It’s interesting to see how this blog has evolved over the years. These days, it’s travel-culture that really makes me tick. On this path, I feel I can make the most difference — especially by shining a positive light on subcultures, and encouraging people to explore the world with an open mind.
For these reasons, I can’t wait to share my experience in the ancient Greco-Roman city of Jerash, in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Our expert hosts Ya’lla Tours — who also guided us through Petra — took us back in time, to a lost civilization.
Jordan is home to dozens of archaeological digs. The UNESCO heritage site Petra is the most famous, but Jerash is noted as one of the best preserved ruins in the Middle East.
Jerash (or Gerasa) is 30 miles north of the capital city, Amman. At the entrance, I saw display tables of scarves, stuffed camel toys and other souvenirs.
When you walk up the south stairway, you’ll encounter the Arch of Hadrian — built to honor the Roman Emperor when he visited around 130 AD.
It felt like a dream, wandering through the three stone arches.
Our Ya’lla Tours guide told us about Jerash’s prosperous past, and how it was the hometown of the mathematician Nicomachus. He pointed out Greek words carved into fallen stones.
Jordan is a progressive country so there aren’t any dress code restrictions. It is not a problem to have bare legs here, although you will want to wear sturdy shoes or boots for the unpaved ancient paths.
Amazing to see the Roman’s advanced architecture and engineering, which has withstood major earthquakes.
Unlike Petra, Jerash didn’t have too many tourists wandering about. Only a few vendors offered us a snack or a horse ride.
This added to the feeling that I was re-discovering an ancient world.
The path opened up to the Oval Plaza, surrounded by a colonnade. In the middle, I saw two altars and a fountain.
No wonder Jerash is nicknamed “the city of 1000 columns.” If you’re an art history buff like me, you’ll recognize that these are in the Ionic style. (Other parts of the city have Corinthian columns.)
My filmmakers were shooting video the entire time. This photo is by our Ya’lla guide; the rest are by Melissa Rundle and me.
Wait… why are there bagpipes in Jordan? Our guide told us that a bagpipe-type instrument originated in the Middle East, possibly thousands of years before it appeared in Scotland. You learn something every day.
We perched in the South Theater, which held as many as 3000 spectators, and watched the performers. Funny enough, there was a seat reservation system back in ancient times. You could still see stones marked with Greek letters like alpha, delta, epsilon!
We climbed up to the top, and got this brilliant view of the sprawling ruins. However, descending proved to be a bit of a challenge… I ended up looking like a hunched grandma, as I crawled down the rows. (No, I’m not posting those photos!)
Perhaps my favorite monument was the Temple of Artemis. The daughter of Zeus was the protector goddess of Jerash, and they honored her with a grand processional entrance to this place of worship. Look up, and you’ll see acanthus leaf carvings on the Corinthian columns.
I spotted a lion in the Macellum or marketplace.
Let’s wrap up our journey with some Insta-snaps (follow my my Instagram for more). I’m standing on the “cardo” or long colonnaded street, which was the main route in Jerash. You can still see the marks of chariot wheels on the stones.
Filmmaker Melissa prayed for a hot beverage as we ascended the Artemis Temple. The goddess granted her wish: at the top, a young Jordanian man with a surprising British accent was selling cups of coffee and mint tea!
I leave you with the Hippodrome, or giant arena for chariot races and other sporting events.
We learned so much about Jerash thanks to Ya’lla Tours. With a driver and expert guide, our trip to Jordan was stress-free. Ya’lla does custom, small group tours in many countries including Israel; I hope you’ll keep them in mind for your travels.
Have you ever visited an archaeological site? What was your experience like? And do you like my Miffy outfit?
It’s a special time of the year for many people in Japan: sakura season. Cherry blossom trees are in full bloom, and friends are getting together to appreciate the pink petals while they last.
Have you heard of hanami (flower viewing), or taken part in this tradition? Read on for the beautiful story, and my sakura-inspired coordinate!
Around late March to May, Japan turns into a cotton candy wonderland. The season’s is a big deal here: as winter ends, people start to check the “sakura zensen” forecast, or cherry blossom front. When the trees are blossoming, it’s time to celebrate.
I accessorized it with a kimono-style top, from alternative Japanese designer h.NAOTO’s Gouk collection. (Here are photos from the Naoto store in Tokyo.)
The flower-appreciation began centuries back, in the Nara period. Today, the Japanese still hold “hanami” festivals or gatherings to appreciate the short-lived cherry blossoms.
