Old Photographs Show What Life Was Like Inside the Chelsea Hotel

The Chelsea Hotel is a historic landmark in New York City, located on West 23rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. It was built between 1883 and 1885, and is known primarily for two things: the famous residents it had and the number of deaths that took place. The 12-story red-brick building was one of Manhattan’s first private apartment cooperatives. It was reopened as a hotel in 1905, and in 2011, was sold to real estate developer Joseph Chetrit for $80 million.

Mark Twain, Allen Ginsberg and James T. Farrell all lived in the hotel. Actors, film directors, and musicians have all called it home as well. Madonna lived in the Chelsea Hotel in the early 1980s, and Leonard Cohen and Janis Joplin had an affair there in 1968. Bette Midler, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison are also among the list of famous inhabitants. Several survivors of the Titanic even stayed at the hotel.

The hotel is also famous for how many people died there. According to The TelegraphSid Vicious killed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen at the Chelsea. Dylan Thomas drank himself to death and author Charles R. Jackson committed suicide in his room in 1968.

In August 2011, the Chelsea Hotel stopped taking reservations in order to begin renovations, but long-time residents remain in the building. Through the gallery below, we take a look at the hotel and some of its most famous residences.

Wikimedia Commons.

Janis Joplin was one of the Chelsea Hotel’s famous residents. She and Leonard Cohen had an affair at the hotel, and he wrote two different songs about it. Flickr.

A phone in a room of long-time resident and writer Ed Hamilton at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, January 10, 2011. The Chelsea Hotel, a haven for struggling artists for over 50 years, is for sale since October 2010. The 12-floor, 250-room landmark hotel, was built in 1883 and hosted celebrities such as Andy Warhol, Arthur Miller and his wife Marylin Monroe, musicians Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and punk rocker Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols who killed his girlfriend Nancy Spungen there in 1978 in a drug-induced stupor. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Leonard Cohen at the Arena in Geneva, 27 October 2008. He was one of the Chelsea Hotel’s most famous residents, and wrote a song about the affair he had with Janis Joplin there. (Wikipedia)
A view of a corridor at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, January 10, 2011. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
While he was applying for residency in America, English writer Quentin Crisp stayed at the Hotel Chelsea. His time living here coincided with a fire, a robbery and the death of Nancy Spungen. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)
American composer Virgil Thomson died in his suite at the Chelsea on September 30, 1989. During his life spent in the hotel, Thomson led a largely gay salon that leading figures of music and arts attended, including Leonard Bernstein and Tennessee Williams. Here he is pictured in the hotel. (Image via veluandcoco/flickr)
Former long-time Chelsea Hotel manager Stanley Bard poses for a photo in the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel in New York, January 10, 2011. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
American author and poet Herbert Huncke lived in the Chelsea during the last few years of his life. He is a core member of the Beat Generation. He also coined the term. (Photo via zapdelight/Flickr
Herbert Huncke – photo: Peter Edel)
Bette Midler lived at the hotel. (Wikimedia Commons)
Chelsea Hotel
Chelsea Hotel interior in Manhattan. (John Borthwick)

12 Bookstores You Have to Visit Around the World

In the age of digital subscriptions and e-readers, it is sometimes easy to forget how satisfying opening a new (or old) book can be. And besides just the books themselves, bookstores offer a sanctuary for those hoping to escape the busy world and see another side of a city. Check out some of the most magical bookstores around the world.

Wigtown, Scotland: The Book Shop

Books on display inside The Book Shop, the largest second hand store in the country on November 9, 2017 in Wigtown, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The Book Shop is the largest second-hand store in Scotland. Located in Wigtown — which has had official ‘book town’ status since 1998 — The Book Shop stocks over one hundred thousand books covering almost every subject you could think of.

San Francisco, California: City Lights

City Lights in San Francisco (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

The City Lights Bookstore was founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin in 1953. The neighborhood was also the birthplace of the Beat Generation, and it was City Lights was the hangout of the Beat Generation writers and artists. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg frequented the shop.

Los Angeles, California: The Last Bookstore

The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles (Flickr)

The Last Bookstore is California’s largest used and new book and record store. It is still pretty new, having started in 2005 in a downtown Los Angeles loft. The place is filled with stacks and stacks of books, some arranged in fun art installations, like the one seen above.

Mexico City, Mexico: El Péndulo

El Péndulo in Mexico City (Chasingtheturtle.wordpress.com)

El Péndulo is a two-story cafe-bookstore that also kind of looks like a forest, with plants seeming to peek out from around all the books. There is table dining on the ground floor, and more casual sofas for reading (and a bar) on the second floor. The wooden floors and endless books will make it easy to spend hours here.

Tokyo, Japan: Yaguchi Shoten

Yaguchi Shoten in Toyko (Wikimedia Commons)

This bookstore is one of the oldest on the list. It was started in 1918 and is located in the “booktown” of Jimbocho in Tokyo. It specializes in film, theater, and entertainment.

Lima, Peru: Librería El Virrey

Librería El Virrey in Lima, Peru (Pinterest)

Founded 40 years ago, the store is famous for its books but also its space and furniture.

Buenos Aires, Argentina: El Ateneo

El Ateneo in Buenos Aires, Argentina (Carla Wosniak, Flickr)

This bookstore was built as the Teatro Grand Splendid in 1919, then became a cinema in 1929. El Ateneo has frescoed ceilings, ornate carvings, stage curtains and you can sit in theater boxes while your browse.

