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Saint-Emilion is a popular place because of its environment, history and produce. The communes of Saint-Emilion, there are 22 of them, extends over 238 sq km between Libourne and Castillon-la-Bataille, and bound to the south by the Dordogne river.

The town is named after a monk named Emilion (duh) who came to settle in the 8th century.

We really like it because it is small enough for one to see the entire town which is surrounded by vineyards as far as the eyes can see.

There were numerous monasteries, convents and churches in the region attracting various schools of monks and nuns – Dominicans, Benedictines, Franciscans, Ursulines. It also welcomed pilgrims of the Santiago de Compostela trail which is not far from the area.

There were a fair amount of restoration of houses in the small town but they all seem harmoniously done.

The UNESCO designation in 1999 helped preserved the local ancient practices of wine-making and many old buildings.

This is a old lavoir, a public place set aside for the commune to wash clothes. They were essential until laundromats and private plumbing made them obsolete.  We really liked the set up – a raised lip around a shallow pool of flowing water and a sheltered section.

The center of the village in front of the monolith church and market hall. It was a lively cheerful public place. We did not see the church – a 12 th century building dug into the limestone plateau and whose current structure still forms a single block. We were in fact standing atop of it when the photos was taken.

We are sure the scene is quite common but for urban dwellers like us it felt a tiny bit Renoir-esque.

The “castel daou rey ” meaning the King’s Keep is a romanesque tower, built in the 12th century, where it might have served as the city hall in the past.

Part 2 to come.

Our first night of the 2017 Alps-to-Atlantic trip was spent in Saint-Emilion.  This small medieval village is known for its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site and extremely well known for its red wine.

Our hotel “Au Logis des Remparts” is located at the edge of the village center and was built using a part of the remaining defensive wall. The village is so small that the hotel’s location is essentially central.

There are three floors. There is an elevator for luggage but not people.

One can see parts of the rampart with a walkway on top and a stone parapet.

This village was recognized by UNESCO in 1999 and it was the first wine-making entity that was listed as a “cultural landscape”.

While our room is unremarkable, the garden is heavenly.

Geometrically-shaped trees in the middle.

We and our friends really like it and spent a good few hours lying on the lounge chairs, staring up at the trees, and falling asleep.

We had it all to ourselves.

Can’t remember the last time we had such a naturally serene and relaxing moment.

Since it was the beginning of the season, the owner was moving the sculptures around the garden looking for an optimal place to show them.

The pieces are apparently all available for sale.

The weather was perfect to be outside. But it is too cold for swimming.

The patio has the perfectly shaped shady olive tree (I think it is an olive tree).

We took our breakfast underneath it one morning.

Highly recommended.

Today is the day of the French presidential election. The future of Europe depends much on this result. Apt that we blog about France here aujourd’hui.

We spent a week on the west coast of France over Easter. On our drive towards the Atlantic from the Alps, Clermont Ferrand is roughly the midpoint after Lyon. Our  friends, Fa and An were heading in the same direction for their vacation. So we decided to drive together, two cars in tandem. Our first night was at Saint-Émilion.

Fa volunteered to find a good restaurant around Clermont Ferrand to make the boring drive more enjoyable (Google estimated that it would take about 7 hours). As he rightly said, it is not often that he or any one of us will likely pass through this part of France (Auvergne) in the near future.

He made a reservation at Le Pré in Durtol near Clermont Ferrand. The restaurant stops receiving diners for lunch at 1:15pm. To make it there on time, we had an excuse to drive rather fast (… I got a speeding ticket through the mail after returning to Switzerland).

The restaurant is in a modern building and the dining room and bar are located in the mid-section. We had a hard time finding the entrance in the beginning. As we arrived a little bit after our reservation time slot, the maître’d gave us the most frosty welcome. (This is not Switzerland, come on).

The main dining room was almost full so we had our private room. Hehe.

The chef of this Michelin 2-star restaurant is Xavier Beaudiment.

