Sunday, May 24, 2015

China, The Lost Photos: Part 1 (Beijing)

I was young, a relatively inexperienced traveller, had little to no money, still wore baggy clothes, was combatting the plagues of acne, didn't even have a camera, was in the midst of university, and was 18 years old. So, naturally, I bought a camera and went to China.

I had travelled, yes, but nothing like China. A conversation over a beer with my friend Lawrence in Kingston, Ontario turned into a more or less spontaneous plane ride to Beijing, and was it ever a good choice. Even better, one of my best friends at the time, Mike, decided to hop on board.

This was 2009, long before the time of religious posting of photos and the surge of Instagram. As such, I never did really got around to really sharing them. To be honest, I forgot about them entirely, and, I figure, six years late is better than never.

I'm calling this series, The Lost Photos, because I've only just found them. You can expect a few more parts on the horizon. Alas, there's not all that many, but this is how I experienced Beijing.

I can't get over how young I look. It's a wonder I survived.

Touched down, and I took out the "new" camera. I tried to take about a million photos while in China.

It looked important so I took a photo. It turned out to be the Opera House.

I didn't know what to expect - this, though, I expected.

Young, naive, and sweaty outside the Forbidden City

Mao himself

Enjoying those semi-permanent grey Beijing skies.  
Mocking ancient turtle, a sign of my maturity at the time. Actually, I might still do that.

When Yao was still relevant. 

The Olympics weren't that far gone at the time. 

Bonding abroad with Mike and Lawrence. 

Ming Tombs

Seemed about right. 

Not sure why I took a photo of this. It's a restaurant?

Staying at the Star River condos thanks to Lawrence. He had some lovely connections.

Star River condos

Shockingly, domestic Chinese planes don't have much legroom. 
The next stop was Langzhou, then there were more stops along the horizon. You'll find them in the upcoming posts, so stay tuned. China was a good place to start my passion for travel, and, luckily, I've got the pictures to prove it.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Coolest Bookstore on Earth - Atlantis Books (Santorini, Greece)

I've been to a lot of bookstores. I mean a lot. I actively search out bookstores in every city that I'm in because, as everyone is well aware, they're a dying breed. You can find an enormous big box sort of bookstore with little to no character, but the small, independent bookstores are going the way of the dinosaurs. Sad, isn't it?

Perhaps that's what made coming across Atlantis Books such a magical experience. I'm not holding back, this is the coolest bookstore on earth. Feel free to refute me, but this is my tightly held opinion on the subject thus far. Let's talk about where all this passion for this bookstore comes from.

On the island of Santorini in the town of Oia, that's where it is, in all its majesty. Like all bookstores, it has a story. An appropriately long, eloquent story.

It seems that the story all came to life about ten years ago when the founders felt the emptiness one feels when a town or city doesn't have a bookstore. They decided to fill the void, and, if you've watched the video just above, you'll note that it wasn't easy. Though, you'll probably also note that this store was destined to be opened (and, hopefully,  it will stay open.) It's not a large bookstore (thank god), but it packs more into a little space than I've ever seen before. It's full of randomness - of quirky, bizarre, delightful brilliance. Being in the basement of a Greek cave house also doesn't hurt.

I ended up leaving the store with Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, though you could argue that I left with a whole lot more. The very idea that such a place exists was enough for me. Where things get interesting is when you walk into the back room, which features a "philosophy tower" for starters. Perhaps the greatest part is the large, circular hole in the ceiling, which you can climb up to via a ladder and exit from. In the States, it would be a lawsuit waiting to happen, but put it in Santorini and we call label it creative ingenuity. I actually exited the bookstore via that route and I recall thinking to myself that this bookstore was like no other.

The idea that a group of friends could just decide to open up a bookstore and dare to dream in that fashion is nothing short of inspirational. As one of the founders, Oliver, mentions in his Ted Talk, they essentially make enough to get by and keep the dream alive. In a day and age where what we should and shouldn't be are well defined, this form of pleasant rebellion is worth noting. I'm taken by it, truly. Though taking 15 minutes to watch a video is something of an eternity these days, I would recommend watching the aforementioned Ted Talk - to listen to their story about selling and telling stories.

If and when the last bookstore on earth closes its doors, I don't want to be there. But bookstores like Atlantis Books are doing their part to ensure that my worries won't become reality. And, on top of that, they happen to be the coolest bookstore on the planet.

If you're in Oia, don't forget to drop in and experience it for yourself.


Oia, Santorini
T.K. 84702
+30 22860 72346