Joel Garten exhibition in Newport Wales

My artwork was included in the 2014 group show “Painting to Music” at Upmarket Gallery in Newport, South Wales curated by David Wakely. The show explored the connection between art and music.


Joel Garten in wales art show painting to music

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New Paintings

I haven’t posted anything to this blog in a long time, so here are some new paintings I have done recently.


Painting by Joel Garten made in Atlanta

Painting by Joel Garten made in Atlanta


Painting by Joel Garten made in Atlanta

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Atlanta Emerging Artist

I am an emerging artist originally from Toronto, Canada but now living Atlanta, Ga.  My artwork is intense and filled with energy.  I work mainly in mixed media on paper. Along with being an emerging artist, I am also a composer and writer.  My artwork is inspired by the flow of music and rhythm, and as an artist I have many influences, from abstract expressionism to Asian textiles.  My studio is in downtown Atlanta in the Old Fourth Ward Area. – Joel Garten 

Untitled” by Joel Garten


Untitled” by Joel Garten

Untitled” by Joel Garten

joel garten art

Untitled” by Joel Garten






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Prepared piano

I am an emerging composer, improviser and pianist based in Toronto.  When I improvise, I often play on the strings of the piano.  I love the sounds I get from different types of brushes.  I use a number of different implements, including an Indonesian gamelan mallet, chop sticks, miniature drum sticks, and clips. The art of putting things on the piano strings to change the sound is called prepared piano.

Joel Garten Prepared piano, playing on the strings of the piano

Joel Garten Prepared piano, playing on the strings of the piano

Joel Garten playing on the strings of the piano – 4 from Joel Garten on Vimeo.

Joel Garten perfoming on the strings of the piano. A live improvisation.

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Joel Garten: The Artist In The Studio

Here are some photos of me working in the studio. I use a lot of different mediums, oil pastel, oil paint, oil stick and acrylic. Sometimes I use them all in one piece! I work very intuitively and I really like using my hands to do handpainting or fingerpainting. My work is expressive, and are influenced by my work as a composer and by Abstract Expressionism and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Photos by Bill Kobzey.

Visit my website to see more image


Artworks on the floor of the studio

Artworks on the floor of the studio

Joel painting with his hand

Joel painting with his hand

Acrylic on paper painting

Acrylic on paper painting

mixed media on paper artwork by emerging artist Joel Garten

mixed media on paper artwork by emerging artist Joel Garten

Artist at work in the studio

Artist at work in the studio

Working oil pastel on paper

Working oil pastel on paper

closeup of the artist at work

closeup of the artist at work

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New Improvised Piano Music

I just posted a new piece of improvised piano music on Soundcloud.  My music is inspired and influenced by Keith Jarrett and Morton Feldman. I have been improvising piano music for more than 20 years  My piano improvisations are also influenced by visual artist, such as Giorgio Morandi, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko. I consider my music to be Art Music, as in music that is art. The intersection of music and art is very important to me, as I am also a visual artist. My art and music are united in following a sense of “flow” of one thing progressing to the next naturally,

improvised piano music

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Music for Modern Dance

Music for Modern Dance, Provided Royalty Free

I am a composer, improviser and pianist in Toronto. I have been improvising music for more than 20 years.  My work is influenced by Morton Feldman and Keith Jarrett, as well as visual artists such as Mark Rothko. I provide recordings of my music to dance companies for performances of modern dance.  These recording are of my piano improvisations, and the music is provided royalty-free to modern dance companies. (with permission).

My improvisations have a lot to do with dance.  I move around while I play in a dance-like way, and my work is very gestural – it is based on the physical feeling of playing the music and the spatial relationship of the keys, as much as by sound.  My rhythms are very complex and are always shifting subtly, something than can provide a fascinating interplay with choreography.

If you would like to hear my music, visit my website and click on Art Msuc, then the “listen” link. The material on the website is only a sample, I have an archive of material that I can provide if you would like to hear a larger selection of my work. I have a lifelong love of dance, and I am interested in collaborations, live performances and commissions of new work for dance as well.