There are 86 two-star restaurants and 12 new ones in 2017.

He won his second star this year – that is probably why it was so full for lunch on a weekday.

There is a poached egg down there. Went very well with the white asparagus.

” … a unique menu elaborated according to the inspiration of the moment, with the complicity of a whole network of small producers and wild herbs in the region. A “kitchen of instinct”, allied to a true sense of flavors, …”  – The Inspector’s words (translated, courtesy Google)

We did notice unique flavors – clearly distinguishable and not muddled – which were much appreciated.

A detour to this restaurant took us off the monotonous motorway and we drove through the Auvergne regional park built around a long-dead volcano range – Chaîne des Puys.

The source of the international brand of mineral water – Volvic – is not far from the restaurant. And we were drinking the local water with our meal.

One of the dessert is all about chocolate – five or six ways of preparing it – I (Chris) am not a die-hard chocolate fan but really enjoyed it.

The bar/lounge area is nicely decorated. While the nice large windows give the space lots of light but there is not much to see outside. Suburban homes and the parking lot.

Quite a collection of cognac and armagnac.

Recommended.

In our bookstore tour of the world, we increasingly see the merger of bookselling with another retail concept – for example, the T-site in Daikanyama 代官山 in Tokyo and the Eslite Spectrum in Hong Kong – see our posts here and here. In Bologna, I (Chris) visited the Librerie Coop + Eataly Bologna – a combination that is more 50-50 than the earlier examples.

 

Librerie Coop is a chain in Italian bookstore with more than 30 stores.

 

Eataly is an international operator of food halls selling Italian food stuffs and restaurants – their stores are apparently wildly successful in NYC at first (that was after we left the city) and then in Chicago.

 

Admittedly, we have not yet been inside one in the US but we imagine them to be a kind of European imported food megastore with a high-end food court. The food halls of Harrods (London), Shinsegae (Seoul) and KaDeWe in Berlin (see post) come to mind.

 

The corporate parent is an Italian company founded near Alba and started first in Torino. Apparently, the two companies have collaborated at multiple locations in Italy.

 

The book-food store is located not far from Piazza Maggiore at Via degli Orefici, 19.

 

This location has a cafe, a wine bar…

 

a trattoria …

and an osteria.

I wonder if they will let customer take a book to the table to read while waiting for or consuming his/her order.

The bookstore floor space is tight, although it has several floors. Compare this with the oldest bookstore in Bologna, Libreria A. Nanni which I also visited – see post here.

The space feels intimate and cozy overall. Great idea, well executed.

I read in the news that Eataly will open a food theme park – Eataly World – in Bologna in 2017. It will convert 20 acres of old warehouses into 25 restaurants, 10 classrooms, a convention center, farms, and labs. Buono appetito. Looking forward to it …

Ciao

I was visiting Bologna last December. Bologna is famous not only for its pasta sauce and several other foods but also for its porticos. In total, there are over 45 km (28 miles) of arcades, some 38 in the city center. While strolling in the historic center, I came across this bookstore which uses part of the arcade in front of its store front to display books and magazines.

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Libreria Nanni is located at Via Dè Musei, 8 – under il Portico della Morte (Portico of Death) – its name arising from the nearby old Hospital of Santa Maria della Morte, which now houses the Archaeological Museum.

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The bookstore was founded by the Marchesi family in the early nineteenth century became a reference point for students, scholars and bibliophiles. It was acquired by Arnaldo Nanni in 1900’s. This is the oldest bookstore in the city of Bologna.

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It was just 7pm and the store keepers were closing down the store and moving some of the displayed books inside. I quickly wandered inside to look around.

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Apparently, this bookstore was frequented by the well-known writer and film director – Pier Paolo Pasolini – murdered in 1975 unfortunately.

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The bookstore also specializes in ancient books as well as old and rare magazines and comics – see the shelves behind the counter.

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They also sell text books but it is in the back behind the wall of ancient books.

