I Hate I love Hudson Yards. Escape from NYC 2019.

Anyone familiar to NYC knows that malls aren’t common-place. You have your infamous shopping districts like soho, or your defunct Manhattan Mall where you can buy knock off Nikes and Hotdogs-on-a-stick, but a high end, fashion forward shopping mall is just something that Manhattan hasn’t supported, until now.

As a native New Yorker I hated Hudson Yards before it was even built. The idea of modern cathedral to illusive brands in the heart of what used to be the grit and grime of a soulful section of town was just footnote to the long diatribe about how Time’s Square used to be cool before Disneyfication. Anyone with proper experience will tell you it is easier to get an airline to wave a baggage fee then to have a New Yorker change their mind, yet here I was, upon first viewing of the glorious Hudson Yards, genuflecting as a complete convert. To my right was a frankly fighting concert hall with a retracting roof that looked like something out of a Michael Bay film. In front of me was a gleaming steel and glass palace to the finest retail humans could waist their hard earned coin on. At the center was, well, the Hive, the Giant Shawarma, the Mothership; a walkable art installation named “The Vessel” whose purpose was simply to amaze, and it does.

Dashing inside the mall you will encounter a shopping district similar to the grand concourses found in Singapore or Jakarta. Extremely exclusive shops, and high end restaurants inhabit the wide marble births of this cavernous 5 story womb to commerce. You can find anything here, from fashion to fragrance, candy to cars, and lots to nibble on in between. While you can opt for the extravagance of Milos, one of the finest restaurants in all of Manhattan, my personal favorite is Belcampo, part butcher part italian nibble shop, who’s hamburger is one of my favorites in the city; somehow light and airy while being extremely rich and lush at the same time. It’s best to grab a bite at one of the dozens of eateries before heading out to conquer The Vessel, and interactive art installation by madman Thomas Heatherwick which is comprised of over 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings offering some of the most unique views and instagrammable moments in the world.

I am the first person to admit I am horribly critical of anything new, especially when it changes the landscape of my beloved home NYC. It took me 40 of the 80 landings before I realized what “The Vessel” really offered; a fresh new perspective on a already well tread city. It is easy to make fun of The Vessel; it stands out sorely, serves no immediate purpose, and is for all intensive purposes a piece of pedestrian commercial art. Once inside however all that falls to the waist side as a unique and new view of the great city of Manhattan unfolds in front of you. The platforms form individual viewpoints, perfect picture frames that put you in heaven’s path above the bustling metropolis below. It is difficult, if not impossible to explain the feeling of being part of a piece of art, and a piece of a city, at the same time. Perhaps “purposeful grace” is about as close as I can come to explaining the calm satisfaction being in The Vessel.

It must be said that those who control the admittance do a fine job not to crowd the experience, giving you a timed ticket that you must procure ahead of time to enter the artpiece. Once inside you are left to your own devices, and while there are a decent amount of photofiends and instagrannys floating around, there seemed to always be enough space to make your digital mark online.

Hudson Yards is a mall. It has shops, restaurants, and corporate artwork. While it may not be the independent, born from strife and passion attraction that New York prides itself on, it is perhaps the best example of what commercial city planning can offer to an otherwise defunct section of a city. If nothing less, it offers some pretty good instagram moments and one hell of a burger.

Rs

 

Grub at Grub LA’s Best Brunch Spot

Good God Grub is Great. This hidden little gem tucked away in a sleepy little mid-Hollywood neighborhood is an absolute delight for a perfect Californian meal. Known mostly for it’s insanely good breakfasts, Grub does you right with their killer breakfast burrito, loaded to the rims with all sorts of breakfasty delights. Good luck finishing it in one sitting friends. Im partial to their legendary tuna melt, which if you’ve never had one, you shouldn’t order it here because it will ruin all other tuna melts in the world for you, and, will be the only thing you will want to eat moving forward. That paired with a loving staff, beautiful patio, and very reasonable prices makes Grub our go to for early nibbles.

 

About CineClast:

 

Roberto Serrini is a professional filmmaker who records his adventures in word, photography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, a drone operator. and runs the travel channel TravelClast on YouTube. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.

