Miami, Florida

MIAMI MODERN: Where art is hot!

Wynwood Walls. Photo by Barb Sligl

Ah, Miami. It conjures hotness…as in beach, beach bodies and spicy Cuban fare, moves and music. And, yes, there’s all that. But there’s a hot factor in its art scene too.

The city has become a modern-art mecca, which Art Basel Miami shines a bold spotlight on. The see-and-be-seen party gets the glitterati out (think Leo and George and such), mingling, critiquing and buying contemporary artwork (this year it’s on December 7 – 10).

But to partake in Miami’s art scene all you need to do is walk through Wynwood Arts District (wynwoodmiami.com). Edgy and all things hip, this once industrial ’hood is now home to more than 70 art galleries, performance spaces, shops, bars and restaurants. And its crown jewel is the Wynwood Walls street-art installation (thewynwoodwalls.com).

Inside the de la Cruz Collection; “Sprache der Vögel,” Margulies Collection. Photo by Barb Sligl

Beyond those vivid walls are galleries within old warehouses, now showcasing museum-worthy private collections. Your mind may be blown at the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse (margulieswarehouse.com), housed in a 45,000-square-foot retrofitted warehouse that presents seasonal exhibitions from the vast collection of renowned art collector Martin Z. Margulies. Sample artwork: the spread wings of a three-ton sculpture by German artist Anselm Kiefer. Sprache der Vögel, or “Language of the Birds,” refers to 20th-century French alchemist Fulcanelli’s ideas on hidden truths and the transformative nature of alchemy. Stand beneath its massive wingspan and let its meaning soak in.

There’s more to ponder at the de la Cruz collection (delacruzcollection.org), in the nearby Design District (miamidesigndistrict.net). An extension of billionaire art lovers Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz’s home, it’s another massive (30,000 square feet) contemporary art space showcasing mind-boggling sculptures, paintings and installations. And it’s free to the public.

“Fly’s Eye Dome” public art ; “Le Corbusier" public art. Photo by Barb Sligl

Also free in the Design District is the Institute of Contemporary Art (icamiami.org), which is all about experimentation in contemporary art. A new 20,000-square-foot exhibition space and 15,000-square-foot sculpture garden (yes, Miami likes to go big) open on December 1, 2017.

Still in the Design District, meander the pedestrian-friendly maze of shops and office spaces to find various public art pieces like Neo-Futuristic architect Buckminster Fuller’s “Fly’s Eye Dome,” which is…just that. A 24-foot fly-eye-like sphere that’s considered a green-architecture pioneer—an interactive sculpture that the artist called the “autonomous dwelling machine.” It connects underground parking to the sky and courtyard above (part of the Palm Court shopping centre and another must-see design project composed of glazed-glass fins by architect Sou Fujimoto), where you’ll find a giant bust of Le Corbusier by French artist Xavier Veilhan. Surreal.

South Beach; Miami vibes on South Beach. Photo by Barb Sligl

Just south is the Pérez Art Museum Miami (pamm.org), Miami’s main art museum, which, besides the art inside, is set in a 200,000-square-foot showpiece by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron. Its simple-and-sleek three-storey slatted canopy, hanging vertical garden and expansive deck overlook Biscayne Bay—a celebration of the city’s tropical vibe.

And on the other side of Biscayne Bay is the Art Deco wonderland of South Beach, where there’s both eye and ear candy… Gape at the curvaceous shapes and pastel palettes of iconic architecture from the Rat Pack era and then have picnic in the park while listening to the New World Symphony (nws.edu) projected on the façade of yet another architectural masterpiece, this time by Frank Gehry. It’s Miami modern. — Barb Sligl

MORE: Check out miamiandbeaches.com

Shanghai, China

SOLITUDE IN SHANGHAI: Find flickers of tranquility in China’s largest city

Left to Right: The Bund; East Nanjing Road. Photo by Janet Gyenes.

The low morning sun hides behind the buildings huddled up to East Nanjing Road in Shanghai’s Huangpu district. A few blocks from the Bund, thousands flock to this pedestrian stroll to shop at its 600 trendy boutiques, businesses and Qing Dynasty-era department stores. But for now, it’s still slumbering. The massive façade of an Apple store hasn’t yet transformed into a glass birdcage for a captive audience. Instead, it’s the backdrop for a cadre of women dancing in formation. Like delicate birds, they flap their arms, snapping open and shut broad yellow-and-red fans that seem like plumage extending from their fingertips. This scene is a not-so-rare respite from the cacophony of China’s largest city.

Once flooded with trade in tea, silk and opium,  more than 4,000 years of history has shaped this port  city on the East China Sea. So too has the Huangpu River (a tributary of the Yangtze), carving this metropolis of  24 million people into two distinctive areas on its east and west banks.

Pudong (its name translates to “east bank”) lives up to its Instagram persona, its skyline spiked with high-altitude skyscrapers such as the spaceship-like Oriental Pearl TV Tower (its third sphere is actually called Space Capsule) and the 101-storey Shanghai World Financial Center, a neo-futurist building that looks like a colossal bottle opener. Puxi, or “west bank,” is framed by the Bund, a one-kilometre-long riverside promenade lined with heritage buildings, including the 1929 art deco Fairmont Peace Hotel.