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Judging by the age of the stalls, it is quite likely that books and magazines have been displayed this way for many years.

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Old Architectural Digest …

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comics …

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… and travel magazines

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If you are curious about bookstore, click here to see a renovated bookstore – Rizzoli – in a central shopping arcade in Milano.

Our next post will be about one of the newest bookstore in Bologna. Don’t miss it.

Spanish cured ham (Jamón Ibérico) is well known worldwide. They are sold and consumed in specialist shops – Jamonería – in Madrid.

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One such store situated just off the Puerta del Sol named itself Museo del Jamon.

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Its location suggests that it is a touristy place, but surprisingly, it was packed with locals or domestic tourists.

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One can have a sandwich with any ham in the shop.

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Platters with specific kinds of ham (jamon iberico, jamon serrano, lomo etc), sausages and cheeses.

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There were many kinds of ham and various price points.

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It reminded us a little bit of the sausage shop on the top floor of the KaDeWe in Berlin. Click here to see 100’s of sausages on display.

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The whole leg of ham is typically placed horizontally on a Jamonera and thin slices are hand cut and lifted individually.

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The little inverted umbrellas collect the fat dripping off the leg of ham.

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We saw several jamonerias in central Madrid but wondered if they are also set up in other parts of Spain.

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This is a big one and does not appear to be touristy.

Adios.

 

I was on a business trip in Seoul last August and had some free time to explore the city – in Gwangjin-gu (광진구 · 廣津區) a district that is mostly residential, but consist not of apartment buildings characteristic of the city, but of three or four-story row houses separated by small roads and alleyways.

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It was dusk when I arrived in the area. There were lots of restaurants and bars, just turning on their neons. Apparently, this place is known for its night life along with Hangdae 弘大 and Sinchon 新村 in other parts of Seoul, where there are universities.

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The streets were busy with cars – a major interchange is a couple of blocks away and there were lots of people, mostly locals. The metro line 2 runs on elevated tracks here and the elevated Konkuk University station 建大入口 is not far from Common Grounds.

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Common Ground (커먼그라운드) is a collection of pop-up stores housed in 200 large containers which is capable of transforming into different structures or moving into different places. Web site here.

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The containers were set up in a previously empty parking lot. When I looked it up online, Common Ground was not in the then current version of Goggle map Street View.

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It almost seemed strange that inside the perimeter of Common Grounds, the environment is calmer than the streets outside. Perhaps I was too early – the night was still young.

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In the middle is a weekend market that is held with different themes. There were also four food trucks each serving something interesting.

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Wonder truck selling BBQ and Kimchibus.

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Structurally, the containers are stacked two or three-storey high with footbridges linking the stacks.

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There is a 1-minute time-lapse video of the construction of Common Ground here on Youtube.

Cafe and restaurants are located at the top where natural light is welcoming.

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Internally, there was an atrium with stairs connecting the floors.

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In addition to lots of little stores, there were quite a few restaurants. It must be a great place to hang out in the evening, being outdoors and a little higher where one can see the people in the center below and the buildings in the background.

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Apparently, various events such as exhibitions and performances are held regularly. While I was there, there was an exhibition of art relating to The World of Warcraft in the Toy Republic shop/area and a performance space promoting the launch of a new version of the game.

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Despite the onslaught of mega-brands setting up shops ubiquitously across the globe in shopping malls, it was heartening to see the appearance of these smaller, independent retail enterprises. We saw such enterprises inside a bookstore in our last post about Eslite Spectrum in Hong Kong – click here.

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The place reminded me of another retail complex I visited several years ago also in Seoul – Ssamsagil  – it was more artsy – I did not go there this time. I will have a post about a similar set up in Hong Kong – PMQ.  Look out for it.

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This is no. 8 in a series of posts that is about funny business names or signs that we captured on film. From time to time during our travels, we come across English names that makes us laugh.

