La Divina Marchesa Exhibition | Venice

La Divina Marchesa

I thought I would kick off my posts on Venice with the only exhibition I went to. Since, it’s temporary (it runs until March), it only makes sense that I should get this post out of the way first.
I think I found out about the event on Instagram when the above painting popped up on my feed, I felt that I had seen this portrait before and instantly wanted to know more about this fiery looking lady.
I’m probably not the only one who experienced this feeling of déjà-vu as she is one of the most portrayed women in art history. Luisa Casati was indeed a muse for many artists in the beginning of the 20th century. She also commissionned numerous portraits for herself as she wanted to be “a living work of art”. The more I read about her, the more excited I was to visit this exhibition dedicated to her extravagant life.

La Divina MarchesaLa Divina MarchesaLa Divina MarchesaLa Divina MarchesaLa Divina Marchesa
La Divina Marchesa

In the dark Palazzo Fortuny, where the rooms are padded with silky brocade, objects and frocks belonging to Luisa Casati as well as portraits give insights into her life. From Man Ray’s picture of her where she defiantly stares at you to the snaps stolen by Cecil Beaton where she hides behind her hand. From being the richest woman in Italy to living her last days, destitute in London; you get the sense that the Marchesa lived the life to the fullest until it literally left her in rags.

From a rather conservative background, Luisa Casati reinvented herself after meeting the poet Gabriele d’Annunzio. She morphed into the look we know her for today: fiery red hair, heavily lined eyes and red lips. Even though she didn’t fit to the beauty standards of the day (she was deemed too tall and too thin),  she turned it around and became a femme fatale, the first ever female dandy. She had countless lovers (women and men) among the artists she hung out with but she kept a close relationship with d’Annunzio. On the first floor of the museum, in a wooden cabinet, there’s a little figurine modelled after her (pictured below). It is said that d’Annunzio had it made so he could look at her and feel Luisa Casati’s presence every time he was missing her.

La Divina MarchesaLa Divina MarchesaLa Divina Marchesa
La Divina Marchesa

She was known for hosting the most lavish parties and for entertaining the most extraordinary whims. I had to chuckle while listening to the audio-guide (which I would recommend you opt for; they’re free) when I learned that she used to dye her dog blue to match her outfits. She was also famous for having pet leopards. Many people reported seeing her walking them on diamond studded leashes in Venice (she was the direct inspiration behind the iconic Cartier’s panther jewellery pieces). But she also liked to wear a less conventional, one could say, type of ‘necklace’ like… wiggling snakes!

With such intriguing stories and unique look, there’s no wonder that Luisa Casati still captivates our minds today. Recently, Alexander McQueen and Lagerfeld for Chanel created pieces inspired by her striking silhouette. You will be able to see some of them in this exhibition, the first solely dedicated to one of the most fascinating characters of the early 20th century.

La Divina Marchesa

Practical Information

The Divine Marchesa Exhibition (ends March 8th 2015)
Palazzo Fortuny – website
San Marco, 3780

Admission: General €12 / Reduced €10

Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm (closed on Tuesdays)

Vaporetto: Sant’Angelo (Line 1)

A few days in London

Last month, I spent a few days in London to celebrate a friend’s birthday so I jumped on the opportunity to cross off a few places on my forever growing ‘To-Visit-in-London’ list. I ended up loving all of these so I think they deserve a full post in their own right but I wanted to share a quick summary of what I’ve been up to these few days in my favourite city with you first.
Dennis Severs' House
folgate street sign
Dennis Severs House