Music for Modern Dance

Music for Modern Dance by Joel Garten

(photo by Bill Kobzey)

Joel Garten’s Website: 

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Abstract Art

I am an abstract painter from Toronto, Canada.  I paint abstract artwork which unites line and color with energy and beauty.  My work is usually mixed media on paper, though I do also paint on canvas. I have shown my work in New York City, and my studio is in downtown Toronto. – Joel Garten

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Sassetta, The Journey of the Magi

Sassetta was a Sienese painter, one of my favorites painters of the renaissance.  This painting is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I visit it whenever I am there.  The composition of this painting is very mysterious, with the monkey, the stork and the central figure. Sassetta’s landscapes are always really barren and strangely beautiful.


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Sassanian King

Sassanian King

This is a magnificent work of art, a portrait in silver of a Sassanian King, that resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  It is a little smaller than life size. The Sassanians were the rulers of ancient Iran, and had a taste for amazing works in silver.  The Kings were differentiated by each having a different and interesting crown.

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Artist Profile: Interview with Steel Pan Master and Composer Andy Akiho

This is the new article about composer and percussionist Andy Akiho I wrote.It was published on the Huffington Post.  You can also read the article on the Arts and Music Journal Fresh Pound

composer Andy Akiho

Many thanks to Vicky Chow for helping to arrange this interview.

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My next upcoming concert: Nov 27 2013 At Musideum, Toronto

Joel Garten in Concert

November 27, 2013 at 8 pm $18.00 / $14.00 Students/Artists/

Musideum 401 Richmond St. W Main Floor Toronto, Ontario (at Richmond St. W. and Spadina) FREE PARKING in rear of building.

Joel Garten: “the Jackson Pollock of the piano”

Hear emerging composer and pianist Joel Garten take the stage to play an engrossing concert of piano improvisations. His spellbinding work sounds like a meeting of Keith Jarrett and Morton Feldman, two of Garten’s main musical influences.. An accomplished musician, Garten was invited by Bryan Adams to give a concert at Adams’ recording studio in Vancouver. Garten has an interesting and engrossing unique musical sensibility, forged over two decades of engagement with music.  He has studied gamelan in Bali, Indonesia, played an impromptu concert in Uzbekistan, and played an improvised concert in a tiny rice farming village in Japan as part of the Echigo-Tsumari Triennial.  He had his first CD produced by Jazz FM 91′s Jaymz Bee, when Garten was just 13.

Garten’s music is inspired and influenced by such visual artists as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Giorgio Morandi.  Garten is also a painter, writer and entrepreneur, as well as a textile collector.

He is in the currently writing a series of artist profiles of new music performers and composers which have been published on the Huffington Post, including an article and interview with Esprit Orchestra conductor Alex Pauk.

The Musideum is a musical instrument museum and concert venue in the 401 Richmond building at Richmond and Spadina in downtown Toronto. It boasts a C. Bechstein grand piano, one of the top pianos in the city.  It hosts a wide variety of jazz, classical and improvised music.

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Tiny Tips for Starting on the Road to Health

This is an article I wrote that was just published on the Huffington Post.  

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Joel Garten is the featured composer today on Composer’s Circle

Today I am the featured composer on Composer’s Circle!

here is the permalink incase you missed it


They featured a beautiful piano improvisation I performed at a concert last year in Toronto.

Of course there is a lot of my music you can hear on my website and on my soundcloud

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Artist and Composer Joel Garten announces his new painting series entitled “Permanent Crimson”

Artist and Composer Joel Garten announces his new painting series entitled “Permanent Crimson”

Emerging Artist

Two works by Joel Garten in the Permanent Crimson series.  Joel Garten’s new series of works prominently feature intense reds, saturated crimson colors and warm pinks.

Toronto emerging art

“Permanent Crimson III” by Joel Garten, 36×48 inches, mixed media on canvas

Joel Garten is now in the process of creating a new series of works entitled “Permanent Crimson” based on the deep burnt red color of the same name.  His new series of works on canvas are large scale and have a bold expressionist style, remaining true to Garten’s influence from Jean-Michel Basquiat and Abstract Expressionism.

Garten, who is also a composer, improviser and pianist, utilizes a gestural intuitive process to create his artworks.  They are imbued with an intensity and energy which shares a common origin with his intense, passionate piano improvisations which he has honed over two decades.

He believes in following a sense of flow in artistic creation.  “Whatever I create, be it art or music or even my whole life, I feel a sense of flow – of one thing progressing to the next naturally and intuitively, guided occasionally by conscious intervention.”