Check out Hilarity in names #1, #2, #3#4#5, #6 and #7.

Gentle Monster – Authorized Lens Service Store in Seoul

 

Xray at Zurich airport sells specs – these eyewear shops have imaginative names !

 

Meat Stop – a fast food joint in Moscow – bonus : there is a “pre-party bar” next door – I couldn’t decipher the cyrillic name.

 

iCracked – a store that repairs phone and tablet screens and sell protectors in Tokyo

 

This bar in Madrid is brutal.

 

“WELLMADE” in Seoul – something “for our work & life balance with Indian” ?  I cannot remember what it sells. The Korean sign above is advertising for a place called Geneva which provides cosmetic and dermatologic treatment including hair growth.

 

Lefties in Madrid

 

In the end, there is “anal” in Bilbao or perhaps it is “anai” or “ana1”  …

There are more to come …

These are the photos I (Chris) took and posted on Facebook. The series was started in March of 2013. There is no theme – just something random and visually interesting. We gave each a title and noted where it was taken (to the extent we could remember the city).

random photo #296 – the place – Milanotheplace-1

random photo #297 – untitled – Lac Léman

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random photo #298 – hands up, no violence – Barcelona
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random photo #299 – boca no.12 – Buenos Aires

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random photo #300 – fishes – Punta Cana

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random photo #301 – this way

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random photo #302 – old guards – Saõ Paulo

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random photo #303 – pots – London

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random photo #304 – azure – Asti

 

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random photo #305 – repent – Chenonceau

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If you are interested in seeing other Random Photos, click on the  random  tag on the left.
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Continuing from part 1 … as some of you may know, we have been putting up photos of bookstores from around the world. In addition to those posts that are linked in part 1, here are a few more that you can jump to: House of Books in Moscow, Alexandra in Budapest and the MIT Press in Boston.

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La Rive Gauche is the left bank or southern bank of the Seine which includes the arrondissements 5 (Latin Quarter), 6 and parts of 7 – generally known for its bohemian and anti-establishment roots. My hotel was right next to the University of Paris, La Sorbonne main building and not far from the Panthéon.

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Many of the bookstores are actually publishers – Editions Ivrea evolved from Editions Champ Libre which was founded after the May 1968 student riots in this same area of Paris.

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Editions Champ Libre and its founder Gerard Lebovici were famous for their associations with the socialist/communist writers and political movements. Gerard Lebovici was assassinated in the 1980’s.

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Just around the corner from my hotel is the Cinema du Panthéon, and down the street is a bookstore dedicated to the arts of film making. By the time I finished my meetings, it was dark already. So do excuse the lack of interior photos and the rather reflective window shots.

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It is rare to find a specialist bookstore these days.

Voila – La Librairie du Cinema du Pantheon.

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I remember one in the midst of the NY Broadway theaters – 46th between Broadway and 8th Ave ?

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It sells movie posters, postcards … and some specialist DVDs are available – films about films.

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“Paris In Cinema”, “Ciné Quiz”  … brain food for movie buffs

paris-books-25Monroe and Kubrick books …

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A series of monographs published by the Cahier du Cinema, titled “Anatomy of an Actor” – Clooney, Brando, Pacino, Kidman, De Niro.

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There are even film books written for kids, and movie guides for age 3-8 and age 9-12 !  – “200 films for you to see before becoming tall”.

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There were other specialist bookstores in the area, e.g., philosophy by J Vrin

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… Science and fantasy fictions … Galactic stories

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… books on Asia

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and law books by Dalloz.

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Among all these bookstores is a shop that provide photocopying and digital scanning services.

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I am sure there are a lot more bookstores in the area but I had to leave … my French needs to get better first before I come back to browse.

 

Fin

As some of you may know, we have been putting up photos of bookstores from around the world. This is another bunch to add to the pile. If you are curious, do click on the side bar and browse the filtered selections. Or jump to Rizzoli in Milano, T-site in Daikanyama, Tokyo, Livraria Cultura in Iguatemi, Sao Paulo, and Waterstones in Central London to start.