Venice, Italy: Libreria Acqua Alta
Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice, Italy (a2zphoto, Flickr)

This canalside shop is regularly flooded, but it doesn’t stop the rubber boot-wearing owner. He just moves the books to bathtubs and higher shelves. It is described as a “high water bookshop” and even stray cats use it to avoid the rising tides.

Porto, Portugal: Livraria Lello

Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal (ThalesEGO, Flickr)

The bookstore was originally the Chardon Library. It has a huge, curving staircase with ornate wooden carvings, as well as wall panels and columns. There are stunning stained glass windows and a skylight, so definitely worth the visit, even if you don’t purchase anything.

Nanjing, China: Librairie Avant-Garde

Librairie Avant-Garde in Nanjing, China (Blaine O’Neill, Flickr)

Librairie Avant-Garde was built inside a former government car park that had also previously been a bomb shelter. It is now known as China’s “most beautiful bookshop” and visitors follow the yellow striped lines into the 4,000 square meters of underground space.

Paris, France: Shakespeare & Company

Shakespeare & Company in Paris (esartee, Flickr)

This bookstore was named after one the famous one frequented by Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, and James Joyce during the 1920s, but now is equally legendary. It was opened in 1951 by American George Whitman and has become an iconic gathering place for Beat Generation writers like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs.

Marrakesh, Morocco: Jardin Majorelle 

Jardin Majorelle  in Marrakesh, Morocco (Matt Kieffer, Flickr)

Nestled in the stunning Majorelle Gardens, the museum bookstore is the go-to for coffee-table books about all things Moroccan, but it is also just a gorgeous pit-stop. There is a small café as well, and a selection of antique photograph reprints that are available for purchase.

17 Amazing Photos From 100 Years Ago

One hundred years ago, as WWI raged on and women fought for the right to vote, people were balancing on rooftops, using ostriches as tourist attractions and performing the first plastic surgery operation. With some help from BuzzFeedwe put together a list of photographs that will forever document the events of 1917. Check them out below.


John Reynoldsknown as the “Human Fly” was a famous acrobat who used to entertain people by balancing on the edge of buildings, as seen in this photo. In order to get to the roof, he would scale the outside of the building. He drew crowds of nearly 1,500 people. In this photo, he is balancing on top of the Lansburgh furniture building in Washington, D.C.

Wikimedia Commons

The first jazz records ever — “Dixie Jazz Band One Step” and “Livery Stable Blues” — were recorded by Original Dixieland Jass Band for the Victor Talking Machine Company.

Wikimedia Commons

Can you see him? This is camouflage at its earliest stages during WWI. The image shows someone in “dazzle” camouflage, which was designed to make soldiers harder to target, but not hide them completely.

Vintage Everyday Facebook

Lifejackets were also very different 100 years ago. U.S. sailors fighting in WWI were using be mattresses in place of life jackets, which, ultimately, was a bad idea, since the mattresses would just absorb the water and sink, dragging the soldiers down too.

Wikimedia Commons

The Silent Sentinels were a group of women in favor of women’s suffrage. They were organized by Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party. On January 10, 1917, they protested in front of the White House. The protest lasted for six days a week until June 4, 1919, when the 19th Amendment was finally passed. Paul was later jailed for seven months.

Wikimedia Commons

A century ago, people were using radium as a medicine, guaranteed to give users a “healthy glow.” Customers were told they were taking “health-giving electric atoms.” This is obviously before the harmful effects of radiation were known.

Julia Ward Howe. Wikimedia Commons.

Sisters Laura Elizabeth Richards and Maude Howe Elliott won the first Pulitzer Prize in biography for Julia Ward Howe, which chronicled the long and complex career of their mother (shown above), an abolitionist and suffragist who wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” They were the first women to win a Pulitzer.


A woman was fed up with her husband refusing to bathe, so she took him to court. He said that he was too large to fit in the bathtub. The wife came out on top, and the husband was sentenced to probation which meant that he’d be jailed if he refused to find a way to take a bath.


British soldiers set off one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts in modern history on June 7, 1917, after placing highly explosive mines in tunnels underneath the massed German army at La Boisselle near Messines in France. The blast was heard in London and Dublin and the mushroom cloud it create rose to 4,000 feet. Ten thousand German soldiers were killed, and the crater that was left was over 200 feet deep and 450 feet wide.


A mother accidentally killed her family with pancakes when she mistook arsenic for flour. At the time, arsenic was readily available because it was used for pest control. But unfortunately, it also looked like flour, and therefore, accidents like this tragic one explained above occurred.


A giant German Zeppelin was hit by French fighter plans and crashed into a French valley. At 550 feet long and 70 feet wide, it lodged itself across the valley and horrified observers who called it a “hideous, abominable killing machine.”


Dr. R.B. Armitage tried to give young women who planned to get married sex advice through a book, Private Sex Advice to Women. He told them to not have sex during pregnancy and also, any pain during menstruation was abnormal and caused by “too-tight clothing, eating pickles, and not getting enough exercise from housework.”

Madame Mac Méod (future Mata Hari) éxécutant des danses brahmaniques dans la bibliothèque du Musée Guimet de Paris.*13-3-1905. Wikimedia Commons.

