There is nothing more exciting than a 5 a.m. alarm waking me up for a flight. The thrill of adventure, the smells and sounds of the airport, watching the planes pulling up to the gates…the elements of the travel pas-de-deux. In anticipation for this being a reality in our lives again, we have put together 6 art & culture travel ideas to inspire you. This is a list of unique local experiences the Jano Lapin team has had throughout their travels. PLUS, we share some art & culture travel ideas that WE aspire to, provided by Montrealers and pro travel content creators Mel Vandersluis and Ver Sepasi! I very much enjoyed this collaboration!
Jano Lapin Art Around the World
1. Brooklyn: Bushwick Graffiti Tour by Foot
Have you heard of the Bushwick collective? Well, it’s a nonprofit outdoor street gallery of artists from all over the world! We took a walking tour to find out more. Our guide was from Graffiti Tour by Foot, and she was great! She taught us about the culture of street art crews which is often the discipline’s lesser known aspect. We discussed the variations of graffiti, the history of it in the NYC area and evidently, in Bushwich itself. We also learned the basics of street art and its evolution which was fascinating.
Of course, we also got to learn more about the many local and international artists who leave their mark on New York City!
More details on our Brooklyn trip here.
2. Havana, Cuba : Coppelia – Ice Cream Cathedral
Did you know that in Havana, having 15 scoops of ice cream is completely normal? More specifically, we are talking about the famous ice cream parlor Coppelia. They refer to it as “the ice cream cathedral” for a good reason. It is a giant complex that receives hundreds of people at one time. At its inception, it served 26 different flavors!
We waited a whole hour for our 3 scoops (shocking the locals!) and it was well worth it. Not just because the ice cream was good. It was the energy and the people-watching that made it memorable. In fact, Fidel Castro created Coppelia in 1966 to share his love of ice cream with all citizens. Nowadays, there are less flavors and quantities run out faster. However, locals come here and wait in line for many reasons: dates, birthdays, friend hang outs, nostalgic reminiscing – it is a true Habanera tradition.
More details on our Havana trip here.
3. Mexico: Meeting Artists at San Angel Bazaar
If you’re looking for gorgeous contemporary art, look no further than the popular San Angel bazaar in Mexico City which showcases various artisans and craftsmen. It was very impressive. Funnily enough, we ended up meeting and buying pieces from members of the same family (by accident!). Two distinct artists with unique styles. In fact, they both collaborate with the same gallery in Mexico (SoHo Galleries Merida).
JAAR (artist name) a.k.a Jorge Aguilar and Juan C. Breceda are the father and son in question, and we loved their colorfully vibrant abstract artworks. They both studied fine art at university. Furthermore, you can find Juan’s work in galleries worldwide while you would spot Jorge’s at Miami’s Art Basel. This is a great place to meet talented artists and discover their works. It was definitely a memorable experience for us!
More details on our Mexico City trip here.
4. India: Holi in Goa
Holi is a Hindu festival celebrating the beginning of spring, the triumph of light over dark & good over evil. You will recognize the popular images of crowds covered in colored powders from head to toe through the streets of India. While in cities like Varanasi they “play Holi” exactly as described, other regions have a different vibe. For example, in the state of Goa, Holi is only a part of the month-long spring festival of Shigmo. They celebrate Shigmo with parades, games, bonfires, etc.
It was an incredible experience to throw paint at each other on the beach then run into the water to wash everything off at the end of the day! Even better, we did this in the sweet embrace of the warm Indian Ocean. What a feeling!
Pro Travelers : Our Inspiration!
5. Vietnam Vespa Food Tour by Ver Sepasi
Back in 2017, the tourism boards of both Vietnam and Cambodia invited me to visit. Both countries were incredible in their own ways, but one thing that really stood out to me was the food from each place. Food is such a big part of why I travel, so when I was told we had two Vespa food tours (Vespa Adventures) booked in both Saigon and Siem Reap, I was one happy gal.
I’ll stick to writing about my food tour experience in Saigon because otherwise you’ll be sitting reading this for a while!
This was such an incredible way to see the city and feel like a true local. I remember my first day thinking how insane and chaotic traffic in Saigon was. How are people not run over every five seconds? It was so thrilling to be on the back of a Vespa driven by a local. Always mere inches from someone else’s Vespa, going to spots only the locals knew about and trying true, authentic Vietnamese food.
Traditional Vietnamese Pancakes (Bánh Xèo)
I remember one stop in particular. We had ordered traditional Vietnamese pancakes (Bánh Xèo) which were made in an open-air sort of restaurant on a side street. The place was so lively and the smell of the food frying was enough to forget about the three other restaurants I had just eaten at. After the pancakes were cooked, we sat down at a communal table outside. Then, we had all of the ingredients that go in the pancake (meant to be folded in) laid out in front of us and we assembled our own.
When I tell you that to this day I still think about those pancakes and the food in general, I’m not exaggerating. This activity was, in my opinion, one of the best ways to get a true feel for the local, vibrant culture as well as its humble people and ridiculously delicious food. I could not recommend this activity more and will 100% book again if I ever make it back!
6. Peru Llama Blessing by Mel Vandersluis
When I was in Peru I had the rare opportunity to witness a Llama blessing. When I first heard we were going to do this activity I worried that a llama would be sacrificed but thankfully that was not AT ALL the case! Llamas are sacred for these people and in an area that doesn’t produce many crops, the llama blessing is one of the most important ceremonies of the year. It is believed that the more llamas you have, the more prosperous of a life you will live.
So, throughout the ceremony we watched as they danced, laughed and burned symbolic items such as cocoa leaves, seeds, and feathers. After they completed the ceremony, they released all the llamas into the highlands. It was one of those moments that you try to take in as much as you can because you know it’s a once in a lifetime experience.
I hope that together, we have inspired you to include one of these 6 art & culture experiences in your future travel itineraries (soon *fingers crossed*)!
A big THANK YOU to Mel and Ver for their amazing input!
JMSB alumna with a business mind and a creative heart. Prefers any environment where she can combine the two. World traveler who is at her happiest in airports/train stations/bus stands because that usually means she is on her way to explore a fascinating new destination. Curious about the process and history of creators such as Gaudí, Dalí, and Chanel to name just a few. Montrealer who loves discovering art and stories that set the soul on fire, making them all the more exciting to share!