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Last year, I (Chris) had a business meeting in Paris near the university, La Sorbonne. Understandably, the area when I was staying is full of bookstores and publishers. So it was quite convenient for me to snap all these pictures.

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Due to the lack of time, the time of day of my walkabout and the weekend (they all close on Sunday), I really did not have much chance to enter the bookstores and browse – hence, the lack of interior photos and the rather reflective window shots.

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All these bookstores are all within 10 minutes walk max from each other.

paris-books-10Livres

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Editions Cassini publishes science books for the general public and those who are just curious about science.

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In its window were work by Richard Feynman on planetary movements, and books about The Prisoner’s Dilemma (Game theory), the beauty of mathematical formulas, and John Maynard Smith’s evolutionary biology (also based on Game theory).

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Editions Jacques Gabay publishes hardcore, academic mathematics and physics books by famous scientists – e.g., Einstein – the man himself.

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See their publications on the Theory of General Relativity, Tensor Calculus, Theory of Electrons, etc. – all fundamentals of modern physics. Just having these books on your shelf will increase your IQ.

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It was not all maths and sciences – on another street, there is Classiques Garnier. Since 1896, they have been publishing literary works of from around the world, French and foreign, ancient and modern, in reference editions.

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Some French classics – e.g., poems in latin by Victor Hugo. If you are curious, download their 200-page general catalogue here. One can find classics from as early as the middle ages and Renaissance reprinted in paperback for a lot less than 100 euro.

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Librairie des petits Platons –  publishes children’s books.

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There is a shop that buys/sells old and perhaps rare books and second hand books … funny that there was a recycling bin in front of it.

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I have been learning some French but by no means effective and definitely, my current ability does not allow me to enjoy these books.

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Perhaps I was not in the right places in the US, never have I seen so many bookstores in one area and there are so many publishers who also run a brick-and-mortar store with a street front.

More to come in part 2 !

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For the new year, I got myself a new pair of glasses – another ic! Berlin – the fourth.

It came in the brand’s original iconic screw-shaped container, except this time it is in black opaque.

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I am not a brand-loyal consumer except when it comes to eyewear. In the past, it had been difficult when it is time for changing prescription strength and frame. I have bounced between unbranded frames to traditional brand (e.g., Silouhette), to eyewear that licensed a designer’s name (e.g., CD for Christian Dior).

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My last pair of ic! Berlin is a non-metal frame – see earlier post about the harmonic oscillator. This year I am back to wearing a minimalist metal frame. The style is very classical, some might say boring.

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More than 10 years ago, I tried ic! Berlin the first time and really liked the weight, the screw-less hinge and the wide range of styles it offered.

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It has something contemporary about it without being over-fashionable or techno. The model is “cinja s.” and in marine blue/pearl.

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The frame and the limbs are of different colors and finishes. The frame is dark blue and matt, while the limbs are metallic and greyish. The orange background here might have made the matt dark blue to appear black.

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Is this a QR code ? Must be the smallest I have seen. My iphone cannot focus close enough to test it.

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Speaking about information printed on the limb of the glasses … the optical shop in Hong Kong where I bought this frame has been selling ic! Berlin for 20 years and they showed me a frame with a limb printed with a personalized congratulatory message.

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The four models I own are: roman, hotel neutor, harmonic oscillator and cinja s.

These are the photos I (Chris) took and posted on Facebook. The series was started in March of 2013. There is no theme – just something random and visually interesting. We gave each a title and noted where it was taken (to the extent we could remember the city).

random photo #286 – smile 2 – Miami

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random photo #287 – fire escape – Sao Paulofireescape-1

random photo #288 – dark energy – the Alps

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random photo #289 – just do it – Serravalle

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random photo #290 – green – Chenonceau
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random photo #291 – curtained 4 – Turquant

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random photo #292 – heavy – Aostaheavy-1

 

random photo #293 – sit – Barolosit-1

random photo #294 – under – Cologne

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random photo #295 – geometry – Asti

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If you are interested in seeing other Random Photos, click on the  random  tag on the left.
We have nothing to do with the ads below.