 

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DT LA Art District GUIDE.

Lotsa people think LA and think beach but one of my absolutely favorite places to explore is the downtown Arts District. Consider it one stop shopping for all your hipster pleasures. From dope breweries, to couture clothing, to black as night soft serve, you can pretty much fill a fantastic day walking around this conglomerate of cool.

A few of our faves are the Pali Wine Co. where you can get your grape on in an unpretentious, sexy Scandinavian vibe. Cheap flights and a fun staff awaits: paliwineco.com

The best dogs are at Wurstkuche which is just fun to say. Crazy flavors and a riotous back room will leave your belly full and your voice lost: wurstkuche.com

Desert will bring you to the LA institution Pie Hole, again, offering anything out of the ordinary for discerning pie aficionados. thepieholela.com

By now you need to ease into the afternoon with a cold brew, so why not have 8 of them. Angel City is one of our absolute favorite in LA and their flights are legendary. angelcitybrewery.com

Ok so now you are sh!#@faced which is the appropriate time to eat black charcoal soft serve at Bae. Much more than an instagram darling, this soft serve is delicious as it’s activated charcoal soaks up all that liquid regret in your tummy: BAE

Finally finish out your banner day with a little retail therapy to perhaps buy that one-of-a-kind gift for that friend you just ghosted their brunch on. A unique store that is like an authentic Urban Outfitters, if Urban Outfitters sold real stuff. poketo.com

That’s the size of it folks, definitely head down to downtown to get some real LA living.

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A Cathedral of Curiosities in LA.

What can I say about the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Nothing actually. I can’t say anything because frankly I wouldn’t even know where to begin to describe this eclectic, weird and wonderful cathedral of curiosities that graces and otherwise bland strip of Venice Blvd in Culver City.

What I can say is that this museum is a place like no other, and regardless of what you expect to find, you will be pleasantly surprised. Expect to spend a decent amount of time wandering the halls and discovering the exhibits, and definitely keep your exploring pants on as you head to the roof where a very refined surprise awaits you …

The less you know the better in this rare case. Just go my friends and be bold.

Rs

About:

Roberto Serrini is a professional filmmaker who records his adventures in word, photography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, a drone operator. and runs the travel channel TravelClast on YouTube. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.

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Twitter: @ClastTravel

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jur.jpg

 

One Perfect Day in Reykjavik.

I have issues with the word tourist. In this travel soaked world we live in where cross continent airfares are often less then the cost of a good meal, the idea of tourists infiltrating your city can be a harrowing concept. When I accepted a long term project that would move me to Reykjavik, my immediate priority was to blend in and be a local. It would prove more difficult then I could have imagined, but with the help of local Guðmundur Einarsson, I would get a rare inside look at this heavily touristed city.

“Reykjavik is quite small. There is just over 100 thousand people that live here,” Guðmundur tells me with a smile, “then we receive about 2 million tourist a year. So, you can understand we are drowning a bit in foreigners”. Having 20 times your population be tourists can make it difficult to have anything authentically local, but luckily Guðmundur lets me in on a secret, “90% of all tourists only go to the same 3 places, so, if you stay clear of that, you can see the real Reykjavik.” So here is a perfectly local day through the eyes of a perfect local.

Our first stop was coffee, which lead us to Reykjavik Roasters (Kárastígur 1, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland). “It’s definitely well known”, Guðmundur says with a sigh, “but it is the best, and if you go early, you will beat the line. Better yet, there is a second location in Brautarholt that is not as busy” The coffee here is rich and delicious, and they import the bean and roast it locally which gives it a unique savory taste.

Taking our coffee to go we swing by Brauð (16,, Frakkastígur, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland)  which you need no directions for, as you can just follow your nose. The butter-sweet-and-salt filled fragrance of this tiny bakeshop will lure you in like a siren to a rock. While they are famous for their cinnamon buns, we also tag on two croissants per Guðmundur’s suggestion “I’ve been to Paris many times, but I still always crave my Brauð.”