First on my list was actually a recommendation from my friend I was staying with. I wasn’t sure I had grasped what exactly was this place so I was mighty intrigued when I queued up on the pavement to get into the house. A man opened the door and told us that ‘we won’t meet the family today but we will hear them’. We were also asked to remain silent during the visit. Sounds pretty mysterious, eh?
Dennis Severs was an artist who decided to recreate the living conditions of a fictitious 18th century Huguenot family in the silk weaving business, the Jervis, in his own house. Stepping into his abode is like diving into an old painting, as if you just disturbed the occupants. Signs that they were just there a second ago are left around the house: half drunk cups of tea, warm cakes, a knocked off chair, even a full chamber pot. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of it, I felt a bit like an elephant in a porcelain shop but by the time my eyes got used to the candle light, I started enjoying my surroundings and soak in the dusty atmosphere, high on the sweet smell of winter spice and pinewood. The whole house had been decorated for the festive period: Christmas pudding in the kitchen, presents on a bed, a beautiful tree and bowls holding cinnamon sticks and orange peels scattered here and there. It made the place even more eerie and magical (the decorations will be up until January 5th).

18 Folgate Street

Victoria & Albert Museum

I’m pretty sure I was under a curse that was stopping me from visiting the V&A. Something would always get in the way every time I had planned to go there. I’m glad that the spell finally lifted as I enjoyed roaming the numerous halls of the museum filled with treasures, from photography to fashion design. I only managed to cover a small fraction of the space so another visit is definitely in order, now I’m curse-free. Also, I wouldn’t mind going back to their shop to stock up on more pretty postcards!

Cromwell Road

geffrye museum
Geffrye Museum

Maybe you’ll have noticed from my posts but I love a good reconstitution of a period room. The Geffrye Museum is just that, you witness the changes of 4 centuries in English homes, through the furniture and habits of their occupants. The Christmas Past exhibition (ends on January 4th) gave a festive glimpse into the evolution of English traditions through time.

136 Kingsland Road

viktor wynd's museum of curiosities
The Last Tuesday Society, Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities

This creepy little place can be found in the basement of a pub in Hackney. Walking down a spiral staircase, you’ll be met with glass windows holding the weirdest combination of objects. I thought the picture above was quite representative of that combination. Of course there are the expected stuffed animals and skelettons but they live among a collection of naughty paraphernalia, mixed with the odd toy. I was immediately enraptured with the place when my eyes met those of Dora the Explorer standing next to a stuffed two-headed lamb.

11 Mare Street

5 Places in Dublin That Will Give You the Heebie-Jeebies

Halloween in Dublin

1. Halloween in The Suburbs

Halloween is a great time of the year to visit Dublin, there’s something about the gothic vibe that just works with the celebration. If you have kids (or not), I dare you to go trick-and-treating in one of Dublin’s residential areas. Maybe it’s because Halloween finds its roots in the Irish tradition but Dubliners have a knack for making their abodes look terrifying. I think the decorations especially suit the Georgian neighbourhoods what with the high ceilings and the infamous heavy doors.

Mount Jerome Cemetery

2. Edward Dycer Vault

Have you ever peeped through a vault’s door fearing for what your eyes will meet in the darkness? The Dycer Vault in Mount Jerome Cemetery is your worst nightmare coming true. Inside lies a staring skeleton with a twisted spine. He is said to be a relative of Edward Dycer, a veterinary surgeon who lived in Stephen’s Green in the early 19th century.

Read more on Mount Jerome Cemetery.

St Michan's crypts
3. St Michan’s Crypts

Underneath St Michan’s Church, you can access vaults where the air is so dry that their residents have been mummified. Bram Stoker himself visited the crypts when he was a child and the mummies left such an impression, he drew inspiration from them when he wrote Dracula.
If you’re nice enough, your guide might let you stroke a 650 year old mummy’s hand. Apparently, it brings good luck!

More information on St Michan’s Church (Picture courtesy of St Michan’s Church’s website – photography not allowed inside)

Bram Stoker Festival Dracula's Bride
4. Bram Stoker Festival

This weekend, the Bram Stoker Festival returns in Dublin for the third year straight and it promises to be a bloody good one! Along the street performances, horror film marathon and numerous literary talks that we now expect of the festival, a zip-line has been installed across the city so we can pretend to be bats gliding over Dublin. Two other events worth noting in your diary are the gothic-themed ball in the Irish Modern Museum of Art as well as the Underground Gothic taking place in the secret train tunnel under Phoenix Park!