We were visiting Hong Kong during the Christmas period. One store that we went to multiple times on this trip is The Eslite Spectrum store in Star House星光行, Tsim Sha Tsui.

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Its location just happened to be near the places that we were visiting and it is just a nice place to have a coffee while waiting for friends.

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Not only it sells Chinese and English books and magazines, it is a full-fledged lifestyle store.

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Hong Kong is very much filled with designer boutiques, department stores, malls packed with brand names along side tiny mom-and-pop shops, and even pop up stores. Eslite spectrum is a big bookstore with smaller stores/stalls/counters inside.

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On its website, it says “visitors can browse their way through the store’s inspiring reading landscape to explore and create their own version of the good life.”

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Mixing books and magazines with other lifestyle products is a current global retail trend – a bazaar selling books side by side with eye glasses, stationary, bags as well as house plants, cameras and even organic groceries.

eslite-7Farm direct.

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Wooderful Life sells a range of small wooden figurines. There is a fun display of scenaries with moving figurines.

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One can choose pieces to build a scene, including battery-powered base and magnetic pieces which move around the base.

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The cafe in Eslite Spectrum is rather small. Local old fashion metal shutters are used as decoration. It looked like the decoration is put there to hide an unsightly column – after all, the building is at least 40-plus years old.

While in Tokyo, we went to the T-site “bookstore” in Daikanyama by Tsutaya which has a similar idea (see post here). It had the most gorgeous space for a coffee shop in a bookstore. Tsutaya has just opened their first bookstore in Taiwan (January 2017). Eslite will have some serious competition.

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Eslite Bookstore was established in 1989. The first shop was located in Dunhua South Road, Daan District, Taipei, with a focus and emphasis on art and humanities-related books.

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It was the first to set up a 24-hour bookstore in Taiwan at its Dunhua store and later in Hong Kong, attracting lots of night-time readers.

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Freeze-dried fruits, vegetables and even shitake mushrooms – we bought a huge jar of it.

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In Hong Kong, the first Eslite bookstore opened in Causeway Bay in 2012. This 3-storey store in Star House opened in 2015. It stocks 200,000 books and 80,000 lifestyle items.

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Eslite as a brand is branching into the hotel and home interior businesses – specializing in warm, modern and sophisticated spaces for living and reading. Love it.

Last year, IT and I went to visit the Vitra Campus – located just across the Swiss-German border in Weil am Rhein. See our earlier posts about the Campus and the company’s showrooms. We joined a walking tour of the private areas of the Campus – the factories, the warehouse and the fire station.

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Zaha Hadid’s first completed building is perhaps the most famous fire station in the world. The building was commissioned after a disastrous fire at the Vitra factory in 1981.

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Completed in 1994, the building housed a garage for fire engines along with another wing containing locker rooms, showers and common areas.

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The slanting walls are not caused by my camera, they do not meet at right angles.

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The sharp-angled sculptural forms yells “emergency!’ The walls seem to glide past each other.

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According to her firm’s web site, the fire station “emerges as a linear layered series of walls, between which program elements are contained – a representation of “movement frozen” – an alert structure, ready to explode into action at any moment.”

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This building is a key work of so-called Deconstructivism and of late twentieth-century architecture in general.

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For architecture pilgrims, the Vitra Campus is a mecca and this fire station is a high point. Since it no longer functions as a fire station, we were invited inside to sit in the conference room.

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The fire station represents the earliest attempt to translate Hadid’s fantastical, powerful conceptual drawings into a functional architectural space.

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This Fire House project – a complex construction of tilted and clashing planes – looks very different from her later, organic designs.