People of all ages and interests take part in hanami. Many have picnics in Tokyo’s Yoyogi park (tip: go early to save a space, as it fills up quickly especially on weekends). Families and friends drink, eat, take photos, and play music in this dreamy setting.
I wanted to pay tribute to the season with my outfit. The Salsit dress is sheer, so I wore a long white tank-top under (to break up the length, and reveal the black lace flowers). I chose Japanese-style sandals, and pinned some cherry blossom flowers to my hair.
My electric blue haircolor gives my look a modern feel. But in black and white, it’s timeless.
Although “prunus” trees are found around the world (including North America, Australia, South America and Europe), cherry blossoms are a distinct Japanese symbol, and have been important throughout the country’s history.
Many “yukata” or summer kimonos have long sleeves and cherry flower prints, colors or motifs.
Light pink, mint, and other pastel colors inspire the spring fashions in Japan and worldwide.
The print on the back of my kimono-top seems like an extension of the flowers on my lace dress.
Cherry blossom viewing is also linked to a Japanese concept called “mono no aware,” or melancholy appreciation of the impermanence of things. The blossoms are beautiful now, but they will soon fall and be gone — like all things.
So we might as well appreciate them to the fullest, in this present moment.
Some people attend shrines or Buddhist temples, to see the flowers. My Tokyo friends hold a yearly “Goth hanami” – it’s the same as what regular folk do, but with more piercings, tattoos and alcohol!
Details, details. Dark meets light, pastel meets Gothic.
I even did DIY sakura nail art to match. It’s pretty simple: start with a grey-pink base coat. Then, cover half of each nail with dots of magenta, on a diagonal. Then, add specks of silver and pink sparkle. Finish with a top coat.
You don’t need to be in Japan in order to take part in the festivities. Many worldwide cities have cherry blossoms festivals, which may include traditional music and dance performances, and food vendors.
Or, just find a park or street that is blooming with pink. It’s an opportunity to get creative, such as by taking photos…
… drawing, painting, or making dried pressed flowers.
The Japanese use sakura as an ingredient as well. The blossoms are pickled and used in sweets like mochi, or drunk as tea.
Perhaps you might also plan a future trip to Japan, to coincide with this time of year. If so, it’s best to book and plan early, since plane tickets and hotel rooms are pricy during this high season.
But you can still celebrate, no matter where you are. Enjoy the flowers shooting up around you.
With the winter waning, it’s a good excuse to pick up lighter pieces for your spring wardrobe, like the Salsit Widow dress.
Let’s be in the moment, when the buds are emerging…
… and when the petals fall.
Do you have cherry blossom trees around you? Have you heard of hanami, or tried flower-viewing?
Israel’s art scene: Ilana Goor museum, Jaffa Tel Aviv market. Leopard print dress & suspender tights.
Whenever I travel, I make an effort to explore the local arts scene. I always find inspiration in alternative art museums, design stores and markets — and Jaffa, Israel was no exception.
Follow along with me, as I encounter whales, pandas, and a row of… peni?
La Carmina’s outfit of the day:
Blue leopard print dress: from Apartment at Siam Discovery in Bangkok (similar to this $49 dress)
Short leather jacket with hood: similar to this one by Michael Kors
Cross pattern stockings: Jonathan Aston Harnessed Tights, gifted by UK Tights. The geometric pattern mirrors the straps of my dress.
White crown purse: Baby the Stars Shine Bright, Tokyo
Jaffa or Yafo was an ancient port city, and now a district of Tel Aviv. As this cute fountain suggests, this was the site of biblical stories including Jonah and the whale, King Solomon and St Peter.
I should mention that while Israel’s official languages are Hebrew and Arabic, pretty much everyone speaks English. Still, I recommend having a guide like our awesome Uri Golani to help you get around in a van, and explain the history.
Jaffa Flea Market was like a scene from Arabian Nights. I felt like I had stepped back in time.
I was most intrigued by the jewelry stands, which were strung with metal hamsas: amulets shaped like an open palm, to defend against the evil eye.
The Arabian filigree necklaces and lockets were also beautiful. (Photography by Eric Bergemann, Melissa Rundle and me.)
Jaffa Hill has such a long history (going back to the Bronze Age) that there are constantly new archaeological discoveries. We walked past several excavations, and even passed an abandoned building that houses flying bats!
Today, Jaffa has a hippie / hipster vibe. We went into organic clothing stores, and laid-back cafes covered in ivy. Like in Portland, we saw bird murals and “creative” bicycles.
