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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 #336 – veins


random photo  #337 – backstage – neuchatel


random photo #338 – contours – munich


random photo #339 – loire


random photo #340 – relativity – budapest


random photo #341 – timeless


random photo #342 – nonstop – london


random photo #343 – “fork over” – geneva

fork over-1.jpg

random photo #344 – swarm – munich


random photo #345 – matings – basel


If you are interested in seeing other Random Photos, click on the  random  tag on the left.
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Witte de Withstraat (click here and here to see earlier posts) – probably the coolest street in Rotterdam, starts actually as Schiedamsedijk from the east near the Maritime Museum.

Margreeth Olsthoorn – a designer fashion store has a prime location here. I have never heard of this name before.

It is located on the corner of Schiedamsedijk and Westersingel.

This store likes to spread its fashion beliefs and philosophies on its awnings. It also like to put the designers’ names on its windows in “The Matrix”‘s style and on the pavement in front. These statements in English probably sound less pretentious to local Dutch ears.

“Fashion is a language”

“The difference between style and fashion is quality” …

… Maison Margiela

“Elegance doesn’t mean being noticed, it means being remembered”

“Fashion is architecture: It is a matter of proportions”

“Style is primarily a matter of instinct”

“I wear lots and lots of sunscreen”- I doubt if this piece about wearing something is made by the store but it stands right next to the store. See the tiny plaque at the bottom ? Behind this piece is a gallery NL=USart. Parody ?

I noticed that in Rotterdam, English quotes are very popular so much so that many of them, literally writings on the wall, are used as decoration on buildings.

Here is an example: ” in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes” by Andy Warhol on Witte de Withstraat.  May be it is a Dutch thing which could also explain the “fashion statements” I showed above.

At the other end of Witte de Withstraat just before the road continues into Museumpark stood this artwork on top of a building of the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen.

“Breathe Walk Die” by Ugo Rondinone

As it has been said in earlier posts including this one here, the whole area is worth a lot of exploring.

This museum is the most unexpected place I visited in the Museumpark area. See earlier posts here and here about this area of Rotterdam.

This is not a destination museum for me as I (Chris) have not heard of it before.

The entrance courtyard is stunning  – boldly marked by zebra stripes producing an optical effect.

The stripes and how they curve around objects reminded me a little bit of the zen gardens of Kyoto in Japan … the patterns formed by raked sand.

Apparently, the museum closes at 5pm and the last 30 minutes is free. And I happened to arrive at 4:20pm and they told me if I waited for a few minutes, I could see the exhibits for free.

Thank you very much !

The museum’s official web site is here – it is well organized and inviting. Quite a bit of its collection are online – I think they publish a book catalog with similar content. Some of the writings below came from it. See also the video below to learn more the musuem.

A guard told me I could enter the metal cage in the courtyard. I found two soccer balls inside. Are the zebra stripes a part of the work ? It was certainly amusing and it is enigmatic. It worked as a piece of art for me.

“Parallel lines” seems to be their graphic language – it is consistently deployed in their logos, publications, etc.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is one of the oldest museums in the Netherlands. In 1849 the lawyer Boijmans left his art collection to the city of Rotterdam. With the acquisition of the Van Beuningen collection in 1958 the museum got the second part of its name. This is the back of the museum as seen from Museumpark.

As the museum was about to close, I did not try the “cloakroom” service – if I am not mistaken – it seems that your coat is stored (and on display) hanging in a space hovering above the lobby. I stuffed my things in one of the small wired cages on the back wall (just visible below).

The museum houses a unique collection of paintings, sculptures, installations and everyday objects. The collection of prints and drawings is apparently one of the best in the world.

There is another courtyard, more traditional, surrounded by galleries.

The museum is built with unique, intimate spaces, some of which are connected, where pieces of the collection can be viewed together in a thematic context and at an appropriate scale.

I was surprised by how much household objects that are on display – “from medieval pitchers and glass from the Golden Age to furniture by Rietveld and contemporary Dutch design”, they have them all.

The museum proudly declares that it has been shaped by private collectors. The scope and diversity are the results of 1700 private collectors who have gifted no fewer than 50,000 objects in 170 years of the museum’s history. As a result, the collection spans centuries of human creation.

I never saw this Dali before, not even in print.

Keith Haring ?