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Vitra’s voluntary fire fighting team decided to co-operate with the professional city fire brigade and dissolved the factory-based fire fighting teams. As a consequence Vitra no longer needed a fire station and the building became a space for lectures, concerts, and exhibitions.

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Hadid was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 2004.

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She worked for her former professors, Koolhaas and Zenghelis, at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, becoming a partner in 1977.

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Hadid established her own London-based architecture practice in 1980.

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On 31 March 2016, Hadid died of a heart attack in a Miami. We did a post about her building in Hyde Park, London (here) shortly after her death.

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This is the third post on what we saw at the Vitra Campus.

The Vitra Design Museum is one of the publicly accessible building on the Campus. A major retrospective – “Alexander Girard – A Designer’s Universe” was installed when we visited. Much of what is written below came from their web site which is very informative.

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The Vitra Design Museum was founded in 1989 by the company Vitra.

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It is housed in a building by Frank Gehry (who else ?). Next to it is a gallery also by Gehry, where we saw an exhibition about the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong (see that post here).

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The work of the Vitra Design Museum is based on its collection, which encompasses not only key objects of design history, but also the estates of several important figures (including Charles & Ray Eames, George Nelson, and Verner Panton).

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It is dedicated to the research and presentation of design, past and present, and examines design’s relationship to architecture, art and everyday culture.

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Originally envisioned as a private collector’s museum, major internationally acclaimed exhibitions were presented later, including retrospectives on Charles and Ray Eames, Frank Lloyd Wright and Luis Barragán.

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It developed its own product lines to finance its activities and an independent publishing house was established.

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Alexander Girard (1907-1993) is renowned for its fabric designs and collection of folk art.

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In 1951, he was appointed as the director of Herman Miller’s textile department.

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He recognized an impulse in folk art, based on a universal human heritage of patterns, motifs and design techniques that transcends the limits of  time and place.

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Girard donated over a 100,000 pieces of folk art to the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A new wing was built at the museum—which Girard designed—to house the collection.

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Vitra is licensed to make a range of products bearing his graphic designs as well as a series of collectible wooden dolls.

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Check out the web site of the Girard Studio to see more of his works.

VitraHaus is Vitra’s flagship store on the Campus. One can see, touch, compare, test, and buy all of Vitra’s home and office furniture offerings here. We visited the Campus last year and this is the second of four posts. See the Campus overview here. Most of what is written below came from their web site which is very informative.

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Designed to display the furniture brand’s Home Collection, the five-storey building consists of stacked volumes with pitched roofs covered in charcoal stucco.

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The company commissioned Basel-based architects Herzog & de Meuron in 2006 to design the VitraHaus.

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Each gabled end is glazed and cantilevers outwards up to five metres, creating the impression of a pile of houses.

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A lift takes visitors to the fourth storey, where we started the circular tour. On that day, it was a space completed in different degrees of pink.

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Internally, spiral staircases connect the intersecting interiors.

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The furniture showrooms are seamless as one moves from one area to the next.

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The lower floor is dedicated to office furniture.

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In addition to the display area for the company’s products, there is an exhibition space for the chair collection of the Vitra Design Museum.

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These collectible miniatures are everywhere in this building.

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Technicolor Eames.

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One can order a custom-made Eames chair at the Lounge Chair Atelier. The choice of every component can be made by the customer.

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There is also the Vitra Design Museum Shop and a café with an outdoor terrace.

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There was so much to see and buy in this building.

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According to their website, the VitraHaus has a daytime view and a reversed night time view. During the day, one looks out onto the green landscape, but when darkness falls, the illuminated interior of the building glows from within, while its physical structure fades out. The glazed gable ends turn into display cases that shine across the Vitra Campus.

We did not stay late enough to see it.

Last year, IT and I went to visit the Vitra Campus – located just across the Swiss-German border in Weil am Rhein. Much of what is written below came from their web site which is very informative. They also have a great drone video of the campus here.

