Category Archive for Art + Design
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?
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?
On a quest to find the Treasury of a fabled civilization, buried by sand…
The story of this ancient city has fascinated me for years. In the 3rd century BC, Arabian nomads called the Nabataeans began settling here. Petra grew into a center for the spice trade, filled with marvelous temples, tombs and aqueducts.
The city passed into Roman and Byzantine rule, and then was lost… until a young explorer re-discovered it in the 19th century. Imagine coming across this glorious entryway, after years of scouring the desert!
My film team and I were so grateful to have Ya’lla Tours guide our journey. While Jordan is a safe country, the archaeological sites are spread out (Petra is three hours from the capital, Amman) and I wouldn’t know how to get from here to there. On our own, we’d probably end up wandering the sand dunes like Moses.
Ya’lla has personalized tours in various countries, including Jordan, and our guide’s expertise was worth his weight in gold. He took care of border crossing and visa checkpoints, got us to locations, gave us the historical run-down… Our journey was far richer and more relaxed because of him.
Case in point: Ya’lla planned our journey so that we’d conveniently spend the night in Wadi Musa, where Petra lies. The next morning, our guide made sure we were suitably dressed for the trek (good shoes and a jacket are necessities), and whisked us through the entrance. They even helped us get falafel afterward.
Horse rides are included, but we preferred to walk. The terrain is not difficult, but prepared to be on your feet for five hours or more.
We meandered through the mile-long siq (or “the shaft”), a narrow, winding gorge formed by a natural geological fault. I can’t think of a more epic prelude to an ancient city.
Along the way, our guide explained the aqueduct system and the meaning of carvings on the wall — things we wouldn’t have known or even noticed if we weren’t with him.
This photo gives you a sense of the Siq’s scale and grandeur. I spun around, between stone walls as high as 600 feet. (Photography by Melissa Rundle, Eric Bergemann and La Carmina.)
My outfit is an exercise in function meets fashion. I wore sturdy boots, so I never stumbled or had sore feet. However, you might as well dress up for more memorable photos. Who knows if you’ll ever be back?
Alice in Wonderland print skirt: by Lolita brand Baby the Stars Shine Bright, at Closet Child Shinjuku. Worn with a petticoat under, for poof.
Goth stockings: c/o UK Tights. I’m wearing the Tiffany Quinn Sheer Crosses Tights
Velvet Victorian jacket: Lip Service c/o
We saw remnants of carved deities from the religion of the Nabataeans and the traders that passed through. Our Ya’lla guide told is about standing stones, or baetyli, marking the presence of a god. He also showed us Greco-Roman style figures, and a man with camel.
He asked us, “What do you see in this natural rock formation?” From the profile, it looks like a fish. Head-on, it’s an elephant rock!
A stray cat ran down a steep staircase, as a group of Asian tourists shuffled by.
Someone in that tour group fed the cat a cracker. Don’t do this. Instead, donate to reputable animal organizations that do humane population control and work for long-term solutions. Likewise with giving to child beggars. This is a whole can of worms so I won’t go on, but if you want to discuss this, let’s do so in the comments.
Finally, we saw it beckoning through the rocks… The famous Al Khazneh or Treasury, entirely carved out of sandstone.
We learned that Petra was abandoned and lost to history for centuries. In 1812, Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt rediscovered it during his search for the source of the River Niger. He’s quite the “Indiana Johann,” spending years learning Arabic and disguising himself as a Muslim, in order to gain access to forbidden paths.
The Treasury carvings reveal the mix of Hellenistic and Middle Eastern religions that thrived in Petra. The two eagles at the top represent the main Nabataen god. Below the urn is a symbol of Egypt’s Isis. Underneath are Zeus’ sons, Castor and Pollux.
The details have held up remarkably well over the years, despite damage from iconoclasts and bullets. Legend says that Bedouins shot at the urn, thinking there were gems inside.
Can you guess why there are square markings on the left? These probably served as footholds for the brave sculptors.
Petra is a huge city, and there’s much more to see than just the Treasury. Every five minutes, someone offered us a camel ride or asked us to buy souvenirs. Politely ignore the vendors and walk on, if you’re not interested, or else they’ll keep dogging you.
While it may be tempting to ride the cute donkeys, camels or horses, I saw that some of them weren’t very well treated… We even saw a boy whip a horse while a tourist sat on top.
Many of them stood around in the sun, dressed in Bedouin cloths and waiting.
If you get tired of exploring ruins, you can duck into the tents to see sand art demos. By precisely layering and mixing colored sand, this man made a camel sand-scape.
Bottles, bottles on the wall.
The Jordanian people are very kind, and we enjoyed meeting this little boy with a sweet smile. Inside another tent, we sat surrounded by red carpets and chatted with the Bedouin owner, who served us dark coffee.
Petra is filled with secret caves, hidden tombs, echo chambers, remains of colored tiles… the stuff of imagination.
Imagine the amphitheater, filled with crowds of Romans. On the right, a rainbow of sandstone stripes.
We climbed up a long flight of stairs to the Urn Tomb, a burial place of the royals built high on the mountain face. Tip: look out for donkey poop as you walk.
So many mysteries still remain about Petra. Just days ago, a study suggested the Nabataeans built some of the monuments so the sun would shine on them, on significant days of the year.