An unexpected benefit for arriving just before closing was the freedom I enjoyed with the Yayoi Kusuma installation. There were no lines. I had it practically to myself.

‘Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field (Floor Show)’ was the first of a series of mirrored rooms that Kusama began in 1965. The work was included in Kusama’s solo exhibition ‘Mirrored Years’ at the Museum in the autumn of 2008.

The brick building that houses the original collection was completed in 1935, and a modern extension was added in the 70’s.  They have just started constructing a new building –  the Depot – right next to the museum which will store the entire collection but also allows it to be viewed by the public – a concept similar to that of the Schaulager (see our earlier post) in Basel. Apparently, only 8% of the collection is currently on view.

Construction started in 2017 and the Depot is expected to open in 2020. I am looking forward to its opening and seeing more of the collection.



I(Chris) spent a day in Rotterdam and walked from the Maritime Museum to the Museumpark along the street Witte de Withstraat. Part 1 covers the shops, bars and restaurants on Witte de Withstraat.

Museumpark is an urban landscaped park located between the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Westersingel, Westzeedijk and the complex of the Erasmus medical center in central Rotterdam. The Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, the Kunsthal, Het Nieuwe Instituut, Chabot Museum, and the Natural History Museum (Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam) are all located there and connected with each other by this landscaped park.

First, the establishments – the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen (see a dedicated post later)

Chabot Museum is home to one of the most important collections of Dutch expressionist painter and sculptor Henk Chabot (1894-1949).  The white villa was built in 1938 and represents a highpoint of the functionalist ‘Nieuwe Bouwen’ (New Construction) style of architecture. It was designed by Gerrit Willem Baas and Leonard Stokla in 1938 as a private residence.

Chabot Museum’s next door neighbor – there are a few more houses/villa that are built in this style in the area. But I couldn’t tell if it was built around the same time as the Chabot museum or it is a later emulation.

In Het Nieuwe Instituut – the Museum of Architecture, Design and Digital Culture – shows temporary exhibitions with a recurring theme of innovation. The museum examines the designed world and how it is constantly being changed by new technologies, new ideas and shifting social priorities. The concept is similar to that of the MAAT in Lisbon – click here for our earlier post.

Instead of a lawn, the institute has a pond covered in algae in front of it. Look carefully, it is green water.

The institute has a modern and comfy cafe

… but the bookstore (not so much a shop, but more like an open market) was closed. The stalls were all covered up.

The park was designed by Rem Koolhaas/OMA in close collaboration with the French landscape architect Yves Brunier and the designer Petra Blaisse.

The park has a very innovative design: four zones – a paved zone; a romantic zone with trees, flowers and a pedestrian bridge (just visible above); a city zone which is covered in asphalt and often used for public events; and a well-tended orchard area.

I used all my time in the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen so the Kunsthal was closed by the time I got to it.

Although it is not eye-catching like a work by Gehry, this is a masterpiece of architecture by Rem Koolhass –  read more about it here:

One of the sculptures outside the Kunsthal.

The city’s Natural History Museum is next door.

As I walked back towards the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, one can see the other side of the museum where Claes Oldenburg’s Screwarch is installed.

I read somewhere that the ponds and fountains in this park are designed to act as buffers to prevent flooding of the city.

The green and built spaces around the park are really harmonious.

I will definitely come back to have a closer look at the museums and relax with a drink at the establishments on Witte de Withstraat.







I(Chris) spent a day in Rotterdam after a meeting in The Hague, which is only a short train ride away.

Rotterdam is actively marketing itself as a popular destination for international visitors, an alternative to Amsterdam. It was built around the river Rotte in 1270 and grew rapidly over the centuries but in 1940, during World War II, the entire city center was destroyed by bombs.

The city was rebuilt, opting to break from the past, and commits itself to contemporary architecture.

Witte de Withstraat is a street which connects the Maritime Museum (just visible in the photo below) with the Museumpark.

It is the cultural center of the city which is full of restaurants, bars, museums and interesting shops.

“Work hard, play here” at the Metropole Cafe

I was there in the afternoon so that the seating areas of the bars and restaurants were somewhat empty.

But one can imagine that the place must be really fun at night.

The street is the scene.

Somebody proposed to Sam with this graphics ? Cool.

And there is of course a Dutch “coffeeshop” nearby, this one with subway-style turnstiles ! (not clearly visible in the photo) and a sauna/massage salon next door.