He has become entranced by the possibilities of using deep, intense red and pink colors in this new series, from ruby reds to light pinks. “I started to use a new acrylic paint which is very liquid and allows a lot of manipulation in a finger or hand painting technique.  It is a very expressive medium.  I knew I needed to pair down my chromatic range to concentrate more on the compositional elements of the paintings, to feel more of the feeling of the line, to let it really express itself. Therefore I have focused on this set of colors, ones that I find very beautiful and very expressive.”

Garten’s work is recognized for its energetic hand, and often draws comparison to Cy Twombly, though his works draws upon a multitude of artistic influences and inspiration. Garten has an encyclopaedic knowledge of art gained through obsessively visiting museums in more than 40 countries.

“I have a broad appreciation for art in many forms, from old master paintings to Islamic calligraphy to Balinese music to Burmese textiles.  The creative spirit runs through my whole life.”

Indeed, Garten lives what he describes as an artist’s life. “I follow that sense of flow through my everyday life, one that is filled with creative potential, but that remains a two edged sword – sometimes I can be overwhelmed by my own thoughts and dreams.”

Joel Garten’s art and music can be viewed and listened to on his website,  He is based in Toronto but also has a presence in New York City.  He is currently planning an exhibition of his “Permanent Crimson” works as well as working on a new CD of piano improvisations.


Abstraction artwork

“Permanent Crimson IV” by Joel Garten, 36×48 inches, mixed media on canvas

Art in Toronto
“Permanent Crimson VI” by Joel Garten, 36×48 inches, mixed media on canvas

Joel Garten, photo of the artist
Joel Garten

Painting Toronto
“Permanent Crimson VIII” by Joel Garten, 36×48 inches, mixed media on canvas

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Artist Profile: Esprit Orchestra Conductor Alex Pauk

Artist Profile: Esprit Orchestra Conductor Alex Pauk.

This is an article I wrote that was just published on the Huffington Post.  You can also read it on the Arts and Music Magazine FRESH POUND.

Esprit orchestra Toronto


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An Article about the music I wrote and performed during Hurricane Sandy

The writer Colin Cronin has written an article about the music I composed and performed during Hurricane Sandy, on the website String Visions

“This is a truly remarkable story. To visualize how in the midst of destruction and chaos, one person harnesses those energies and directs them towards creative purposes in order to generate works of art is inspiring.”

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Music I composed and recorded Live during Hurricane Sandy

An Article I published on the Huffington Post:

During Hurricane Sandy, I heard the howling of the wind and the driving rain outside my studio in Toronto. Sandy was hitting Toronto hard, and I was surveying the scenes of the wreckage on the internet. But then I got up and went to the piano, and I became very still and very meditative, and I began to play. After an hour had passed, I had a new body of work; I had improvised a series of new works for the piano, music inspired by the intensity of the storm, but also the sense of calm that had come over me.

There were pieces of metal siding being blown down the street outside, clanging around in the wind. And the trees were shaking violently. But in my warm studio, I was at peace and composing up a storm of my own.

emerging composer

Here are two recordings from that night. Like most of my music, they are very avant-garde works, which are influenced both by the classical minimalist Morton Feldman and as well by the jazz pianist Keith Jarrett :

The first recording is me improvising a new work on the piano. I am playing the keys of the piano with my left hand, and with my right hand I am playing on the strings of the piano with an Indonesian gamelan mallet.

I learned Balinese music in Bali many years ago, studying with an elderly gamelan master. I still had the rubber-headed mallets from the gamelan instrument I learned there, and often use them to play the strings of the piano.

Here is the live recording of that piece:

I use all sorts of implements to play on the strings of the piano, including paint brushes, chop sticks, miniature drum sticks, as well as my hands and fingers. I particularly like to use different types of brushes on the strings, using each different type of brush to create a subtly different type of sound.

Here is a video of me performing on the strings with some implements (from October 20):

The second recording of that night is a longer improvisation which is solely played on the keyboard, and both more contemplative and more intense. I am exploring some new ideas that have come into my music in the last few days, as well as feeling the energy of the weather outside.

Here is the live recording of that piece of music:

After I had recorded the new works, I uploaded them to SoundCloud, a new sound-based social networking website that is considered the facebook of sound, and is very popular among new music artists for sharing music. Within a matter of minutes my new works that were inspired by Hurricane Sandy were up on the internet, and people were listening to them, while the hurricane was still going on.