We head down toward old town, where we duck down a side street and into a little house with a single key for a sign. This is Fischer (Fischersund, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland) which is more then a cosmetic/parfume store, it is a sensory experience. Here hand made scents and botanicals are created from local ingredients, offering you a local experience like no other. “When I visit friends overseas I always stop here, because these gifts are truly unique and truly Icelandic.” Says Guðmundur.

Keeping on a truly Icelandic path we head down to the newly developed Grandi section of town, down by the wharf. “This is my favorite part of town,” my host tells me quietly, “they’ve reclaimed this industrial area, and really none of the tourist have discovered it yet. Theres a great brewery, some really cool shops, and many places to eat, but I like to come here for the chocolate.” When I think Iceland, I don’t immediately think chocolate, but that was about to change quickly. Omnom Chocolate Factory (Hólmaslóð 4, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland) is located at the very far end of the district, but you can smell it a good kilometer away. “We are the northern most producer of Chocolate from actual fresh cocoa beans,” Óskar Þórðarson one of the founders tells us. “We know our providers personally, and we roast our beans in house. That’s what makes it like no other chocolate.” And he was right. Madagascar dark chocolate with black volcanic Icelandic salt is something that needs to be tried to fully understand.

Next we hopped a bus just outside the city to visit G man’s favorite distillary, Floki (Lyngás 13 , 210 Garðabær. Phone 6989691). “I’m going to give you true Icelandic whiskey, it’s unlike anything you’ve had before. It’s smoked with sheep dung!” He says with pride like a mother would say “its made with real butter” offering a cupcake. Surprisingly the sheep dung whiskey was sublime; smooth and complex, and unlike any other spirit I have subjected myself to before. “Alcohol was banned in Iceland for many years,” explains Páll one of the distillers, “so most Icelandic people have been distilling in their homes since forever.” Floki takes that mentality and scales it up, making traditional homemade whiskey only with truly all Icelandic grain. The result is a whiskey like no other.

At this point it was time for a rest, so we headed down to Reykjadalur hot springs. “This place is magic,” Guðmundur says with a tipsy smile, “most tourist head straight for the Blue Lagoon, which, between us, is man made. Reykjadalur is totally natural, beautiful, and best of all, free.” When we get there there is a pleasant 45 minute hike through the countryside which terminates and a picturesque serpentine stream shrouded in steam. There is a well manicured boardwalk and changing areas, and you can see people here and there climbing in at various points, the higher up the stream you go the warmer it gets, so you can drift up and down all day if you like. This was pure natural pleasure.

After our soak we headed back into town for dinner at ROK (Frakkastígur 26a, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland). “This place is new, but the food is excellent.” Guðmundur assured me. The restaurant’s interior is sleek and modern in a positively ancient building, and this beautiful contradiction resonates in the menu. You can try classic dishes like reindeer but with the modern twist of it being served on a bed of local blue cheese foam, or local salmon prepared in sweet mango sauce with avocado. Rok truly will rock your palette.

Afterwards we needed something sweet and the only place to go is Valdi’s. “This place has been here forever. My father used to go as a kid.” Valdi’s longevity obviously comes from the fact that their ice-cream is absolutely delicious and their flavors wild. Guðmundur insists I get the salted licorice which sounds like a punishment to an Italian raised on gelato, but I’m sure glad I committed to it, because it was extraordinary.

Next it was time for a little entertainment. “The bars here can get crazy, and usually packed with tourists,” my Icelandic Virgil warns me, “Pablo Discobar, B5, Kiki’s, Kaffibarin, are all amazing good times, but, packed. Best to go to them at 5am, that’s the golden hour.” We had some time until then, so Guðmundur took me to a Poetry Brothel hosted by Reykjavik Kabaret. “The burlesque scene here in Reykjavik is actually quite amazing,” he confides, “and the shows are not to be missed. I won’t tell your girlfriend you went to a brothel either, that is not the Icelandic way.” He says in all seriousness. The brothel was like walking into a Bar Luhrmann fever dream. The host Miss Mokki greeted us at the door in a hurricane of pears, beads, and feathers. “Gentlemen. Right this way to have your minds blown.” She said grabbing my hand and whipping me into the main room. The show was all around us, cabaret, singing, poetry recital, anything artistic you could imagine with a thick patina of sexual energy over it. As the drinks flowed freely the night heated up and the acts became more boisterous. “Many people think Icelandic people are often stiff and very cold,” Guðmundur says, “most people are often very wrong.”