Mata Hari (real name Margarete Zelle) was a Dutch exotic dancer who was convicted of being a German spy and was executed by a firing squad. She was born in Holland but moved to Paris to pretend to be the daughter of Dutch royalty and a Javanese princess. She was wildly popular and took several wealthy lovers, but also accepted money from a German office. She was found guilty of being a double agent and spy by the French courts, and was executed in October 1917.


Harold Gillies performed the first-ever plastic surgery in Kent, UK, after finding a way to prevent the body from rejecting skin grafts by boosting the blood supply to the surrounding tissue using a tube of flesh called a “pedicle.” The patient, Water Yeo, was wounded during the Battle of Jutland in 1916. He received the first successful flap graft in 1917.


The German army mounted cameras on pigeons using aluminum breast harnesses. The camera would take pictures at regular intervals through a timer.


U.S. immigration officials pinned an address to a child after she arrived unaccompanied and dropped her off at the post office.

Wikipedia Commons

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Wow I would love to go to an ostrich farm?” Well, that’s what entrepreneur Edwin Cawston was hoping when he created the first ostrich farm in the country, successfully creating one of the most popular tourist attractions in the U.S. He shipped 50 South African ostriches to California, and guests could ride on their backs or in an ostrich-drawn carriage.

A Look Back at the Biggest Sports Moments of 2017

This year has been filled with some incredible moments in sports, from the Astros unlikely World Series win after a devastating hurricane struck their hometown, to Sloane Stevens winning the U.S. Open, to the showdown between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Check out some of the highlights below.

New England Patriots’ Tom Brady raises the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Atlanta Falcons in overtime at the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game on Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston. The Patriots defeated the Falcons 34-28. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Logan Dooley performs on the trampoline during the U.S. Gymnastics Championships on June 29, 2017, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Britain’s Chris Froome, wearing the overall leader’s yellow jersey, is followed by Italy’s Fabio Aru as they climb Croix de Fer pass during the seventeenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 183 kilometers (113.7 miles) with a start in La Mure and finish in Serre-Chevalier, France, on July 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
The Houston Astros celebrate after Game 7 of baseball’s World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Nov. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Astros won 5-1 to win the series 4-3. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Conor McGregor, center, stands next to Floyd Mayweather Jr., center left, during their weigh-in on Aug. 25, 2017, the day before their boxing match in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini heads the ball during the UEFA Super Cup final soccer match between Real Madrid and Manchester United at Philip II Arena in Skopje, on Aug. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
Markus Eisenbichler of Germany soars through the air during his trial jump at the third stage of the 65th four hills ski jumping tournament in Innsbruck, Austria, on Jan. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby rides with the Stanley Cup in the Stanley Cup victory parade in Pittsburgh on June 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Sloane Stephens, of the United States, reacts as the lid to the championship trophy falls off during a photo app after the women’s singles final of the U.S. Open tennis tournament on Sept. 9, 2017, in New York. Stephens beat Madison Keys, of the United States, to win the championship. (AP Photo/Nick Didlick)
Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Nick Williams jumps up against the fence, but fails to catch an RBI triple by Pittsburgh Pirates’ Josh Bell during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Philadelphia on July 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Spain’s Garbine Muguruza celebrates after beating Venus Williams of the United States to win the Women’s Singles final match on day twelve at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London on July 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

Remembering Pearl Harbor 76 Years Later Through Unforgettable Pictures

It was 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time when the bombs started to fall. Over 2,400 people were killed on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese led a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The photographs from that day are still devastating to look at, 74 years later: Smoke, flames, bodies, debris. As the news and images spread across the world, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told the nation that the day “will live in infamy.” He declared war on Japan, and not long after that, Italy and Germany declared war on the U.S. The country was officially thrust into the Second World War.

Ordnance on the destroyer USS Shaw explodes after being hit by Japanese bombs, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941. Silver print taken by a Navy photographer, 1941. (Photo by VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)
It’s crew is forced to abandon the USS California during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941. Silver print, Navy photographer, 1941. (Photo by VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)
Japanese attack on the US Naval base at Pearl Harbour; 7th December 1941 (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
The USS Oklahoma floats capsized near the USS Maryland. The ships were destroyed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on September 7, 1941. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Burning and damaged ships at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Left to right are the USS West Virginia, the USS Tennessee and the USS Arizona. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
World War II: Japanese attack on United States naval base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, 7 December 1941. Battleship USS West Virginia in, flames after hits from Japanese bombs and torpedoes. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) 12/1941- Sailors on leave were the first to buy papers announcing the attack upon Hawaii and Philippines. They anxiously read the news and were told to report immediately to their posts.
(Original Caption) These headlines were from a New York newspaper telling of the start of the American-Japanese war, December 7, 1941.
Presidential Secretary Stephen T. Early, conducting a press conference in his White House office on day of Pearl Harbor attack. (Photo by Thomas D. Mcavoy/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Military personnel pay their respects beside the mass grave of 15 officers and others killed in the bombing attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. A U.S. flag is draped over the coffins. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Ventura Wildfire Rages Over 45,500 Acres Forcing 27,000 People to Evacuate

A wildfire has swept through the city of Ventura, burning 45,500 acres and forcing more than 27,000 people to evacuate. The fast-moving, wind-fueled fire, dubbed the Thomas Fire, has destroyed homes and businesses — including at least one large apartment complex, the Vista Del Mar Hospital, and a psychiatric facility — as it spreads. Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in the area.