Left to Right: Roof lines of the Jade Temple juxtaposed with modern Shanghai; At the Jade Temple; Prayer beads. Photo by Janet Gyenes.

With its mega-tall towers and throngs, Shanghai often draws comparison to New York City. Or Paris, thanks to the trove of villas and wutong (plane) trees lining the streets in the former French Concession. But this not the US or Europe. Chinese culture and quiet can be found in Shanghai’s spiritual spots such as the Jade Buddha Temple in the Jing’An district. Here, peek inside the halls where worshippers kneeling on colourful cushions murmur prayers to gilded deities. Be sure to seek out the temple’s namesake 1.9-metre buddha; photography is prohibited, adding to the solitude.

Left to Right: Graffiti at M50; Shanghai Teahouse. Photo by Janet Gyenes.

To explore the modern, artful side of Shanghai, take a one-kilometre walk from the temple to the M50 creative park, tracing tea-stained Suzhou Creek. Formerly the Xinhe Cotton Mill, the revamped industrial space with graffitied walls is now a warren of ultra-cool artists’ studios, galleries and cafes. Chat with artisans as you snap up their fashionable handmade leather goods, jewellery and ceramics. After drinking in new Shanghai, head to Old Town, a cataclysm of cutting-edge and ancient where smoggy silhouettes of towers rise behind the winged eaves of wooden structures. Elbow past the crowds and climb the staircase to the Old Shanghai Teahouse, a 1930s throwback with the aura of an antiques shop. Settle in, sip tea (or beer) and devour juicy dumplings in this second-floor enclave while listening to the chirp of live music being performed. — Janet Gyenes

MORE: Check out meet-in-shanghai.net

PORTLAND, Oregon

PORTLAND, Oregon, has serious cool factor—and great food. Instead of sitting on its hipster laurels, this PNW city keeps pushing palates…eat it up!

Portland is still the new frontier. Here, amidst the tattooed, bearded, thick-framed-glasses-wearing crowd—it’s as if this Pacific Northwest city, tucked under Mt. Hood, is a homing beacon for hipsters—there’s the warm embrace of creative types with some robust entrepreneurial spirit. “Keep Portland weird,” states a legendary mural (and adopted city slogan of sorts). Another long-standing emblematic sign: the neon white stag. And this odd factor is just plain charming—with some rather tasty side dishes.
Because this oft-satirized hipster-haven is the happening food-and-drink hub of the PNW—think farm-to-fork, branch-to-bottle, leaf-to-cup. From ramen bowls at Noraneko (where you can also have a soju chuhai, the Japanese version of an after-work cocktail) to doughnuts (skip the line at Voodoo for a Dirty Wu at Pip’s), Portland puts on an unrivalled culinary show of which the following is just a small sample…

EAST BY WEST The Southeast Asian street-food cuisine of Pok Pok blew open a burgeoning Asian-fare scene in Portland (and now has recent Brooklyn and LA outposts beyond its PDX birthplace). There’s also Han Oak (named for traditional Korean “hanok” homes), Langbaan (a culinary speakeasy that means “back of the house” in Thai), Hat Yai (Langbaan’s counter-service off-shoot) and the first North American locations of Marukin and Afuri, Tokyo ramen houses with a cult following.

SAMPLE: Korean bibimbap (“mixed rice”) and steamed buns at Kim Jong Smokehouse, a collaboration between a few of Portland’s hottest chefs housed in the new Pine Street Market food hall.

DRINK ME Like the Alice in Wonderland directive, Portland encourages serious sipping. Besides the well-known coffee scene—this is the home of Stumptown Roasters, after all (also a moniker for the city itself)—there’s also a tea movement. This is where Tazo tea started, the founder of which went on to quietly create Smith Teamaker—the best in America, some say. There’s also, of course, kombucha (try Brew Dr.) and distilled tea spirits (at Thomas and Sons Distillery), made with varieties like pine-smoked Lapsang Souchong, that simply don’t fit neatly into any existing category—much like PDX itself. SAMPLE: The new fernet-style digestif by Thomas and Sons Distillery, redolent with local ingredients of Douglas Fir, Willamette Hops and birch bark.

POD CAST Portland was an early adopter of food trucks or carts. And with more than 600 citywide, from Viking Soul Food (lefse and gravlax) to newer kid-on-the-block Chicken and Guns (oak-fired Latin chicken), the options are limitless. Which is why this Portland particularity makes perfect sense: food-cart pods. Clustered in empty lots, the congregations of carts become al fresco dining and community spaces, PDX style. Cartlandia is a “super pod” of some 30 carts (featuring fare from 15 countries) and a full-on bar (with 18 beers and ciders on tap). Cartopia has outdoor movie screenings and is a late-night stop, while Tidbit, the newest pod, goes beyond the food and drink with pretty lights, picnic tables, a fire pit and Airstream boutique.

SAMPLE: A Smaaken waffle sandwich (made with local, organic, heirloom varietal wheat, of course)—try the bacon-forward Van Gogh or the veggie Popeye—at the Tidbit pod.

And, now, after all that feasting, “go by bike,” as they say in Portlandia. — Barb Sligl

For more on all the weird and wonderful things to do and sample in Portland, go to travelportland.com.