These establishments are facing an open park, so it is not at all sleazy as it may sound.

This sculpture of Sylvette by Picasso marks the beginning of the Museumpark.

See part 2 for the next segment of this thoroughfare.





Another bookstore … this time in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. This one barely survived.

Donner is located on Coolsingel, in a former bank building, all public areas on one floor. This bookstore and the pride of Rotterdam was swallowed up by a big chain store that unfortunately went bankrupt in 2014.

The Top 10 fictions and non-fictions.

Owing to a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised 250.000 euros, Donner was able to relocate to its current location.  It’s again a proudly independent and well stocked bookshop.

The number one fiction – “The Best Thing We Have” by Griet Op de Beeck.

A nice collection of Lovecraft stories.

Cookbook section

Calendars for 2018.

Like most bookstores these days, they sell a whole lot of other non-printed merchandise, such as collectible objects.

There was an event which just finished. A line of people was waiting for refreshments and perhaps a selfie with the speaker or an autographed book.
Old books – several aisles of them.
High-end lifestyle magazines. They look like coffee table photo books without a real topic (except Nez which is a serious perfume magazine), and costs the same or more.
There is something about this bookstore, possibly its slight messiness in full view which made me felt like I was in a public library.
Hope this one survives.

Continuing with my tour of the world’s bookstores … Livraria Bertrand at Rua Garrett 73 in Lisbon is the oldest and largest bookstore chain in Portugal.

Since it was launched in 1732, the Bertrand Bookstore stayed open, and has thus entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest bookstore in the world still in operation. The business survived earthquakes, revolutions and the recent economic crisis.

The bookstore was founded by a Frenchman in the area of the current store – Baixa. Pierre Bertrand joined the store in 1744.

The earthquake of 1755 destroyed the original store but it returned in 1773 to Rua Garreta where it still operates today.

Later in the twentieth century, the company evolved, changed owners several times. In 1912, ownership of the “Livraria Bertrand” was with the firm ‘Aillaud Bastos & Alves’ editors in Paris, Lisbon and Rio de Janeiro. In 1938, it opened the first bookstore in Porto and, from 1939, Livraria Bertrand had its own printing press.

When I arrived, it was still opened. The closing time is 10:00pm – rare for a bookstore in Europe.

The top 10 fictions and non-fictions – the No. 1 fiction is Dan Brown’s Origin – sans surprise. Very few English books.

Nobel laureate José Saramago’s books are prominently featured (inside and in the window display) as were those by the poet Fernando Pessoa.

The bookstore is all on one floor.

The Bertrand Group owns 53 bookstores in Portugal, a book club, and eight smaller publishers. The company was a subsidiary of giant German media corporation Bertelsmann until 2010, when Bertelsmann sold Bertrand to Porto Editora, Portugal’s biggest publishing house. “Bookstore Bertrand” is thus the name of a network of bookstores across the country.

Law Books

Although the brick-and-mortar bookstore is under threat, Bertrand has managed so far and built an online presence. I read that many Portuguese language books that publishers send overseas are delivered to Africa and nearly half are ordered by customers in Angola.

We saw some big beautiful bookstores in Sao Paulo, Brazil, click here, here and here. You would have thought that they do well in South America, but Bertrand is not there. Apparently, Portugal and its former colonies do not have a standardized literary language (although they speak the same language) which could be used simultaneously in Europe, Africa, and South America. As a result, the works of Portuguese novelists must be “translated” into the Brazilian version of literary Portuguese before they can be marketed in Brazil.

The bookstore has a cafe – Cafe Bertrand with the catchphrase “Taste our books”. It also has its own entrance.

The room is named after the poet Fernando Pessoa who frequented this place with many Portuguese literary luminaries over the years. Notice the typewriter sitting above the wine refrigerator? Just in case if someone is in a creative mood ?

It also has a cute character-based logo in the shape of a cup and saucer.

Keeping the good bookstore tradition alive.

Dear Readers,

It has been a tradition of this blog to take a look back at some of the places we visited last year. In Part 1, we posted photos of places we visited in the second half of 2017. Here are the places we visited in the first half.

As you will see, we went to the two other capitals on the British Isle, the administrative center of the Netherlands, and the wine capital of France.

