Nashville, TN is known for two major things: music and food. During my short time there, I got my fill of both!


My mom and I having our first beers in Nashville, 2016. c. Leah Putz

If you’ve got music in your soul- especially country music- you’ve got to make your way to Tennessee’s biggest city. When strolling along Broadway whether it be day or night you’ll hear live music blasting from nearly every bar. There’s also a lot of talented musicians playing on the sidewalks, so you can enjoy the music as you walk!


Tootsies, 2016. c. Leah Putz

On Broadway sits Tootsies World Famous Orchid Lounge. As the most well-known honkey tonk bar in Nashville, Tootsies has hosted a variety of famous acts on its three stages. The likes of Taylor Swift, Willie Nelson, and Patsy Cline have all performed here. Though the drinks are a bit expensive, it’s worth stopping by Tootsies to appreciate it’s hall of fame if nothing else.

History and/or art buffs should head to the Parthenon- a full scale reconstruction of the ancient temple in Athens, Greece. The building, located in the center of Centennial Park, functions as art museum. For those of us who may not get to go to Greece, it’s exciting to be able to see a complete replica of one of the world’s most iconic structure.

Parthenon in Centennial Park, 2016. c. Leah Putz

When in the south you can’t miss an opportunity to enjoy the amazing food. A big southern breakfast is a special treat, and there are many diners in Nashville that have menus stock full of delicious southern options such as chicken and waffles and, my personal favorite, biscuits and gravy. We went to 417 Union, a diner whose main floor pay homage to the WWII era and whose upper deck is styled in the Civil War era. As soon as we entered the diner it felt like we had stepped back in time!


An Art-Lovers Guide to Minneapolis

When you think of artistic cities, Minnesota doesn’t usually come to mine. But maybe it should. Minnesota has a history of producing brilliant artistic minds such as Prince and Bob Dylan, and there are many places in the city of Minneapolis to see beautiful and famous works of art. Here are the Twin Cities’ top five places to see works of art and architecture!


  1. Basilica of Saint Mary


Reminiscent of the catholic cathedrals it’s modeled after, the Basilica of Saint Mary can’t be missed amongst the modern buildings of downtown Minneapolis. Built in the early 1900s, the building belongs to the National Register of Historic Places as it was the first basilica in the United States! Since the 1990s, an annual weekend music festival called the Basilica Block Party has been held at the Basilica.


  1. Cathedral of Saint Paul


Overlooking downtown St. Paul stands the magnificent Cathedral of Saint Paul. This Cathedral is one of the largest in the United States, and it is a signature of the St. Paul skyline. Though the current cathedral wasn’t open until 1915, a chapel has been at that location since the early 1800s when St. Paul was a small community known as ‘Pig’s Eye.’ The Cathedral itself is a beautiful work of art, complete with rose windows and a bronze baldachin over a statue of Saint Paul. There is also an exact replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta in the Cathedral, so if you’re unable to make it to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, it may be easier to get to St. Paul to see the replica of one of the most famous and moving sculptures of all time.


  1. Walker Art Center


This modern art museum is home to many well known works of art, such as Andy Warhol’s 16 Jackies and one of my favorite paintings, Chuck Close’s Big Self-Portrait. It’s location near the Basilica of Saint Mary and the Sculpture Garden make it an ideal place to visit as you can see many different things in this one block area.


  1. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden


Right next door to the Walker Art Center and the Basilica of Saint Mary sits the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Functioning as a sort of outdoor museum, the Sculpture Garden is home to countless famous works of art, the most well known being Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg, which located at the center of the garden.


  1. Minneapolis Institute of Art


My personal favorite on this list is the Minneapolis Institute of Art, locally known affectionately as the M.I.A.. One of the largest art museums in the country, I still have yet to see all it has to offer despite having been there countless times. The museum has a large collection of paintings, prints, and sculptures from all over the world and often features temporary special exhibits. Right now it is housing the Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters exhibit until the end of May, which allows viewers to catch a glimpse into the brilliant director’s mind.

Schloss Heidelberg

Nestled into the hills of Western Germany sits the medieval town of Heidelberg. The town is home to Germany’s oldest university, Heidelberg University, which was founded in 1386, and is a popular tourist destination as well. Tourist flock to the Altstadt (aka the Old town) to admire the baroque architecture, wander through the cobble-stoned streets, and see the imposing Heidelberg Castle.


Me delighting in what I called a ‘Hobbit door’ in the Altstadt, 2013. c. Leah Putz


View of Schloss Heidlelberg from the Altstadt, 2013. c. Leah Putz

For me, the castle was the main attraction. Heidelberg Castle is situation high on a bluff, overlooking the town, and has stood there since the 1200s. Throughout the hundreds of years it has existed, it’s been damaged and rebuilt many times by fire, weather, and war, but has ultimately stood the test of time.