In need of something salty and fatty to soak up the fun of the evening I was brought to the greatest secret of Reykjavik. “You have to promise not to tell anyone about this place. It’s special.” Here inside a little dive bar that will remain nameless, there exists the greatest burger north of the 60th parallel. It is not on the menu, and you have to ask for it by name, but if you do you will receive what has been called “the hangover cure before the hangover”; Icelandic blue cheese, gold onion, and soft bun holds this perfectly grilled patty, that is just perfect to wrap up a perfect day.

Full from all the delights from this gem of a city, I walked home in the still lit summertime hours of the early morning. Guðmundur had one more surprise for me, a little sculpture park that is always open, adjacent to the Hallgrimskirkja (Eiríksgata, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland). “People walk right by this park, and never know it’s here. It’s my favorite place in all of Reykjavik.” This is the life’s work of Einar Jónsson, all from the early part of the last century, are unlike anything I’ve seen before. Half deco, half Phoenician, all crazy, they were particularly moving in the glow of the midnight sun through the morning Icelandic mist. Here you can sit or stroll, or perhaps meet another wandering stranger, and share the experience that you had, which if you were lucky, were truly local, and truly Icelandic.

“Roberto, please just do me one favor,” Guðmundur quietly says with a deep gravitas.

“Of course Guðmundur. What?”

“Please change my name for the story. I would hate for anyone to know it was I that let the cat out of the bag, so to speak.”

If You Walk To Work In NYC…

These are a few things you will see along the way as you walk to work in NYC. It never ceases to amaze me how much this city has to offer, after so many years of living here. This is my morning commute, down 5th Avenue from 89th street to 18th street.

Just one street in NYC…

1

Cleopatra’s Needle

Well, that’s just a nickname we gave Heliopolis Obelisk, which is the oldest manmade monument in New York City. You will find this unreal slab from the past near 81st street on a quiet little hill. Millions pass it each day and don’t even know the 3500 year old marvel is watching over them. A gift from Egypt in 1881, it took 112 days just to move it from the shores of the Hudson River to where it stands now. Underneath it lies a hidden time capsule with a Bible, A dictionary, the complete works of Shakespeare, an 1870’s census, a guide to Egypt, a copy of the Declaration of Independence, and a small sealed box from the man who financed the transportation of the obelisk, the contents of which, no one knows (but was probably a Twinkie).

Old King Jaliello

You wouldn’t expect to find the King of Poland in Central Park, but you will, thanks to the Nazis.

So 1939’s Worlds Fair had this statue greet people at the Polish Pavilion on loan from Warsaw. Remember, NYC has a ton of Polish folks, and thank God, because perogies are amazing. Well, the war broke out, and the statue couldn’t go home, so it was moved to Central Park as a gift from Poland to the brave Men and Women who served overseas. Now he sits, swords crossed, like a badass, protecting the turtle pond at 79th street just across the way. One of my favorite statues in the city for sure, and makes one hell of a silhouette.

4

The Zoo

specifically the Lehman Gates at 66th street. Designed by the famous Paul Manship, who also did reclining Prometheus at Rock Center, this is a lovely deco gate that has a super playful jauntiness about it, with pan, animals, and birds all around. What I love is that you can walk right through the center of the zoo, and even see some of the animals, for free, any day of the year. The gate itself is the perfect entrance to a children’s zoo, and reinforces the notion that even in a steel and concrete hardened city like New York, you can find a little whimsy.

5

The British Empire Building

Rockefeller Center is one of my favorite places in NYC. No other complex of buildings scream the deco power of a city on the verge of becoming a legend. Everything about it, every perfect angle, is a throwback to a time when commerce, culture, and art collided in a beautiful harmony. The British Empire Building at 620 5th Ave is no exception. Patina green copper doors emboldened with golden statues signifying the 9 main trades of England. Above the door an ornate crest displaying “Dieu Et Mon Droit” in gothic lettering. “God is my Right” being the motto for the throne of England, to be found on any passport a British citizen holds, is the translation, but it is also a slight jab at the former occupying ruling class; Jennewein, the designer of the door, is said to have chosen that phrase not only because of the British throne, but because it was also the motto of Alexander Hamilton’s NY Militia The Heart of Oaks. Take that you Limeys! (I actually really like British folk.)