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:

Loch Ness, Scotland in June

Edinburgh, Scotland, June

Glasgow, Scotland, June

Cardiff, Wales, June

The Game and the Castle

The Hague (Scheveningen), Netherlands, May

St. Emillion, France, in April on our Alps-Atlantic drive with A and F

Biarritz, France in April, the Atlantic !

Bordeaux, France in April

Arcachon, France in April

So this is goodbye 2017.

Where will we end up this year ? … if all go as planned, it will be more exotic and involve longer distances in 2018.

Dear Readers, Happy New Year !

This is our first post of 2018. It is a tradition of this blog to take a look back at some of the places we visited last year. Overall, we traveled less in 2017 than 2016, at least in terms of distance traveled. We did not leave Europe after our Hong Kong trip concluded in January 2017. But we entered the Arctic Circle, visited the capital of Norway, England, France and Portugal.

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:

Oslo, Norway, December-January – Astrup Fearnley Museum

Tromsø, Norway, December – 350 km inside the Arctic Circle

London, December – overnight business trip

Paris, France, December – on the Grande Roue

Lisbon, Portugal – attended a conference at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown

Rotterdam, Netherlands, in November – outside the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Lucerne, Switzerland, August – with S&J + family

Panorama from Mount Rigi above Lake Lucene

Verbier, Switzerland in September for business

Aix-les-bains, France in July with friends

Travels in first half of 2017 to come in part 2.


Just before catching my mid-afternoon flight home from Lisbon, I (Chris) had a walk through this place and a quick bite with a bunch of new friends (J, K, L, R & S). It was a really fun two hours.

I took most of the text posted here from its web site, click here to visit.

“It’s in the year 1846 that a threads and fabrics Company called “Companhia de Fiação e Tecidos Lisbonense”, one of the most important manufacturing complex in Lisbon’s history, sets in Alcântara. This 23.000 m2 industrial site was, subsequently, occupied by a set of industrial use related companies.”

It was Sunday and the place was packed with rural farmers selling fruits and vegetables.

Artists and craftsman selling their work.

A giant fly on the wall of a hostel within the grounds.

Not Rio, it’s Lisbon.

Plenty of street art.

A mural that stretches across one side of a large warehouse.


“An urban fragment, kept hidden for years, is now returned to the city in the form of LXFactory. A creative island occupied by corporations and professionals of the industry serves also has stage for a diverse set of happenings related to fashion, publicity, communication, fine arts, architecture, music, etc., attracting numerous visitors to rediscover Alcântara through an engaged dynamics.”

Among the shops, eateries and offices, a company installed two escape rooms – “LX Escape – Burlesque Edition” – click to see the backstory of the escape rooms here. We wanted to do it but decided to have lunch first. But then I had to leave … and later my friends decided to see Fado with dinner instead. Well, it means the escape rooms are waiting for me to return.

There are quite a few buildings on the site and I did not have the time to walk through them.

I wonder what’s the story behind these images …

It must remind people of Covent Garden or Camden Lock in London. See also our posts on similar ideas of retail/art projects: Common Ground in Seoul and PMQ in Hong Kong.

Great project. It works. Every city needs at least one of these.

One evening after the day’s meetings are over, I(Chris) and friends walked along the Belém waterfront from the conference venue to a gala dinner. Here are some of the photos taken during the walk.

We started from the Fundação Champalimaud at the western end of the waterfront – the sun was setting.

The Monument to the Veterans from Overseas (Aos Combatentes do Ultramar) was the next landmark.

I believe there are soldiers standing guard at this monument from time to time.

Our next sight is the famous Torre de Belem. The tower was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

The tower was built in the early 16th century on a small island in the River Targus near the Lisbon shore.

The tower was built by the military architect Francisco de Arruda, who had already supervised the construction of several fortresses in Portuguese territories in Morocco. The influence of Moorish architecture is manifested in the delicate decorations, the arched windows, the balconies, and the ribbed cupolas of the watchtowers.

A modern waterside cafe

Continuing our walk eastbound after passing a small park, we came to a marina.

On the other side of the marina is the Altis Belém Hotel.

Then the Belém lighthouse … a historical landmark

Then, there was the Museu de Arte Popular. It has to be said that this is a sad looking building when it is compared to the others on the waterfront.  Notice the black cable that runs across the facade of the entrance ? Enough said.

Our dinner was at the Espaço Espelho d’Água – a truly beautiful place, we had an apéro followed by dinner.