Find out more about the events taking place this week-end.
Watch my video of last year’s festival.

the cat and the rat
5. The Crypt at Christ Church Cathedral

If you go in the crypt below Christ Church Cathedral, you will encounter a creepy (if not slightly hilarious) pair. A mummified cat and rat, affectionately nicknamed by the locals ‘Tom & Jerry’. They were found stuck in one of the organ pipes during a service in the 1860s. Legend has it that they got trapped while chasing each other. Time and perfectly dry air preserved this perennial cat and mouse’s friendship.

More information on Christ Church Cathedral.

Mount Jerome Cemetery | Dublin

Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery

I thought it was about time to get this blog in the Halloween mood, and what better way than a visit to the cemetery. I personally love visiting them, especially during Autumn.
Mount Jerome is very much in the shadow of its big sister, Glasnevin Cemetery (Dublin’s biggest cemetery) but I think it deserves a bit of the spotlight. It’s a beautiful slice of Victorian Dublin. It’s often compared to Highgate Cemetery in London and Paris’Père Lachaise and rightly so, it gives off the same sort of moody derelict atmosphere.
It’s an impressive example of Victorian architecture and symbolism, it even features quite a few famous Dublin characters as well as a very spooky vault…

Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery

Mount Jerome was created in the early 19th century as an answer to the worryingly increase of deaths due to the cholera outbreaks of the time. Despite being non-denominational in its original plan, it quickly became the Protestant cemetery.
You see Mount Jerome was located right in the middle of a rich and affluent neighbourhood of Dublin. Walking through the cemetery’s old part today, you can admire the big vaults and tomb stones of the rich families of the time.

Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery

Mount Jerome had to wait until the 1920s and the establishment of the Irish Free State to see its first Catholic burial. Since then, beautiful Celtic crosses have stood alongside Victorian features (urns, angels, wreaths, obelisks and other Egyptian inspired structures). And if you look closely, you could even spot some masonic symbols (skulls and hands).
My favourite kind of memorials though are the ones that tell a little story about the deceased. On top of one of the structures stands a howling dog, it is said that the animal was found inconsolable on the shoreline where his master had drowned (see picture below). Or there is this vault which was fitted with a bell and a chain for a lady who had the phobia of being buried alive.

Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery

Mount Jerome has also quite a few famous residents. First off, keeping with the Halloween theme, there is Sheridan Le Fanu, a writer specialised in ghost stories. He is one of the founder of the genre and was a huge influence on his peers, most notably Bram Stoker, author of Dracula. You may have seen a google doodle dedicated to him recently as this year marks his bicentenary.
The cemetery counts also among its ranks playwright J.M. Synge, author of The Playboy of the Western World, the Guinness family vault and Oscar Wilde‘s father. You will find on Mount Jerome’s website handy maps (1 & 2) that will help you plan your visit and locate all the memorials that spike your interest.

Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery

Did you know that the real Mr Darcy was Irish? His name was Thomas Langlois Lefroy and he rests in a vault just next to the chapel in Mount Jerome. This member of the bar from Limerick had a few flirtatious encounters with Jane Austen. She was so deeply impacted that it is said she based Pride and Prejudice‘s brooding hero on her Irish suitor.

When I was a teenager, I used to have volleyball training just next to a cemetery. One evening my friend (hi Sandra, if you’re reading!) and I found out that there was a passage between the stadium and the cemetery and sneaked inside.
I may sound like the biggest chicken but walking in a graveyard at night is quite terrifying. We barely dared looking inside the vaults through the stained windows. I remember having to hold my breath while my eyes were getting accustomed to the darkness until I could discern the lines of a thankfully empty room.
Had I have to look into the Dycer vault in Mount Jerome then, I’m pretty sure my heart would have stopped on the spot. Even in clear daylight and knowing well what’s inside, I can’t help breaking into cold sweat when my eyes are met with those of a gawping skeleton with a twisted spine.
The vault belongs to Edward Dycer, a veterinarian surgeon from 19th century Dublin but apparently those bones are one of his relatives’.  The reason they are exposed is due to the fact that the coffin hadn’t been lined with lead.

Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery
Mount Jerome Cemetery

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of this jewel of Victorian Dublin. What do you think of visiting cemeteries? Is that something you do on holidays when discovering a new place? Or do you find it too creepy? Or maybe disrespectful? I’d love to read what you think on the subject.


Mount Jerome Cemetery

Practical Information

Mount Jerome Cemetery – website
158 Harold’s Cross Road
Harold’s Cross

Bus: 9, 16, 49 54A

Opening Hours: 8.30am – 4pm (Mon-Sat) / 10am – 4pm (Sun & Bank Holidays)

Admission: Free

Quinta da Regaleira | Lisbon

Quinta da RegaleiraQuinta da Regaleira

When I saw Carrie’s post on her visit to Quinta de Regaleira, I knew I needed to check this magical place out for myself; surely it couldn’t be real, it was some photoshop trick or something.
So when I had the chance to visit Lisbon at the beginning of this year, a trip to Sintra, where Quinta da Regaleira is located, was high on my priority list.
Sintra, if you’ve never heard of it, is this little town, a mere 40 minute train journey away from Lisbon. While it is a picturesque little village very stairs-y and colourful, it is also weird in the way that it is surrounded by so many fairytale castles.
It was my aim to visit as many palaces as possible but that was without taking into consideration my unfit state, the rain and my propensity to take things a little bit too easy. Basically I got caught in a rainstorm in a middle of ascending a hill, trying to reach the Palacio de Pena just before closing time. Moral of the story: take the bloody bus when you see it.

Quinta da Regaleira

Luckily though, I made one wise decision and that was to visit Quinta da Regaleira upon my immediate arrival to Sintra. And I’m happy to report Carrie’s pictures were telling the truth. Quinta da Regaleira is truly a magical place. What I liked about it the most is it’s not only magical in a fairytale kind of way, it also has a dark and creepy side. When I got a first sight of the palace above the wall from the street, I had the feeling that I was facing the Portuguese Manderley. Maybe it was the January chill or my vivid imagination, but I couldn’t help shiver a bit.

Quinta da RegaleiraQuinta da Regaleira

Although owned for many years by the Regaleira family, the estate became the oddity it is today when a Brazilian millionnaire bought it and with the help of an Italian architect, remodeled the place after his interest in the occult during the first decade of the 20th century. He drew his inspiration for the garden features from secret societies like the the Freemasons, the Knights Templar and the Rosicrucians while also using symbols from Alchemy. The result is one of the most enchanting and mysterious place I ever seen, it kinda made me wish to be 10 again and have a massive hide-and-seek party.

Quinta da RegaleiraQuinta da RegaleiraQuinta da RegaleiraQuinta da Regaleira

The gardens are laid out on a hillside, they feature underground tunnels, grottoes, fountains, ponds, turrets and a chapel. But the pièce de résistance is without a doubt the Initiation Well, which is inspired by the masonic rites. As you go down the spiral staircase, you can see on the bottom of the well, the Knights Templar’s cross.

Quinta da RegaleiraQuinta da RegaleiraQuinta da Regaleira

Unfortunately the house felt a bit like a disappointment after the amazement of the gardens. The actual features, feminine frescoes, beautiful tilework and intricate woodcarving, offered an interesting contrast to the dark character of the gardens, and while they were certainly pleasing to the eye, I couldn’t help but be a little underwhelmed by the use of the rooms. They were some objects displayed under glass and architecture drawings you could flick through, but nothing quite captured my imagination as the otherworldly landscape outside.

With that being said, I visited Quinta da Regaleira in January and as I understand it many rooms were closed as well as the balcony which I would have loved to stand on and enjoy a panoramic view on the estate. So my advice would maybe skip the indoors during Winter season if you’re in a hurry, unless you have a thing for romantic wall paintings, they’re really quite beautiful.