6

Rockefeller Center

Oh boy oh boy, look at that penis, I mean, building right there in the middle of Manhattan. Nothing screams virility more than this 70 story concrete wang of a complex built in 1930 by badass #1 JD Rock.

What can’t you say about this place. Theres a giant Christmas tree, an ice skating rink, art by Diego Rivera that was censored during the Pinko years, an underground city that stretches 10 city blocks, even a Banana Republic. I mean, it’s dope.

What I really love about this building is why it is what it is. Rockefeller was originally going to build an opera house here. Then the market crashed and the country went into the Great Depression, causing millions to go hungry and be out of work. Instead of halting work, he did the opposite; he built bigger. Labor was cheap and plenty and he gave jobs to thousands of people. The reward was one of the greatest landmarks in NYC and a more stable economy to boot. That’s NYC people, hell or high water we make it happen.

The Chrysler Building

The Chrysler Building (which everyone calls the Christ-ler Building) is my 2nd favorite building in the city (right behind Grand Central Terminal). Why? Because it’s a real looker. I mean who builds a skyscraper out of stainless steel? We do. There are lots of reasons to love this building at 42nd street, but most of the reasons you might not know.

  1. There was a private club and speakeasy at the top (reopen that please).
  2. The first water bottling plant was in the basement. You’re welcome Desani.
  3. The Cooper Union (a free university here in NYC) owns all the land under the building.
  4. The spire was secretly hidden and was installed in only 90 minutes to fool a building going up downtown, hence, winning tallest building in the world (in 1930)
  5. Photographer Margie Bourke-White (see below) lived in an apartment on the 61st floor and had the highest toilet in the world. She paid 387.92 a month. I’d literally kill someone for that right now.

margaret-bourke-white-atop-chrysler-building-gargoyle-1934-2

9

New York Public Library

No body reads anymore. I mean look at this place. Empty. That, is my gift to you.

The NYPL is a fantastic place to visit. Sure there are cool lions outside, and maybe some of the best flagpoles I’ve ever seen, but its the inside that really holds the treasure. Upstairs is the Rose Reading room, which anyone can go to. It’s basically the Sistine Chapel of New York City and maybe the most impressive place to read Harry Potter anywhere in the world.

7_4

What would be an iconic NY landmark without crazy history factoids right? For instance the library sits on a very interesting plot of land. It was the battlefield for George Washington against the British during the Battle of New York, it was then a potters field for unknown dead, then it was the main reservoir for NYC. I’m not even going to mention that Ghostbusters was shot there.

10

The Empire State Building

Whatever.

11

Ads of another Age

One of my favorite things to do is spot old building ads. If you look up in the city, which is harder to do then you think, you will be rewarded with a window into the past. On faded brick facades throughout town, the remnants of old commerce still haunt us; Italian tailors, Hat shops, Lawmen, and barbers left their mark high above the city streets, and while their shops may be long gone, their memory is all around us.

12

Worth’s Tomb

So, a billion people walk past this monument across from Madison Square at 23rd street and never even realize there is a dead guy inside of it.

General Worth is one of only three tombs located on the island of Manhattan. One of them, yes, is Grant’s Tomb (3rd favorite building) and the other one, well, I’m going to keep a secret. This strange little obelisk though stands watch over one of the most iconic intersections of the world, and the dead Gen inside gets one of the best views of one of the most famous building in the world…

14

Eataly

Just kidding. Well, maybe not. Eataly has more visitors perhaps then Grand Central Terminal, the busiest station in the world, and over 22 thousand products for you to put in your face, all of them, delicious. A big shout out to my man Mario who was nice enough to jump on our little sandwich show, which you can watch here. 