Entrance to the venue.

From the terrace of the venue … sculpture in a pool in front of the river

The Espaço has a small art gallery at its entrance.

… and a bar that was completely shrouded in vegetation.

On the far side of the Espaço is the Monument of the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos) which celebrates the Portuguese age of exploration in the 15th and 16th century. The main statue is that of Henry the Navigator.

Further into the distance, one can see the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge and the National Sanctuary of Christ the King (Santuário Nacional de Cristo Rei) on the hill.

If one continues to walk (which we did not), the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology is not far (see earlier post about this new landmark).



The MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, opened its doors to the public on 5 October, 2016. I (Chris) had the chance of a private tour in October 2017. A young museum, just over a year old !

Presenting itself as a new cultural centre in the city of Lisbon, the MAAT represents an ambition to host national and international exhibitions with contributions by contemporary artists, architects and thinkers. Click here for its web site.

Our private guided tour started in the early evening and it was eerie inside.

No shopping.

I saw two exhibits. The first “Tensão e Conflito – Arte em Vídeo após 2008 (Tension & Conflict – Video art after 2008)” – 22 artists made video of their personal views on current events. The museum is turned into a number of film viewing spaces.

The second exhibit is “Shadow Soundings” by Bill Fontana as commissioned by MAAT.

It was created from the sounds and vibrations of the 25th of April Bridge (visible from the museum) and the Tagus River (just outside), and then amplified until they acquire a musical quality.

Using seven projections, the installation shows unique views of the bridge and the Tagus river, as well as unknown angles of the shadows of vehicles moving across the bridge.

The MAAT also represents an effort to revitalise the riverfront of Belém’s historic district. It was designed by the British architecture firm Amanda Levete Architects.

The MAAT also occupies the recently renovated Central Tejo power station (closed since 1975) next door which we did not have a chance to see.

The two buildings are united by an outdoor park, conceived by landscape architect Vladimir Djurovik, offering an outstanding leisure space along Lisbon’s riverbank.

If you go online, you can find photos of the museum taken from the river.  It looks like a low undulating wave.

During the day, people can stroll up to the roof of the museum via the “ramp” to view the river at a higher vantage point.

Well worth returning – for a stroll along the river and a very modern experience.



In October 2017, I(Chris) attended a conference held in Lisbon, Portugal at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown – a state-of-the-art facility for research and clinical care.

The Centre, designed by the Indian architect, Charles Correa, was inaugurated on October 5th 2010.

It is situated at the point where the River Tagus meets the Atlantic and from where the great Portuguese navigators once set sail.


… the architectural space


Our conference was held in the auditorium across a wide paved passage.

The auditorium which seats 400 has a giant elliptical window with a view of the river.

The shapes of the holes in the wall and the auditorium window echo the biological cell.

Opened in 2011 with the mission of offering high quality clinical care, primarily in the field of oncology, the Champalimaud Clinical Centre occupies most of the lower floors of the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown.

The research labs are situated on the higher floors overlooking the tropical pergola garden.

The buildings are connected by a transparent enclosed bridge. There is an outdoor amphitheater and a gently sloping walk to an area bound by an infinity pool and a “pebble beach” where one can take in the view of the river.


Another place for gathering.

At sunset, the view was magnificent. Breath-taking.

We were facing west towards the open Atlantic Ocean and the Americas on the other side. Pebble beach and infinity pool.

The Champalimaud Foundation (Portuguese: Fundação Champalimaud), a private biomedical research foundation, was created according to the will of the late entrepreneur António de Sommer Champalimaud, in 2004. It conducts research in neurosciences, oncology, and particularly blindness.

Notice the light blue paint on the tip of the concrete pillar mimicking the color of the sky. Presumably, on certain days when the light conditions are right, the pair of pillars could look as if they reach into the clouds. Nice touch !

Some of the write up here come from the official web site of the foundation. They have a video about the Centre.

What a site for a conference !


Continuing with our bookstore tour … this one in Scotland

The Waterstones at Edinburgh’s West End is one of four in the city.

The four-floor bookshop is right at the heart of the city, opposite Edinburgh Castle, on the capital’s main shopping street; Princes St.

They have “a large and inviting Children’s department, a robust and exciting events programme, and a Scottish department that reflects the richness and diversity of this country.

Once upon a time …

In my opinion, the most remarkable feature of the bookstore is the staircase that links the four floors.

