plus) and lots of museums. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good museum, but my brain can only handle so much each day before it shuts off, so everyday cannot be filled with museums. What to do instead?

How about a day that few tourists replicate. It starts with one of the few places on the south side of Glasgow that tourists ever get to – the Burrell Collection. The Burrell Collection is located in a park called Pollok Park on the south side of Glasgow. Few tourists travel to the south side of Glasgow. Not for any scary reasons, just because there is enough to do in city center, which is on the north side of the River Clyde. We went to the Burrell Collection, where we desperately used the bathroom hand driers to dry out our socks and shoes which had been drenched in a rain shower earlier that morning. We also spent a while in the beautiful cafe warming up with tea, coffee, and vegan split pea soup!

 

Burrell Collection cafe

Burrell Collection cafe

After we had been adequately warmed up and seen all of the things Burrell collected (which was a lot of things!) we left the Burrell Collection and walked to the Pollok House (which is apparently Scotland’s answer to Downton Abbey. I think it looked too small to be comparable, but what do I know?). The park is obviously also named after the same Pollok. His house, however, is not free. But you can walk in and go downstairs and see the servants’ quarters. Those are free. I guess that makes sense… But it gave us a little peek at the house without having to pay to go into the upstairs rooms. Then after that we walked the grounds around the house and started our walk east through Pollok park, and then eventually, once we were out of the park, north towards city center. On our way east through the park, we saw this guy:

Highland cattle in all his/her adorable fuzziness. I wanted to pet this guy's nose, but Dan didn't think it would be a good idea...

Highland cattle in all his/her adorable fuzziness. I wanted to pet this guy’s nose, but Dan didn’t think it would be a good idea…

Highland cattle are kept in Pollok park. I’m going to take a wild guess here and say that they are native to the Highlands in Scotland (and Wikipedia confirms this theory). I think it is likely that they are in Pollok park for the human visitors’ amusement similar to how buffalo are kept in Golden Gate Park. But the Highland cattle seemed to be happily munching away, so hopefully no harm, no foul.

If you are planning on doing this walk yourself someday, exit the park onto Pollokshaws Road and take it north straight back into city center. Along the way you will pass beautiful neighborhoods:

Nice neighborhood on the south side of Glasgow

Nice neighborhood on the south side of Glasgow

Some sort of country club with people play whatever this sport is (bocce?):

Bocce (?) on the south side

Bocce (?) on the south side

You will pass Queens Park, which has a farmers market on Saturdays. It was across the street from the park that I found a hair cut place willing to give me a hair cut for a price I could actually afford!

Pre-hair cut:

Bye bye hair!

Bye bye hair!

Unfortunately, I don’t have a good after shot… Needless to say, it is now shoulder-length, not gross and fried at the ends, and much easier to manage! I’d say that it was the perfect 10 pound ($15) haircut!

After 15 minutes of walking past Queens Park the area gets a bit more industrial. But that’s in the home stretch! Plus you get to see insane things like this:

Bob the Builder tombstone??

Bob the Builder tombstone??

After this many hours of sun, Scotland was beginning to get confused by the weather so it drizzled a bit as we crossed the Clyde, hence the crazy dark picture below:

Crossing the Clyde

Crossing the Clyde

But without a drizzle, we couldn’t have had this!

Rainbow!

Rainbow!

We ended our walk with a much deserved dinner at one of Glasgow’s 5 (!!!) vegan restaurants, Stereo. The food was delicious and the venue was super-warm (too warm? Is that possible?). And as a bonus, free wifi! All of Glasgow’s vegan restaurants feature free wifi and lots of tables. I hear, after speaking to a waitress at one of the restaurants that they were all at least founded by the same guy which you can sort of tell as all of the vegan restaurants feature similar interior style. But each chef gets to do as he or she wants, so the food is different. At Stereo we got the dishes below to refuel after our long day out.

Vegan haggis pizza, salad and house coleslaw

Vegan haggis pizza, salad and house coleslaw

TLT with salad and chips

TLT with salad and chips

Assuming the weather is on your side, this was a fabulous day in Glasgow. I highly recommend going to the south side and seeing what few tourists get to see. You won’t be disappointed!