Ventura County officials asked for eight fixed-wing firefighting aircraft to help douse the flames, according to The Los Angeles TimesPower outages affected the firefighters’ ability to fight the blaze, because some pumping systems and fire hydrants were inoperable. About 1,000 fire fighters are currently at work and so far, there are no fatalities. Unpredictable Santa Ana winds are forecast to top out at 70 miles per hour on Wednesday and remain strong all week.

John Bain and Brandon Baker take cover from the embers as they try to help stop a fire from burning a stranger’s home on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A firefighter looks at a house burnt to the ground during the Thomas wildfire in Ventura, California on December 5, 2017.
Fast-moving, wind-fueled brush fire exploded to about 10,000 acres in Ventura County Monday night, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes, officials said. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke from the Thomas Fire rises over a residential neighborhood on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. Thousands have been evacuated and many surrounding towns are without power as the fire continues to grow. (Photo by Byba Sepit/Getty Images)
Smoke from the Thomas Fire rises over a residential neighborhood on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. Thousands have been evacuated and many surrounding towns are without power as the fire continues to grow. (Photo by Byba Sepit/Getty Images)
A house burns to the ground during the Thomas wildfire in Ventura, California on December 5, 2017.
Fast-moving, wind-fueled brush fire exploded to about 10,000 acres in Ventura County Monday night, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes, officials said. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke blows out of the burning palm trees as brush fire threaten homes on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Strangers band together to help put out a palm tree on fire and stop it from burning homes as brush fire move to threaten structures on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
John Bain and Brandon Baker take cover from the embers as they try to help stop a fire from burning a stranger’s home on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Firefighters work to put out flames after it has engulfed a home on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A mansion burns as a brush fire continues to threaten homes on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A family pack up and evacuate as a brushfire get closer to their home on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A brushfire moving with the wind sends embers all over the place in residential neighborhoods north of on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Al Galileo helps water down a backyard of a stranger’s home as brush fire encroaches on the property on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Firefighters work to control the western side of Grant Park as brushfire engulf most of the vegetation on the hill, on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Does Pixar’s ‘Coco’ Owe Its Success to ‘The Book of Life’?

If you’re a fan of any popular movie site, it’d be impossible to miss the mini-controversy over Pixar’s box-office smash Coco. The issue is that in 2014, 20th Century Fox released a similar Day of the Dead-themed animated feature The Book of Life, starring, among others, Diego Luna. Coco, meanwhile stars Gael García Bernal, who along with Diego starred in Y tu mamá también and co-founded the production company  Canana Films together. Surely the casting Gael García constituted a blatant dig at the Guillermo del Toro-produced Book of Life, no?

As fractured as this country is right now, you could (not) be forgiven for thinking there isn’t room in Hollywood for two 3D computer-animated musicals about the same ghost-centric Mexican holiday starring commonly-associated stars, even if they did appear three years apart. Though, if you seriously believe that then you’re probably the kind of person who doesn’t understand why Pakistani-American Kumail Nanjiani’s The Big Sick needed to exist when we already had American-born Aziz Ansari’s TV show Masters of None on Netflix.

So did Pixar rip-off what people assume is the less well-known Book of Life (despite the latter receiving a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture, a $99.8 million box-office gross and an admirable 89% on Rotten Tomatoes). Well, the answer is a little more nuanced than that.

For example, Life’s director and co-writer Jorge R. Gutierrez announced that he is “rooting” for Coco. “Aside from employing lots of my friends, how can I not root for an animated film that celebrates Mexican culture?” Jorge tweeted last year, giving his blessing to the film. Not to mention that the two films appear to symbiotic: the buzz around Coco certainly played a part in ReelFX greenlighting a sequel to The Book of Life.

Still, you can’t ignore the obvious similarities of the films; less so in the themes, plot and tone than the visuals. Coco’s animation is so strikingly similar to that of The Book of Life that it’s impossible not to imagine Coco’s animators mining the previous film for concept art. While we still think that both movies stand on their own, separately important merits, a quick visual comparison reveals just how close Coco is to The Book of Life.

Kids playing at a cemetery altar in ‘The Book of Life.’

Miguel playing at the family alter in ‘Coco.’
An old photo of Joaquin in ‘The Book of Life.’
An old photo of Ernesto in ‘Coco.’
Manolo playing guitar instead of bullfighting in “The Book of the Living.”
Miguel plays guitar instead of listening to his family and not breaking into a dead man’s mausoleum in ‘Coco.’
A giant bull skeleton that turns out to be a softie in ‘The Book of Life.’
Pepita, a scary spirit animal that turns out to be a softie in ‘Coco.’
Day of the Dead in ‘The Book of Life.’
Day of the Dead in ‘Coco.’
Deals in the afterlife in ‘The Book of Life.’
Deals in the afterlife in ‘Coco.’
The Land of the Remembered in ‘The Book of Life.’
The Land of the Dead in ‘Coco.’
Party-wear in ‘The Book of the Living.’
Party-wear in ‘Coco.”
The lantern-jaw sugar skulls of ‘The Book of Life.’
The lantern-jaw sugar skulls of ‘Coco.’
On the nose imagery in ‘The Book of Life.’
Ditto in ‘Coco.’

Does Coco’s existence nullify or corrupt The Book of Life for its own purposes? Doubtful. There’s a fine line between homage and mimicry, but if imitation is the highest form of flattery, Coco’s creators must be the hugest Book of Life fans out there.