Powder Tower, destroyed in 1689 by the French, 2013. c. Leah Putz

The castle ruins are actually comprised of two different castles, the latter being an expansion built nearly a hundred years after the construction of the first castle. The joint castles were turned into a proper fortress in 1401, when King Ruprecht became king of Germany.

The view of Heidelberg Altstadt from the castle, 2013. c. Leah Putz

Due to the length of time the castle has stood and how often sections had to be rebuilt, there are varying forms of architecture that meld together beautiful. The castle maintains a cohesive look due to the various sections are all built using the same color stone, which gives it a unique red-toned look. Germany’s history is also displayed in the castle, as some of the main buildings in the interior have countless statues depicting many of Germany’s past kings and rulers.


Wall of Schloss Heidelberg and statues of kings, 2013. c. Leah Putz

To this day, I think Heidelberg Castle is the most majestic structure I’ve had the pleasure of exploring. There is an overwhelming sense of beauty and history in this ancient structure, and if you find yourself in West Germany, I highly recommend making a stop in the captivating city of Heidelberg.

Florence: A City of Art

As an art lover myself, I feel confident in saying that Florence is a dream city for those who love art. It’s rich history has produced the likes of Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli, among others. There is hardly a name from the Italian Renaissance that doesn’t have the stamp ‘Made in Florence’ on it.


Statue of da Vinci in a Piazza, 2011. c. Renee Brown

One of the most important names in Florentine history is the name of Medici. The Medici were a prominent banking family that rose to power in the 13th century. They not only had their hands in the banks, but politics, art, and religion not only in Florence but in Rome as well, have put into place no less than 4 popes during their 300 year reign. Under Cosimo de Medici, who rose to power in 1434, and his son and then grandson Lorenzo the Magnificent, the arts in Florence thrived. The Medici supported artists such as Brunelleschi, da Vinci, and other household names of the Renaissance. The palace of the Medici, the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, is now a museum that can be toured. I saw the building, but didn’t have a chance to go inside. Considering the importance of the Medici, I’ll be sure to visit when I go to Florence again someday.

Exterior and Interior of the Duomo, 2011. c. Renee Brown

Perhaps the most famous landmark in Florence is the Duomo, or the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiori. Construction began on the cathedral in 1296 and took 140 years to complete, and for the majority of this time it stood dome-less. The creation of the dome was a problem for the medieval architects constructing the Cathedral. The domes in Rome had been built by the Romans, and the measurements and skills required had been lost during the dark ages, so no one knew how to build a dome, let alone one of the size and weight required for the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiori. That all changed when the Medici commissioned Filippo Brunelleschi. He took on one of the most difficult projects of the Renaissance, and he completed it in only 16 years. To this day, the Duomo is, to me at least, the most impressive and awe-inspiring landmark in Florence. One of my favorite things I did in Florence was climb the 463 steps through a narrow, twisting corridor to the top of the Duomo to catch a bird’s eye view of the city and the surrounding Tuscan landscape.


On top of the Duomo, 2011. c. Leah Putz

Close by the Duomo lies,  the Baptistery of Saint John. This octagonal building was constructed between 1059 and 1128, making it one of the oldest buildings in Florence. This alone makes it worth visiting, but when you consider the doors of Ghiberti as well, it becomes clear that you can’t visit Florence without visiting the Baptistery. Lorenzo Ghiberti won the opportunity to design the doors of the Baptistery in a competition in 1401. In the next 21 years after winning, Ghiberti created his masterpiece- gilded bronze doors with 28 panels detailing scenes from the New Testament, as well as the Four Evangelists and the Church Fathers- The Gates of Paradise. The Gates of Paradise on the Baptistery now are copies so as to preserve the originals, but they are no less magnificent.

The Gates of Paradise by Ghiberti, 2011. c. Renee Brown

A visit to Florence isn’t complete without stopping in at least one of it’s many museums. The Accademia Gallery and the Uffizi Gallery are two of the most well-known of these, and for good reason. I was forced with the decision of choosing which to go to as I didn’t have time to visit both, so I made my way to the Accademia Gallery to see one of the most famous statues in history, David by Michelangelo. The Accademia has many other masterpieces by Michelangelo and others to be seen, but it is most well known for housing David. No photos were permitted in the Gallery, but I can tell you David stands tall, mighty, and overwhelming under a skylight in the center of four converging halls in the museum.

The Uffizi Gallery is just as marvelous as the Accademia. Some of the most famous Renaissance paintings are displayed in the Uffizi, including The Birth of Venus and La Primavera by Botticelli, Venus of Urbino by Titian, Bacchus by Caravaggio, and Judith and Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi. With a compliation this fantastic, the Uffizi is a must-see even for those who aren’t in love with art.

Florence stands as one of the mightiest cities in history. It’s rich contributions to western culture and art have shaped the world as it is today. This ancient city holds some of the most world-renowned works of art in European history, and it’s impossible to stroll through its streets without feeling this richness of its history and culture.


Ponte Vecchio and Arno River, 2011. c. Renee Brown