Loved the big doors and gates. Israel generally has hot weather, but you’ll want to wear a jacket and good walking shoes in Jaffa, since it’s by the water and has cobbled roads.
We poked our heads into modern furniture stores, including one that focused on African designs. Others sold antiques, children’s toys, you name it.
Everyone we met was friendly. Tel Aviv is ultra liberal, and nobody will make a fuss if you dress alternatively.
I generally prefer walking around and seeing street art, instead of going inside a museum. However, we got a tour of the Ilana Goor Museum, and it was the best art experience we had in recent memory.
Ilana is a decorated Israeli artist, and this 18th century building is her home. Visitors come to see her eclectic art collection, which includes her own works such as funky self-portraits and this phallic coat hanger called “Turkish God of Fertility.”
Ilana Gur actually lives here, and you can feel her personality and passion in each room. Beneath a ceiling punched with holes (an ancient form of air conditioning), I found a fellow blue-haired girl.
From her taste in art alone, I can tell that Ilana and I would get along. There were a number of horror-bizarre objects, such as these creatures emerging from vases.
The rooftop overlooks the water, and is inhabited by offbeat sculptures including bronze cats.
If it weren’t for the wind, I could have spent all afternoon sitting in the garden, under the olive trees.
Next, we dropped by the Yafo Creative House, a space where travelers can live and collaborate with Israeli artists. The young residents hold weekly meals and exhibitions, and inspire each other to make art. We listened to this singer-songwriter perform two acoustic songs, one in Hebrew and one in English.
Finally, we walked around the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. There were pieces by international masters, like Monet and Picasso, but I was more interested in the modern Israeli works.
We were confused, disgusted, or amused by the various works, which ranged from obscure video projections to a giant fabric “party monster” that extended over two floors.
These photographs, showing a woman with her eyes or mouth sewn shut, reminded me of the lip-sewing TV show I did.
In the basement’s special exhibit, I learned that Andy Warhol did children’s book illustrations and product designs. Warhol’s robot has a “kawaii” feel to it.
Same with this panda bear banging a drum. As you can see, we filmed all throughout the trip, and will have a travel video for you soon.
Doesn’t Israel have an intriguing design scene? What do you think of the cross tights and leopard dress I wore in Jaffa?
Hip, hip, hooray! My Portland travel video is out on Business Insider, in which I explore the city’s weird and wonderful subcultures. In a lot of ways, it’s my favorite episode so far.
I’m biting my nails to hear what you think… Watch the video above and on BI. Did you laugh at my “fairy dance” and pirate torture scene?
My travel series wouldn’t be possible without these two : Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann, who did all the shooting, editing and production. It’s hard to find people who you can successfully travel, work and Goth-party with!
In our video, we take you inside Portland’s underground subcultures. This includes a live performance of the Nightmare Before Christmas…
… complete with a spooky tree, covered with crows and brains.
I loved Portland’s vintage clothing selection. Been searching for a disco dream-coat like this all my life.
Bokeh and ominous reflections, in the window of steampunk boutique Wells & Verne.
So many things about Portland are “me” to a T. Such as this steam-girl painting, inspired by Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha.
Or this rainbow Buddhist mural on the wall of my room, at the Jupiter Hotel.
This hipster hotel must have been expecting me. Velvet Devil wine and green apples in the lobby…
… alongside modern art by local painters.
Portland’s culture is all about creativity. My room at the Jupiter Hotel had a chalkboard door, and First Mate Naomi drew a cat on it.
I’ll leave you with some bonus shots. This is the Avalon Theater, next to our vegan brunch cafe Paradox. I could have walked around PDX all day long, simply shooting photos.
Naomi’s mis-matched tights match the autumn foliage.
The Pacific Northwest may be grey and rainy, but you get all four seasons and there is nature everywhere.
Arr! We went to a food truck pit stop, near the Jolly Roger. We sampled Mexican tacos, crepes and pumpkin butter sandwiches.
My favorite was the jambalaya, cooked fresh from a Creole truck. (New Orleans is on my list of must-visit places…)
PDX is proud of its local craft beer breweries. I enjoyed the pear and cherry ciders by Anthem Brewing.
Now you know why Portland is now one of my favorite American cities. Intrigued by the quirky indie culture here? Then please take a few minutes to watch our Portland travel video, highlighting the hippest parts of the city. (Keep your ears peeled for the evil laugh!)
How are you liking my travel video series? For more photos and tips, here are all my posts about Portland alt travel.