Meet the Karate Grandmothers of Kenya’s Korogocho Slum

Lara Croft might be a fictional character, but the spirit of an ass-kicking heroine shattering glass ceilings as she makes her way through an adventure filled life is embodied by women in all shapes, sizes, ages and with a variety of ahem…bra cups. Lets face it, the character born to video game fandom in 1996 is a tad cheesy, but what she brought to the table as one of the industry’s most accomplished and successful icons, representing a pistol packing, punch throwing passionate desire to explore the world is in fact inspirational…even more so since the first five original renditions of the gaming character were a man.

Ultimately, as tongue and cheek as she is, Croft is more than just the 20-something busty goddess of badassery on the photoshopped poster for the latest film in the franchise. She’s a call to arms for women who grab life by the horns, desire an existence less ordinary and stand up for themselves and those less fortunate in the face of evil.

Karate Grandmothers of Kenya
An elderly women from Nairobi’s Korogocho slum, learn martial arts in order to survive in one of Kenya’s most dangerous shanty towns. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)

In the Real Life Lara Croft series I seek out inspiring stories that speak of determination in the pursuit of passion, true grit and extraordinary lives lived with spirit bordering on rapture. Women who make me say, “hell yes” when I read of their gumption and accomplishments.

And so I came across the karate grandmas of Kenya.

In one of Nairobi’s most notorious shantytowns, Korogocho, an age-old battle plays out. As sexual assault grows to epidemic proportions due to lack of enforcement and misguided belief systems, a group of about 20 elderly women, aged 60 to 100, meet once a week to practice a variety of martial arts. With the help of volunteer trainers, they learn how to fight off would-be attackers.

Karate Grandmothers of Kenya
This self defense group started in 2007 as way of fighting back at the young bandits of Korogocho who started raping women three or four times their age. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)

The group started in 2007 to teach elderly women the self defense skills needed to protect themselves and their families. They train in a mixture of wrestling and karate with elements of kung-fu and Taekwondo. They learn how to yell and attract attention while keeping their assailants at bay.

According to a 2006 report from Kenya’s national commission on human rights, a girl or woman is raped every 30 minutes.

Police are little help. With limited resources and less than stellar moral motivation to help without monetary incentives, they are just as easily bribed to look the other way.

Several success stories have already come out of the group with tales of grannies fighting off would be rapists. The retelling of these accounts gives them as much a sense of accomplishment as a sense of necessity.

Karate Grandmothers of Kenya
Residents of Nairobi’s Korogocho slum practicing martial arts. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)

Attacks on older women have become increasingly common. A conglomeration of absurd beliefs that sex with elderly women can cure AIDS or cleanse a man of his sins after committing crimes is partially to blame. Poverty, frustration, drug use and unemployment round off the problem pyramid.

Additionally, many of these grandmothers are raising their grandchildren. Orphans of HIV and AIDS are tragically common. With the added motivation of securing the next generations’ safety, the grandmas learn to target the vulnerable areas of a man’s physique with open palmed blows and karate chops. They’re done being seen as victims.

So it seems that the Lara Croft spirts of taking matters into her own hands to fight those with nefarious intentions lives on. Not just in the glossy film trailer of a Hollywood blockbuster to be, but on the sullied streets of a slum in Kenya where women of a certain age fight the evils that lurk in the shadows.

Off the Beaten Path: Isla Holbox

In this new series, Off the Beaten Path, A Modern Nomad’s Guide to a World Less Traveled, I bring you alternatives to some of the world’s most popular, most instagrammed and most crowded destinations. Places that haven’t quite “made it” yet. It’s not to say that popular spots aren’t worth the hype, but if you’re anything like me, you might appreciate a tip of the hat to global destinations where you can still find a bit of tranquility along with some magnificence.

When I first visited Tulum 15 years ago the Riviera Maya was just being developed with a myriad of all inclusive hotels and luxury resorts. Huge swaths of the jungle were being cut away to accommodate future complexes designed for every whim of a heat seeking tourists heart, from ice luges dripping with tequila to stand up paddle board lessons and mariachi band renditions of Brown Eyed Girl. The local Mayan ruins housed one homeless dog asleep in the sun and the stunning beaches were void of yoga retreats and chic habitats of any sort. That’s all changed.

These days Tulum’s boho beach vibe attracts everyone from celebrities frolicking in the new $12,000 per night penthouse, complete with private bartender, to photographers shooting the latest swimwear campaign and hipsters escaping LA for a grounding meditation on a white sand beach…with drink service. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Absolutely nothing. But for those of us who like our beaches more barefoot than barefoot bar, there’s another spot that has been hash tagged far fewer times, Isla Holbox (pronounced hol-BOSH). At time of penning #Tulum had over 2 million hashtags, with #IslaHolbox at a measly 51K. I like me some measly numbers when it comes to my destinations.

Isla Holbox
Zomay Beach Bar at sunset (Kinga Philipps)

As recently as a decade ago, this tropical paradise was as off the radar as it is off the beaten path. The first time I heard of Isla Holbox was five years ago, en route to nearby Isla Mujeres. As our plane descended into Cancun, I glimpsed the long stretch of pristine beach framed by jungle and tropical water. A quick search of the map told me what it was, and thus Holbox went on my bucket list.