Quinta da RegaleiraQuinta da Regaleira
Quinta da RegaleiraQuinta da Regaleira

Top tip: Bring a torch or some powerful source of light to explore the underground tunnels. The one leading up to the Initiation Well is lit up with fairy lights but the rest are dark as the soul of the tea. I didn’t have any light on me but was adamant to try to explore one of them near the pond, it only took a few steps until I freaked out… yep, definitely not the adventure backpacker travel blogger you were looking for here.


Quinta da Regaleira

Practical Information

Quinta da Regaleira – website
Rua Barbosa do Bocage, 5
2710-567 Sintra

Opening Hours: 10am – 5.30pm (Nov-Jan) / 10 – 6.30pm (Feb-Mar & Oct) / 10am – 8pm (Apr-Sep)

Train: Sintra Station

Admission Fee: Adult 6€ / Concession & Children >14yo 4€ / Children <9yo Free / Children <14yo 3€

The Doll Hospital | Lisbon

doll parts
doll heads

On Plaça da Figueira, where people come to buy renowned pastries and taxi drivers love to bicker, there is a tiny toy shop that looks like any other. But the dolls who are hanging out in the window, quietly know they’re in good hands.
If you go inside and pay a modest 2 euro you’ll be shown to a room on the first floor where hundreds of eyes are staring at you and doll limbs of all eras are neatly kept in drawers. This is the place where Lisbonites have been coming to bring their broken toys for generations. The Doll Hospital history goes back as far as 1830, when Ms. Carlota was the person to go to on market days, when your doll wasn’t feeling too well. Since then, it has turned into a family business and I was surprised to see the shelves full of patients in this age of video games and iPhones.
But the lovely guide lady reassured me that children of today were still trusting their best friends’ health into the Hospital de Bonecas’ hands. The repair service actually not only includes dolls (from antique to Barbie) but also their clothes and shoes, stuffed toys, miniatures and religious figures.

doll feet
dolls cabinet bw
dolls bed
dolls doctor
ticket hospital de bonecas
The Hospital de Bonecas’ lovely museum ticket

The museum is only a couple of rooms, plus the ‘operating table’ where the toys are mended but what I loved the most, even more than the weird doll bits congregated in every corners was the obvious care and passion invested into those little helpless toys.

hospital de bonecas front

Practical Infortmation

Hospital de Bonecas
Praça da Figueira, 7

Metro: Rossio
Bus: 12E, 15E, 208, 714, 736, 737, 760

Opening Hours: Mon-Sat, 10.30am-12.30pm/3.30pm-5pm
Entrance: 2€

Bram Stoker Festival 2013 | video

Bram Stoker Festival 2013 Dublin
Bram Stoker Festival Dublin Castle Bridal Gowns

About a month ago, it was time for Dublin to paint the town in the brightest crimson in honour of its celebrated writer, Bram Stoker. And most specifically, his most famous work Dracula. It is only the second year of the festival but it already feels like a permanent feature of Dublin’s calendar as the event fits so perfectly with the Fair City’s gothic backdrop.

bram stoker festival 2013 dublin castle
Bram Stoker Festival Skeleton

Many events were organised across town (check the ones I was most excited about): a horror film marathon, an opera, themed walking tours, vampire hunts, discussions around the book, street performances, etc… I think it is a great introduction to Dublin’s charms, especially at that time of the year (Halloween) as an extra exciting atmosphere surrounds the cobbled streets, many landmarks get lit in red  and who doesn’t like bumping into vampire enthusiasts?!

Dracula's Bride Bram Stoker Festival

So I decided to take my camera and take you along to two events from this year’s festival: a reading of Dracula in the majestic Saint-Patrick’s Cathedral and a pyrotechnic show in Dublin Castle. Hope you’ll enjoy the ride!

Practical Information

The Bram Stoker Festival takes place the last week-end of October.