13

The Flatiron Building

AKA the Fuller Building or the Cowcatcher, the Flatiron Building is NYC inconcrete (that’s an “incarnate” joke folks. I’m here all week). This is how you maximize use of space people. Built in only 4 months, everyone thought this sucker was going to fall down during the first strong wind. It didn’t, and quickly became a treasure of the city. Some interesting facts about the building is that it had no female bathrooms (imagine that) and its elevators were water powered.

Oh, one more funny fact… the term “23 skidoo” comes from the Flatiron building because the shape would cause strong gusts of winds to blow up the skirts of the women walking by. Cops use to give ogglers the ol’ 23 Skidoo when thier eyes lingered a little too long (and if you go into the subway stop there, the tile mural there shows hats blowing in the wind, just another little nod to the ol Skidoo).

15

Legoland NYC

Ok, just a Lego store, but it has some of the most amazing displays that I’ve ever seen and they change frequently. When they do a crew of Legoists come in over night, black out the windows, and construct their masterpiece in under 8 hours, sometimes using over 1 million bricks. I mean I’ve worked late hours before but that’s nuts.

16

Davy Jones Street Art

Now this is literally street art. Word is that a homeless chap by the name of Davy Jones creates these amazing chalk art pieces on the sidewalks south of 23rd street. If you walk the streets enough you start to see his work everywhere from Lady Liberties to Horse Drawn Carriages. It’s one of the few times looking down in the city gets you a show.

Well folks, that’s it. We’ve arrived at 18th Street and 5th Avenue. Mind you there is a TON more to see and do (the Met, Paris Theater, Chicken and Turntables) but this is just a walk to work (I litterally shot all these in one morning, walking). This is what you would see, in one hour, walking from 89th to 18th street. Just another day. Now time for a cup of coffee. Thanks for walking with me.

Rs

Roberto Serrini is a professional traveler who records his adventures in wordphotography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a commercial film director and drone pilot. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.

 

The Five Oldest Bars in NYC

I’m a native New Yorker, and so my history lies deep with this town. I’m also adoptive Irish, so my liver runs deep as well. So it was fitting to merge these two passions of mine and seek out the FIVE OLDEST BARS IN NEW YORK CITY.

The result may surprise you … well, frankly, it may surprise you how many dead people are buried behind the bar at your favorite watering hole.

Japan: Next Stop Nara.

Nara is a beautiful little town. Quiet, out of the way, and not murdered by tourists, it really is a beautiful retreat where you can experience ancient Japan in the modern era. The train here is a quick hop from Osaka, and getting around by foot is a breeze.

Arriving at the station we didn’t know what to expect; it really looked like any other town. As we walked down the main street, just off the station, we started to notice the shops were a bit more geared to antiques and writing utensils. It took us a good 20 minutes to get Nara Park. Lemme tell you something, this place is magical.

First of all… deer. Everywhere. It’s like a Disney movie. According to legend, a mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijō-kyō. Since then the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the country. They also love these deer biscuits that guys with carts sell. Don’t try to ride them thought. They do not like to be ridden, apparently, if you are not a god.

The park is magical. There are several shrines and museums, but the most fantastic part is just walking the paths. Stone lanterns line green paths, there are gardens pretty much everywhere, and you truly feel at total peace. At the end there is a small “love” shrine, where you can get a “magical” piece of paper that when soaked in the sacred water will show your love’s path. I can tell you this, my love’s path was the one that led me to Nara because I simply am in love with it.

Once you had your full of nature, the back roads of Nara are equally enchanting. This is an ancient city, and was the capital of Japan in the 700’s. Not too shabby. Wandering around here you will find little shops and artisans selling this and that, and some fantastic spots to eat that will make you cry tears of miso.

One thing that was super interesting were these yellow raised tiles (see above). You will find them everywhere in Japan, in the train stations, in the streets, everywhere. They’re for blind people. Yeah. So blind people can get around Japan, easier. That’s the kind of place Japan is.

In any case, blind or not, Nara is definitely not to be missed. Easy to get to, walk and see in a day. We had lot’s to see though so …

Next stop… KYOTO!

-Rs

Roberto Serrini is a professional traveler who records his adventures in word, photography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine as well as a commercial film director and drone pilot. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.