To get to Hotbox, you fly into Cancun, that mecca of all things associated with Jersey Shore spring break. Part of the island’s hidden gem charm comes from the fact that the road leading there has only been paved for a few years, it’s seeming inaccessibility preserving it like a little time capsule just slightly beyond the reaches of holiday makers schedules. Now the mere two hour drive is easy and can be arranged in advance with a shuttle service, a rental car or, if you detest driving, a small plane. The road options will take you to Chiquila, from where you hop a 15 minute ferry to the island across the lagoon. If your adventure flag is at full mast and you don’t mind a little haggle, local fishermen will take you over as well.

Isla Holbox
Best way to see the island is by bike. On way to Isla De La Passion (Kinga Philipps)

And then you arrive.The streets are all sand, transportation options are golf carts or bikes, and cash is king. Seriously, don’t run out, it’s a pain in the ass. The island has one ATM and it’s often on its own vacation.

The island is surrounded by milky water the color of pale jade and forms part of a protected native reserve called Yum Balam, which is Mayan for Lord Jaguar, and a marvelous name for a pet kitten. The area contains rich jungle habitat, wetlands and both lagoon and coastal mangrove. The varied biodiversity is one of the highlights making this area worth a visit.

History packs its own punch in the region as well. Back in the 18th century, Holbox was a haven for pirates looking for fresh water with legends of buried treasure still in circulation…probably after some tequila. The other thing circulating heavily on Holbox are mosquitos. The only time in my life I’ve been chased by a swarm.

Electricity came in 1987 and so did the ex-pats, particularly from Italy and Argentina. Several of the hotels have international ownership which adds to the eclectic favor. The choice pick on the island is Casa Las Tortugas, charming in every sense of the word. A little internet research will yield a variety of accommodation options to suit every budget and style.

Isla Holbox
Sandbar at the end of Calle Paseo Kuka (Kinga Philipps)

The prettiest beaches are on the Northeast end of town where, with the right tide, a sandbar emerges and is the perfect early morning viewing spot for the island’s famed flocks of flamingos. Even if you don’t spot the characteristic single-legged silhouettes, pink feathers scattered in the sand give away their presence. For sunset, that same sandbar is top notch and the premier location if you want a side of solitude with your suns daily departure. The other, more social, sunset option is at the little bar on the beach in front of Hotel Zomay. It’s the gathering spot for both locals and tourists and a good place to float with a cocktail in hand while watching the burning orb melt into the sea. Hotel Zomay is a charming series of bungalows scattered in a palm grove on the beach and housing multiple raccoons who dreamily wait out siesta hours with paws dangling from palm fronds. If the resident raccoons aren’t enough, across the road from Zomay is Alma Verde, an animal shelter that takes in and rehabs local critters on the mend.

Wandering the miles and miles of beaches and sandbars for sunrise and sunset is highly recommended. The island is very safe with little crime, so outside of the standard logical precautions there is little more than a mosquito onslaught to worry about.

Isla Holbox
Lounging on the sandbar at sunset (Kinga Philipps)

The town itself is fairly bustling with shops, restaurants, farmers markets, tour operators and the main square where people gather in the relative cool of the evenings to play bingo and table football. Food on the island is not inexpensive. Comparable to LA or NY meal prices in fact. For a nice spread head to Viva Zapata to sample fresh seafood and good cocktails. Live music offerings and a beautiful courtyard make this the choice spot for a celebratory night out or just a good meal. The fact that they accept plastic payment certainly adds to the appeal. The applauded seafood platter is beautifully presented and is as representative of the regions aquatic characters as any aquarium. Ask for the fish to be cooked on the lighter side as ours was tasty, if a tad overcooked. For a lower key, and lower priced, option Tacos Cueto and a variety of street side taco stands offer good, cheaper eats. The mid town farmers market, Mercadito Pool-box, is a sound spot to procure fresh fruit and local delicacies for a fraction of the cost. La Isla del Colibri, with its charming colorful interior, stands out as the premier breakfast haunt for its ample portions and variety of fresh fruit smoothies that would give any LA juice bar a run for its money. After sampling the offerings at most of the recommended eateries, our favorite dinner spot became Las Panchas, where we were repeat visitors during our stay for tacos, fresh ceviche and guacamole. From a conservation perspective, It’s always worth asking what’s in your ceviche and making sure the ingredients are reef responsible. Lobsters, sharks and other fish that are taken out of season to satiate the tourist demand for seafood are on the decline in the area.

Isla Holbox
Public hammocks on Holbox (Kinga Philipps)

Beach lounging can definitely be considered an activity on Holbox and the colorful postcard perfect hammocks make a good point that it’s a descent way to whittle away the hours. At higher tide your bum rests nicely in the ocean as you relax and ponder how to never leave this rather extraordinary slice of paradise. Yet, for all the inviting relaxation options Holbox is visited by the more adventurous types for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is colossal, covered in spots and looks like a cartoon character brought to life by Pixar. Whale sharks, the biggest fish in the sea, gather in these waters each summer to feed on fish eggs and plankton. Their gatherings have become somewhat of a phenomenon and absolutely worth a day on the water. The options offered by outfitters are “green water” or “blue water.” Go blue. Your sit bone might complain on the three hour each way boat ride but the payoff is seeing these magnificent creatures in crystal clear water rather than the beautiful but murky green that surrounds the island. We were lucky enough to be the only boat out on our adventure and swam with 15 individual sharks over a two hour window. Just four girls and a lot of big fish. Forever in my mind is waving to my sister over the dappled dorsal fin of a fairytale-esque behemoth gracefully gliding between us. The experience was so extraordinary that I ingested enough salt water to promptly expelled my lunch, to the chagrin of our boat hands who couldn’t understand why I was smiling while projectile vomiting pink soda. On the way back the boat stops at lagoon inlets and feeds you the freshest ceviche you could hope for. That I kept down. They let you roam the tidal sand bars looking for shells, fish skirting through she shallows and spot bird life. Holbox outfitters don’t have a great reputation among the conservation community for being eco friendly, probably for no more reason than they are so new to the game, so making a good selection is important. We went with Willy’s Tours and couldn’t have been happier with the choice. Pink soda be damned.