Parts of the stairs are symmetrical.

More books on Scotland

Want to hike the Highlands ? Here is whole shelf full of maps.

The landing is used very effectively to display books.

Another view of the stairs.

The Café is on the Second Floor …

… with great views of the Castle and Edinburgh skyline.

Books on the English language.

Definitely a great place to linger when it is drizzling outside as it happens frequently in the summer (we have so far experienced except the time when this photo was taken).

We only had 3 days in Edinburgh and this gallery is one of the more remarkable and less touristy place. Much of what I have below is taken from their web site, here.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is housed in a great red sandstone neo-gothic palace, designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson and opened to the public in 1889 as the world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery.

Running along the first-floor ambulatory of the Great Hall is a painted frieze by the nineteenth-century artist William Hole. In reverse chronological order it depicts famous people from Scottish history including Robert Burns, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Mary Queen of Scots and many more.

As you can see below, quite literally, on the left are folks from the Stone Age and Bronze Age, … and then on the right, after the frieze curves around the atrium, are Thomas Carlyle, historian and essayist; David Livingstone, missionary and explorer; Sir James Young Simpson, discoverer of chloroform and Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, a geologist.

If you are curious to see the rest of the frieze and the depicted famous persons, go to this website.

One can get a closer look at the frieze from the fist floor gallery.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the idea of a National Portrait Gallery for Scotland was championed by many, including the historian Thomas Carlyle. A believer in heroes, Carlyle wrote that ”Historical Portrait Galleries far transcend in worth all other kinds of National Collections of Pictures whatever”. The philanthropy of a local newspaper (The Scotsman) owner, John Ritchie Findlay paid for the construction and laid down an endowment.

The Gallery went through a major overhaul from 2009-2011, making the spaces more modern and accessible, including the addition of a gallery for photography, rooms for education and a cafe. All these look both contemporary and totally at home within the Victorian building.

Loved the atmosphere of the library which supports research into biographies and portraiture, as well as artist and sitter files from the 16th century.

There is a collection of phrenological heads of the infamous and the curious.

Phrenology was a science of character divination, faculty psychology, theory of brain and what the 19th-century phrenologists called “the only true science of mind.” Phrenology came from the theories of the idiosyncratic Viennese physician Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828). The basic tenets of Gall’s system were:

1.The brain is the organ of the mind.
2. The mind is composed of multiple, distinct, innate faculties.
3. Because they are distinct, each faculty must have a separate seat or “organ” in the brain.
4. The size of an organ, other things being equal, is a measure of its power.
5. The shape of the brain is determined by the development of the various organs.
6. As the skull takes its shape from the brain, the surface of the skull can be read as an accurate index of psychological aptitudes and tendencies.

Displays at the Gallery explore different aspects of the story of Scotland and her people, told through a wealth of imagery including portraits of famous historical figures, through to more recent pioneers in science, sport and the arts.

Writing this post caused me to read up a bit about this important person (1874-1965) who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values”.

Portrait dated AD 1595 of Esther Inglis (1571-1624) – a caligraphist

One half of Eurythmics

“James Bond”

And last but not least, the boss of James Bond

Wish to spend more time here to look carefully, because there is much to leran. Admittedly, I(Chris) have not take any good pictures of people.


We spent a few days in Edinburgh in June. Here are some snapshots of the city.

Princess Street Garden is in the center of Edinburgh. It bridges the old (Medieval) and new (Georgian) parts of the city. View from Edinburgh Castle.

Scott Monument at the edge of the garden. Who is he?

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was an advocate, judge and legal administrator by profession.

He was best known as a historical novelist, playwright and poet. Many of his works remain classics e.g., Ivanhoe, and Rob Roy.

The Scottish National Gallery is in the center of the Princess Street Garden.

Floral clock in the garden

Ross band stand in the Princess Street Garden

St. John’s Episcopal Church just below the Edinburgh Castle (see later post).

Scottish Parliament, at the far end of the Royal Mile (away from the Castle). Built by Enric Miralles, from the outset the building and its construction (1999-2004) have been controversial. It was over-budget and late, hated by the public and praised by academics.

“Trigger Panels” –  an abstraction of curtains drawn back from the windows of the Scottish Parliament Building

Arthur’s Feet in Holyrood Park overlooking the Parliament Building

Leith – north of Edinburgh which is a port and had a shipbuilding history

Ships that lay undersea cable (looks like its function given the giant spool) – it is pretty important for the internet.