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The Vitra Campus comprises a public and a private area. In the public space, you will find the Vitra Design Museum, the VitraHaus and the Vitra Silde Tower. The private area, where the production facilities are located, can only be accessed as part of an architectural tour (on which these photos were taken).

VitraHaus (see later post)

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In 1981, a fire destroyed the majority of the production facilities used by Vitra. The resulting reconstruction provided an opportunity to produce various buildings with renowned architects. The company decided to built its own firehouse. The Vitra Fire Station was the first full-scale work by Zaha Hadid ever to be realised. See later post.

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Nicholas Grimshaw was chosen as the first architect to rebuild the Campus. As the insurance funds only covered a six-month interruption in production, Grimshaw designed a factory constructed from simple prefabricated metal elements.

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The horizontally striated façade made of corrugated sheet metal bears witness to the industrial purpose of the building as well as the technological competence of the company.

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The Vitra Design Museum building was designed by the American architect Frank Gehry as his first project in Europe. See later post about this museum.

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Designed by the Japanese architectural office SANAA, the Vitrashop Factory Building was completed in 2012. The building has a nearly circular footprint and consists of two adjoining semi-circular concrete shells.

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The flowing character of the building’s exterior is created by a white curtain façade made of undulating acrylic panels.

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Although the production hall is larger than any of the other factory buildings on the Vitra Campus, the façade gives it a light, almost floating appearance.

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The Schaudepot is the second building on campus by the architects Herzog & de Meuron. The new structure was not yet opened when we visited but opened later in 2016. It combines the simple appearance of an industrial building with the complex requirements of a walk-in museum repository.

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Balancing Tools by Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen

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The sculpture was commissioned by the children of Vitra company founder Willi Fehlbaum as a gift for his seventieth birthday. It depicts the three main tools employed by upholsters who play a central role in the production of furniture.

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Dome by Richard Buckminster Fuller

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Petrol Station. Jean Prouvé was an important engineer, architect and designer of the post-war era. He developed furniture and buildings based on carefully constructed metal structures produced in his own metalworking shop.

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The Conference Pavilion by Tadao Ando was the architect’s first work outside Japan.

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The centrepiece of the building consists of a sunken courtyard that seems to conceal the surrounding environment and lends the building an almost monastic tranquillity and intimacy.

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Posts to come will cover the VitraHaus, Design Museum and the firehouse.

Dear Readers, Happy New Year !

This is our second post of 2017. It is almost a tradition of this blog – the first two posts take a look back at some of the places we visited last year. I(Chris) had the good fortune of having visited the capitals of 6 countries – Japan, Italy, Russia, Korea, Spain and France – in 2016, some for work reasons.

Click on links, where provided to read more about the places of interest. There are usually a series of related posts per location, you can discover them easily in the calendar at the bottom of the post.

Places visited in second half of 2016 are here.

In reverse chronological order:

Prado Madrid, Spain, June

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Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain, June

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Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain, June

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Champions League Final, Milan, June

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Vitra campus firehouse, Weil am Rhein, April

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Basel, Switzerland, April

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St Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, March

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Sistine Chapel, Vatican, March

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Tokyo, Japan, February

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Yakushima, Japan, February

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Kagoshima, Japan, February

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Let’s see where 2017 will take us.

Dear Readers, Happy New Year !

This is our first post of 2017. It is almost a tradition of this blog – the first two posts take a look back at some of the places we visited last year.

Click on links, where provided to read more about the places of interest. There are usually a series of related posts per location, you can discover them easily in the calendar at the bottom of the post.

In reverse chronological order:

Hong Kong, December

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Los Angeles, California, December

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Bologna, Italy, December

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Zurich zoo, Switzerland, October

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Paris, September

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Vilars, Switzerland, August

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Seoul, South Korea, August

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Vevey, Switzerland, August

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Cailier chocolate museum, Switzerland, August

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Verbier, Switzerland, July

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More to come in Part 2.