Isla Holbox
Street art at Mercadito Pool-box (Kinga Philipps)

Outside of whale sharks there is plenty on the island to keep you entertained. If you’re there during the November to August window when the winds are blowing, Holbox offers some great opportunity for kiteboarding. It’s about as perfect a spot as there could be to learn with shallow waters, soft sandy bottom and wide long beaches to fly on.

Kayaking the mangroves in search of the island flamingos, ubiquitous horseshoe crabs, rays, dolphins and sea turtles isn’t a lousy way to spend the day either. Much more peaceful and greatly preferred over the three island tour offered on every street corner. The tour could be a nice way to spend a few hours outside of the fact that all the various operators show up to the small islands simultaneously (even if they say they go in off hours…apparently there are no off hours). One stop is a truly unique fresh water spring rumored to be where pirates visited for fresh water. Unfortunately, the amount of people in the spring gave it more of a life jacket soup appearance than hidden island Shangri-La. Pirates didn’t wear life jackets or travel with coolers, I’m sure of this.

Moments likes this are when you get a glimpse of what Holbox will become in a few years time, as the steady influx of visitors grows. It’s pristine coves, inlets and islands aren’t suited to mass numbers.

One of the most bewitching excursions on the island is the bioluminescence spectacle at Punta Coco. On moonless nights, bikers and golf carts descend on this stretch of beach and eager attendees wade into the water to see one of natures finer light shows. Bioluminescent phytoplankton creates the hallucinatory effect of glowing stars twinkling underwater when disturbed. We found that even more marvelous than pouncing around in the water was wading through the patches of sea grass. Fish and horseshoe crabs dart away leaving tracers of glow resembling Avatar’s Tree of Souls.

The island is home to other exotic wildlife as well. Tapir, crocodiles, five species of wildcat, including pumas and jaguars, and rare giant otters the size of large dogs. All incredibly illusive so if you spot one grab the next available lottery ticket cause baby, you’re on a lucky streak.

Isla Holbox
Holbox street art from Mexico’s first International Public Art Festival (Kinga Philipps)

Another interesting and less expected bonus of Isla Holbox is the art scene. Dubbed the “secret graffiti island,” Holbox hosted Mexico’s first International Public Art Festival in 2014 leaving an additional splash of color on an already kaleidoscope-like location. Beautiful murals adorn everything from buildings to crumbling beach rubble. Much of the art features local life depicting fishermen and ocean scenes reminding visitors that the heart and soul of this pace comes from the water that surrounds it.

Like everything of value, charm and serenity, a steady influx of suitors threatens the peaceful atmosphere even as I write this. A virgin tourist spot it is not anymore, but it still has the breathing room that other Caribbean destinations have lost. My suggestion is that you pack the mosquito repellent along with a desire for unique experiences and leave your tracks in the Holbox sand sooner rather than later.

Isla Holbox
Enjoying sunset on Isla Holbox just before a swarm of mosquitos chased us back to our beach bungalows (Kinga Philipps)



Travel Back to Victorian Egypt

During the Victorian era, fascination with Egyptian antiquities was at an all time high. During the English occupation of Egypt, tourist from all over Europe would flock to the ancient city to see one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Two Greek brothers, C. and G. Zangaki, would capitalize on the boom the booming industry and produce souvenirs for European tourist photographing the ancient ruins, the bustling cities of Cairo and Port Said, as well as posed shots of Egyptian peoples.

Although little is know about the Zangaki brothers, their pictures serve as a reminder of an age of discovery and curiosity.

European tourists on camels pose with their guides in front of the Sphinx and one of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. (Rijks Museum/Europeana)
Palms groves on the Nile near the pyramids (Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe/Europeana)
Statue of Memphis at Sakkara (Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe/Europeana)
Obelisk of Heliopolis- Senusret I (Europeana)
Portrait of two veiled women circa 1895. (Rijksmuseum/Europeana)
Turkish woman on couch. (Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe/Europeana)
Six men around the gateway to the pyramid of Khufu. (Rijks Museum/Europeana)
Three women climb one of the Great Pyramids of Giza with the help of local guides. (Rijks Museum/Europeana)
A Besharin man on a camel with shield and spear (C&G Zangaki/Rijksmuseum)
Bacharin woman (Rijks Museum/Europeana)
Bicharin soldier (Rijks Museum/Europeana)
River view at a mosque in Alexandria (Rijks Museum/Europeana)
View of Cairo and Al-Hussein Mosque (Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe/Europeana)
A man stands on the head of the Great Sphinx (Rijks Museum/Europeana)
Flooded banks of the Nile (Rijksmuseum/Europeana)
Mecca caravan passing by a dredging barge. (Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe/Europeana)

The Secret Life of Flight Attendants

In 2019, Virgin America will go the way of airlines like PamAm, TWA and countless others. The airline, which has been in operation since 2007, is merging with Alaska Airlines and will soon become a distant memory.  One flight attendant has set out to preserve Virgin America’s history before it disappears forever.