The vast view from Ad Deir, or the Monastery.
Filmmaker Eric and I “play house” in one of the many cut-out dwellings (most of these were tombs). I’m probably thinking about how to decorate.
This is a day I’ll remember for ages to come. My travel film crew and I can’t thank Ya’lla Tours enough for taking us on an adventure to Petra. They offer Israel tours as well, and can customize the itinerary to your interests and group size.
Our Ya’lla guide had answers to all our questions, and took care of logistics so we could simply learn and enjoy. You can start planning your own dream trip on their site and by adding their Facebook.
Is visiting “the rose-red city half as old as time” on your travel bucket-list? Do you remember Petra from the Indiana Jones movie?
A surprisingly large number of people ask me about my friend Rose. Why hasn’t she appeared on the blog recently? I’ve been reluctant to say because the news isn’t good. Basically, Rose has been battling an extremely serious medical condition.
However, there’s a light (over at the Frankenstein place)! A test has nailed down Rose’s mysterious condition — and with some help, she can regain her health. Please read on for the personal story, followed by the latest in Tokyo makeup and wigs (since Rose loves J-fashion, and we want this post to end on an upbeat note!)
Long-time readers will remember Rose from our adventures in Seattle and Vancouver — absinthe burlesque clubs, Jrock concerts, dance videos and more. She’s got such positive energy, and a flair for alt-Japanese style.
Some have commented on her thinness. Rose has been struggling with a serious medical issue for years, which left her unable to eat or gain weight. It’s a long story (which her mom outlines in full here). Basically, about 11 years ago, Rose started having digestive troubles that lead to full gastroparesis or stomach paralysis. Despite going to the best doctors and trying all options, nobody has been able to determine a cause or cure. A series of painful operations, including inserting a pacemaker and removing her entire stomach, did nothing to help.
Sadly, in recent months, Rose has been getting worse. Her weight dropped to 73 pounds even though she takes in enough calories by tube-feeding, and she developed other complications.
However, there’s been a breakthrough: Rose tested 100% positive for Lyme disease. She took a test years ago, but the results came back negative since there is a high error margin. With this new and reliable method, the diagnosis is undeniable, and the symptoms fit.
It’s terrible that the undiagnosed Lyme disease caused her to worsen for a decade. On the plus side, Rose now knows the cause, and can undergo a complicated treatment to hopefully beat it. However, this will be a long, expensive road. I know her family, and they put everything into her medical costs, but it is a struggle. We’re having an online fundraiser, and hope you can help Rose with a contribution, no matter how small. So grateful for your support, and will share updates all along the way. Let’s get her healthy again!
♥ You can donate safely here by PayPal or credit card (choose to pay with PayPal and then at the bottom you will see “buy as guest.” Click that and you can then use your credit card.)
♥ Or if you can just help us get the word out — maybe with a Facebook post, Tweet, blog post or email — it will make a difference. Thank you.
On a brighter note, since this post is dedicated to Rose, I wanted to put up something that makes her smile. Rose dreams of visiting Tokyo, and I know she’ll go nuts inside Okadaya — one of the best places to pick up wigs, makeup, and craft supplies. I love coming here to scout out the latest beauty trends, like bunny-eared pastel wigs.
The main floor of Okadaya (address: Shinjuku 3-23-17, near the station’s east exit) has a wall of false eyelashes, especially in the glam gyaru style. Above are some special collaboration lashes, which come in different colors. There are also over-the-top ones in rainbow colors, feathers and glitter.
Don Quixote and 100 yen “dollar” stores sell cheaper false lashes, but you can’t beat the variety and uniqueness of the ones here.
There are always displays of new, chic beauty products. Disney just released a glittery nail polish line, in a variety of colors. Cinderella, Minnie Mouse and Snow White seem to love it.
Hello Kitty’s cute face is omnipresent in Japan. This is the new Sanrio perfume, packaged in “small gift” pouches. Different colors represent different scents.
Circle or novelty contact lenses remain big sellers in Japan. These “Funky Whip” contacts are a relatively new offering, which you wear only once and dispose.
On the second floor, it’s wigs galore! The sample hairdos are always done up in creative styles, like this braided and flower-topped mannequin.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s influence is obvious in these quirky, experimental pastel hairstyles.
Would you rather have a snake dangling by your face, or a snowman on your scalp?
This green and red Christmas wreath hairstyle gets props for creativity, if nothing else.
What a lovely romantic couple. The one on the left is a man… I think? (Okadaya has a fun selection of Jrock or host boy wigs too).
Every possible type of synthetic wig is sold here, in all colors and lengths. These shaggy bobs are more natural-looking.
If that’s not your bag, then there’s a shelf of Sweet Lolita, pastel goth and cosplay wigs! Most are by the brand Prisila. Perfect for anime convention costumes, Halloween, or a club night out.
For more photos of fabrics and craft supplies at Okadaya (including feather boas), see this blog post…
I leave you with a few kitty snaps. Here’s a fat-faced illustration in a Shinjuku store window. Looks like a British Shorthair to me.
Can you see the resemblance to my Scottish Fold kitten?
Basil sends a hug to everyone who helps out our friend Rose, if it’s by giving to the fund, or simply sharing this post. You can see all of our adventures together right here — she’s a very special person, and I hope to have better news for you soon!