Royal Yacht Brittania, now retired (1954-1997), berthed at the Ocean Terminal at Leith for tourists and events (we were too late to enter).

The Royal Yacht’s last foreign mission was to convey the last governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, and the Prince of Wales back from Hong Kong after its handover to the People’s Republic of China on 1 July 1997.





We spent only two days in Glasgow – clearly not enough. But we nevertheless managed to visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It has been one of Scotland’s most popular visitor attractions since it reopened in 2006 after a three-year refurbishment.

The gallery first opened in 1901. The scope of its collection is wide ranging, divided into two sections: the Life galleries represent natural history, human history and prehistory.

The Expression galleries include the fine art collections.

Since we had limited time, we focused on its small collection of artifacts by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868 – 1928) and a special exhibition on comics.

Mackintosh (1868 – 1928) was a Scottish architect, designer, and artist which was influential on design movements such as Art Nouveau and Secessionism.

Much more can be written about him and his works but we could not see as much as we want in the gallery … and overall around Glasgow.

The special exhibition in the lower level of the gallery required a paid ticket (unlike the rest of the museum). Frank Quitely: The Art of Comics has been running for 6 months until October 1, 2017.

It was small but a surprise find for us. The above drawing must have been commissioned for this exhibit as the building behind Superman is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

Frank Quitely is a local, award-winning comic book artist born Vincent Deighan (1968- ).

His critically acclaimed work includes Batman, All-Star Superman, Captain America, Daredevil, The Invisibles, New X-Men, and the Sandman.

Can you see what is written in his beard ?

He has assisted superstar writer Grant Morrison in reimagining Superman and the X-Men.

More characters that I don’t recognize.

He worked with author Mark Millar on The Authority …

… and currently he is working on an American superhero comic, Jupiter’s Legacy, which will soon be made into a movie.

“We3” – published in 2004 was a collaboration with Grant Morrison. It tells the story of 3 pets – a dog, a cat and a rabbit – trying to escape from the army which has turned them into weapon prototypes.

He also drew for the graphic novel – The Sandman: Endless Nights – by Neil Gaiman. The book is divided into seven chapters, each devoted to a member of the family of brothers and sisters who are physical manifestations of the metaphysical concepts of Dream, Death, Desire, Destruction, Delirium, Despair and Destiny.

It was published by DC Comics in 2003. Each chapter is drawn by a different artist with a different style. Frank Quietly drew the last chapter. Definitely worth looking it up.

Scheveningen Beach (Strandweg) is Holland’s most famous seaside resort. And being only 15 minutes from the center of The Hague (Den Haag), it is being used year around by residents and visitors.

The beach faces the North Sea (which is generally not known for fine weather). I imagine it must be quite a change from day to day and season to season.

The water was probably too cold for bathing in early May when I was there.

Presumably, this was low tide. What a wide beach, see how much sand there was between the water and the umbrellas.

Beach club. The beach is at least 1 km long.

It has an abundance of attractions and beach pavilions. The Pier offers visitors a unique experience in a historical location. Scheveningen was mentioned in records as early as the 1200’s.

The Pier offers broad thoroughfares, both outdoor and enclosed, bars, clubs and traditional food trucks, a Ferris wheel, a zip line, a bungie jumping tower, and hotel suites.

From this photo, it looks like I was on a cruise ship.

At the end of the Pier is the hotel (De Pier Suites, I think).

The Ferris wheel is over forty meters high and has 36 closed gondolas with air conditioning (otherwise too cold and windy in the winter!).

Looks rather dramatic.

Visitors can zip line (side by side) down the 55 meter high Bungy tower on the Pier reaching a speed of 60-80 kilometres per hour. The total distance is 350 meters.

I can imagine this place to be packed and really fun and lively in the summer, especially in the evening.

Bungie jumping is facilitated by a crane which moves a cage that serve as a platform for the jump. There was an attendant manning the cage who probably whispers words of encouragement to those who become cowardly at the last minute.

We have been to two other beaches in Europe this year – click to see Biarritz and Arcachon (also has Ferris wheel on the beach).