Molly Chroma has spent nearly a decade as a flight attendant for Virgin America and began bringing along her camera during her flight shifts. She snapped photos of her colleagues a few years into her career with the airline. Her hobby took on a new sense of importance when the deal between Alaska Air and Virgin America was announced. Her work eventually caught the eye of Virgin America headquarters. She was recruited to document the airlines culture before its end.

Her series, The Secret Life of Virgins, is a culmination of nearly 10 years in the sky. “I just wanted to preserve it, not necessarily for the public, but for my friends and people like me who grew up with Virgin America,” Choma tells Travel + Leisure.

Take a look behind the airline curtains below.

The Secret Life of Virgins
Sam and Annie (Molly Chroma)
The Secret Life of Virgins
Betsy (Molly Chroma)
The Secret Life of Virgins
Virgin America’s culture and history will live on long after it shuts down in 2019 (Molly Chroma)
The Secret Life of Virgins
A flight attendant knits during some down time (Molly Chroma)
The Secret Life of Virgins
Members of Virgin America crew participate in safety drills (Molly Chroma)
The Secret Life of Virgins
Flight Attendant Jennifer embraces her instructor, Karen, after she successfully completes an emergency evacuation drill. (Molly Chroma)
The Secret Life of Virgins
Chroma’s candid moments of the stewards offer a glimpse behind the cabin curtain (Molly Chroma)
The Secret Life of Virgins
Bree + Torri + [redacted bodily function] (Molly Chroma)
The Secret Life of Virgins
Joaquin. Sunday flying. (Molly Chroma)
The Secret Life of Virgins
Natasha (Molly Chroma)


Photographer Explores Our Obsession With Wealth

Photographer Lauren Greenfield has been documenting the shift in values and in the American Dream for the last 25 years. Her series Generation Wealth provides and insightful investigation into the pursuit of wealth, and its material trappings and elusive promises of happiness, and how it has evolved since the early 1990s.

Greenfield reveals stories of students, single parents, and families overwhelmed by crushing debt, yet determined to purchase luxury goods and experiences far beyond their reach. The series was primarily focused on American stories but also includes perspectives from Ireland, Iceland, the United Arab Emirates, China and Russia.

The visual record and thematic investigation of wealth obsession features over 200 photographs, candid interviews, and documentary film footage. Weaving together stories about affluence, beauty, body image, competition, corruption, fantasy, and excess, Greenfield’s project questions the distance between value and commodity in a globalized consumerist culture.

“This is about the desire for wealth and how that has become a driving force—and at the same time an increasingly unrealistic goal—for individuals from all classes of society,” says Greenfield.

Generation Wealth, orginally shown at the Annenberg Space for Photography, is currently on exhibit at ICP Museum through Jan. 7, 2018 and was recently published through Phaidon.

Here’s a look at the series below.

Generation Wealth
A selected VIP guest “makes it rain” with hundreds of one dollar bills on a sold-out Saturday night at Marquee Las Vegas. The club uses this unique technique to set the mood and pump up the crowd. Marquee relies heavily on pushing premium champagne and liquor bottle service to a clientele eager to spend money. The pairing of high-caliber DJs with the over-the-top extravagance of the club is part of what makes this club the highest grossing nightclub in America. (Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE/Courtesy Phaidon)
Generation Wealth
Crenshaw High School girls selected by a magazine to receive
“Oscar treatment” for a prom photo shoot take a limo to the event with their dates, Culver City, California, 2001. (Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE)
Generation Wealth
Film director and producer Brett Ratner (right), 29, and Russell Simmons, 41, a businessman and cofounder of hip-hop label Def Jam, at L’Iguane restaurant, St. Barts, 1998. Few establishments on the island accepted credit cards, and visitors often carried large amounts of cash. (Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE)
Generation Wealth
Xue Qiwen, 43, in her Shanghai apartment, decorated with furniture from her favorite brand, Versace, 2005. (Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE)
Generation Wealth
“Limo Bob”, the self-proclaimed “Limo King”, holds the record for owning the longest limousine in the world. Bob builds, sells and rents out limos in his hometown of Chicago, IL, and has created a fleet that includes the record-breaking 100-foot limo, and another made from a Boeing 727. (Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE/Courtesy Phaidon)
Generation Wealth
Jackie and friends with Versace handbags at a private opening at the Versace store, Beverly Hills, California, 2007. (Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE)
Generation Wealth
Ilona, a photographer and former model originally from Latvia, in the mezzanine library of her home, which so far contains only copies of a self-published book of her fashion photographs, Moscow, 2012. (Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE)
Generation Wealth
Christina Alaniz, soon to be Mrs. Torres, and her parents take Cinderella’s glass coach to the ceremony, the grand method of transportation Christina chose as part of her Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding package. Disney was a big part of their family vacations when Christina was growing up, but when they fell into a financial slump; they were unable to visit for several years. This time, Christina, who is financially independent, brought her parents, which was very special for her to give them that gift. (Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE/Courtesy Phaidon)
Generation Wealth