7 things that make me excited about the Bram Stoker Festival

Bram Stoker Dracula

Who didn’t know that the myth of the terrifying Count of Dracula was created by an Irish man? *Raises hand shyly* Shockingly maybe, it only came to my realisation last year when I saw all the posters and advertisements for the Bram Stoker’s festival in Dublin. Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897, changing the landscape of horror fiction forever. He is relevant today more than ever if you were to judge the massive popularity of vampires in pop culture. And this year, I’m ready to discover the dark side of Dublin and get to know Mister Stoker. The festival is held over 3 days from the 26th to the 28th of October, making it an unmissable runner-up to Halloween. Here are the 7 things I’m most stoked about the festival :

1. Reading the book

The festival is giving me the push I needed to finally tackle the classic. I’m about a quarter in and I’m thoroughly enjoying it! It is funny how the descriptions of the Count’s castle and its surroundings feel all too familiar, I didn’t realise how much the myth had seeped into my subconscious. It is also the perfect time of the year to read scary stories, the autumn air smelling of bonfires, a onesie, a hot cuppa; and I am in book heaven.

2. Firing up

The festival is setting up a fire garden on the Dublin Castle grounds. It is bound to be epic against the backdrop of the imposing structure.
More information and registration here

3. Shivering in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

Readings of Dracula in the heart of the mother of all cathedrals accompanied by a choir, an organ and all by candlelight. If this isn’t proper goosebumps material, I don’t know what is.
More information here

4. Dressing up!

You can’t celebrate vampires and the undead without whipping out the white paint, the fake blood and the plastic teeth, amirite?! Walks and hunts are organised on the pavements of Dublin, in which you can partake wearing your best attire. Several pubs in the Dame Street district will also join in the celebration and open their doors to devilish bloodsuckers.

5. Getting to see my first opera (and for free)

Yes, I’m thirty and I never ever been to the opera. A vampire opera performed in a Church sounds like an excellent place to start!
More information and registration here

6. Joining in a horror film marathon

Iconic Vampire movies in an open air cinema in the centre of Dublin’s old Town sounds like a deadly plan!
Film programme here

7. Meeting the giant skeleton

This is pretty self-explanatory…. look at his cute little face though!
Check where you’ll be able to spot him here

Do you plan to go to the Bram Stoker’s festival next week? What are you looking forward to the most? You will find all the information and event programme over at the Bram Stoker Festival website.

PS: Keep your eyes peeled for my video of the event!

Horniman Museum & Gardens

skeleton reflection 2
horniman natural history museum

Located in Southeast London, The Horniman Museum is a fascinating place. Its existence is due to one man’s passion for collecting and travelling: Frederick Horniman, a tea trader. He commissioned the building at the end of the 19th century where all the collected items from his various travels could be displayed for the public’s enjoyment. The collection is divided in several sections: natural history, anthropology and musical instruments. Today, you can also visit an aquarium as well as temporary exhibitions.

The section of the museum I was most excited about was the natural history room where dusty stuffed animals and skeletons coexist in a frozen harmony behind windows. I was especially eager to see the museum mascot in real life, an overstuffed Walrus, but the strange beast was unfortunately on holidays at the time of my visit. Still, the dark room didn’t disappoint and I was happy (if not slightly chilled) to see  oddities like a half-skeletton/half-skin bat or a baby koala up close.

stuffed birds
half bat
stag's and other heads
baby koala
half turtle
evolution of teeth
giant locust

Be sure to have a wander around the garden after perusing the museum. The building is standing on 16 acres of land and it sure feels great to breathe the fresh air and sit in the grass after being surrounded by taxidermy. The garden features a medicinal plant patch, giant instruments, a bandstand, but the star of the show is the impressive London skyline rising above the trees.

horniman gardens view

Practical Information

100 London Road

Forest Hill
London SE23 3PQ

Bus: 176, 185, 197, 356, P4, 122, P13, 363
Overground: Forest Hill

Entrance: Free (a chagre is made for the aquarium and the temporary exhibitions)

Museum Opening Hours: Daily, 10.30am-5.30pm
Garden Opening Hours: Mon-Sat, 7.15am – sunset/Sun & Bank Holidays, 8am -sunset
General Admission: Free (but you’ll have to pay to visit the aquarium/temporary exhibitions)

Closed: 24-26 December