I(Chris) was visiting The Hague, Holland – in May 2017 and spent a few hours to see the Escher in Het Palais. The semi-permanent exhibition is held in the former Winter palace of Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands – Lange Voorhout Palace, which was built in the 1700’s.

The regular exhibition features fantastic, mathematics-inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints created by Maurits Cornelius Escher (1898-1972). You would likely have seen his works before.


Escher’s art became well known especially after it was featured by Martin Gardner in his April 1966 Mathematical Games column in Scientific American.

While his works were well recognized, the art world did not pay much attention. Perhaps, because the works often reflected a mathematical-mechanical theme, his works are being considered a lesser accomplishment.

I first saw Escher’s art in the Douglas Hofstadter’s 1979 book Gödel, Escher, Bach. And later I collected postcards of his works (when I went through a phase of buying a ton of postcards after every museum trip).

Early in his career, he drew inspiration from nature, making studies of insects, landscapes, and plants, all of which he used as details in his artworks.

His work features mathematical objects and operations including impossible objects, explorations of infinity, reflection, symmetry, perspective, truncated and stellated polyhedra, hyperbolic geometry, and tessellations.

Here is an explanation of tessellation – the art of tiling a surface with repetitive irregular shapes.

A special exhibition entitled “Escher Close Up” was running. It shows for the first time, a selection of photos from Escher’s personal archive.

Three versions of the Metamorphosis, from the first small one, to the third, of 7 meters, shown in a circle. To appreciate it, you need to be there.

The exhibit is spread out on three floors, each room decorated with a chandelier made of crystals to form a shape (it has nothing to do with Escher).

In the atrium, a string of crystal artefacts were on display suspended from the ceiling.

The third floor of the museum is dedicated to optical illusion – many of which were featured in Escher’s works.

In this illusion, as you walk through the door way, there is a moment when you look as if you are inside the cube. There is a video monitor to show you the effect.

This illusion features an endless pit in the floor.

Very glad to have gone to visit the palace.

Almost forgot this post which we wrote earlier in the year.

We visited The former Hollywood Road Police Married Quarters, now renamed PMQ 元創方 in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong earlier this year. The buildings and grounds have been turned into a landmark for the creative industries. It is truly a great place to wander and shop as well as to soak up some local history and creative culture.

The history and preservation efforts of the site are well researched and documented here officially. Much of the writings below have been taken from various Hong Kong government sources.

In 1951, the site started as the Hollywood Road Police Married Quarters — the first dormitory for Chinese rank and file police officers. The site included 140 single rooms and 28 double rooms, with a semi-open design that allowed greater interaction between the residents. The site had been vacant since 2000.

The two buildings have been refurbished and upgraded for new uses. Residential units have been converted into design studios and shops, offices for creative enterprises and lodging for visiting designers. The buildings of PMQ are of modern style, feature a simple and clean appearance with a more utility approach for the design of space and form. This style emerged in the early 1950s when there was a great increase in population, resulting in great demand in buildings which required fast and efficient construction.

In order to cope with this, the design of building aimed at meeting the minimum requirement and standard which resulted in a simple and functional design. Buildings of this style are mainly built of strictly utilitarian reinforced concrete with flat roofs with minimal decoration.

This place turns out to be the childhood homes of both Hong Kong ex-Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his predecessor Donald Tsang.

When the government was going to auction the land, conservationists launched a campaign, citing social historical values embedded in the buildings and the fact it was once the site of Hong Kong’s first government school offering Western-style education.

Given that nearly HK$600 million of public funds has been spent on its renovation, PMQ is seen as a major test case on how Hong Kong conserves and revitalises historic buildings.

We thought about Common Ground in Seoul (see post here) – which is also a cool place for locals and tourists to socialize and shop.  Common Ground is more commercial while PMQ is more artsy – perhaps it can afford to be so as some of the tenants are sponsored.

PMQ’s mission statement says it wants to nurture the best design entrepreneurs in town, put them on the path to commercial success and become a popular destination for tourists and locals in its own right.

On the ground and first floors, there are fancy eateries and established designers and retailers like Vivienne Tam and G.O.D. Having known designer names on the premises is vital to the sustainability of the whole project, not just because of the higher rent that they pay, but also their crowd-pulling power.

We rested our feet with a few drinks at the Tai Lung Fung which adopts a certain vintage Hong Kong eatery designs.

The style is before our time and we cannot tell if it is accurate but it looks authentic.


Highly recommended.