That night, very late, I wandered into the streets to walk home. It was frightening to walk down the street, the trees were being blown around so violently. I was afraid of being hit by a branch as I nervously walked down the street, watching the pieces of metal siding being blown about. I made it home safe and sound, as my music was being heard around the world.

To learn more and to hear more music by Joel Garten, please visit his website at


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HD Video Interview with Vivian Reiss in her amazing artist’s garden in Toronto. 16 Foot tall corn!

Watch this HD video interview I did with artist Vivian Reiss in her urban farming garden in Toronto.  It featues 16 foot tall broom corn, multi-colored amaranth, and gardening secrets. Enjoy!

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My Music: video and audio files on the web

You can now listen to my music, which is solo piano impovisations, on my website: Joel Garten piano improvsiations 

A work by Joel Garten: piano improvisation, recorded live, Sept 26, 2012.

A work by Joel Garten: piano improvisation, recorded live, October 4, 2012.

To listen to audio, visit my website Joel Garten solo piano improvisations Toronto / new music Listen

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Artist Profile: The ‘Mix Tape’ New Music Pianist Vicky Chow

You can read the latest article I wrote for the Huffington Post, a profile of new music pianist Vicky Chow:

You can also read it on the Arts and Music Magazine FRESH POUND.

pianist vicky chow in new york

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Joel Garten in Concert, October 10, 2012 at Gallery 345, Toronto

I will be playing a concert of my improvisations on October 10 2012 at Gallery 345.  As many people know, Gallery 345 is rapidly becoming known in the Toronto new music scene as a place where people come to really listen, and to hear what is new out there.

canadian pianist

I will be playing about an hour of improvisations on the piano.  The concert is named the same as this blog “The Beauty of Life”.  This concert is the culmination of 2 decades composing music and improvising on the piano.  The search for beauty in music, as in life, continues, with passion, and with a heartfelt presence, music created with soul and with an intuitive spirit.  You can hear some recent recordings of my music here:

I hope you can make it to this concert, I know you will enjoy it.

“The Beauty of Life” Joel Garten in Concert

October 10, 2012 at 8 pm

$20.00 / $10.00 Students/Seniors/Artists

Gallery 345
345 Sorauren Avenue , Toronto Canada
Located near Dundas and Roncesvalles Ave.
t 416.822.9781

Pianist and composer Joel Garten plays a passionate concert of his solo piano improvisations, work that is intense yet contemplative; a meeting of Keith Jarrett and Morton Feldman. At the nexus of experimental classical music and avant-jazz, Garten creates heartfelt music that marries sonorous repetitive rhythms with fluid melody and dissonance.

visit the facebook event page

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Cathedral in Astorga, Spain

Astorga is just a small town but it has a huge cathedral. Here is a photo I took of the beautifully carved front facade.

astorga cathedral

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Toronto Travel: 5 Great Summer Outings

Toronto Travel: 5 great summer outings

By Joel Garten, Originally published in the Huffington Post

When the temperature rises in Toronto, Canada during the brief summer, I love to get out and enjoy some of these off-the-beaten track outings.


1) Berry picking at Whittamore’s Farm
A great summer outing is to visit this farm that is set up to allow you to pick your own berries and vegetables straight from the field. It is great fun to go out into the fields and pick to your heart’s content. I particularly like picking raspberries. There are a number of different things you can pick, such as strawberries and peas. Check their website to find out what it available. Your picked produce is weighed on the way out and it is fairly inexpensive. I bought 10 lbs of green peas for only $20 and left very happy. Note that they don’t weigh you, so you might take a few nibbles as you pick, despite the big signs at the cashier that proclaim No Eating! With all the different nationalities of people who come to pick it is a veritable United Nations of berry picking.

rapsberry picking in Toronto

Tips for picking raspberries: you know a raspberry is ripe when it is a reddish color and comes off in your hand when you pick it.  If you have to pull too hard to get it off the plant, it is not ripe.  Another tip is to avoid the very dark red ones, they are over-ripe and can end up a mushy mess in your picking box.  They offer picking boxes for sale for only $1 at the farm, and a rope to tie the box around your stomach to keep both hands free for picking.

2) The Guild and Scarborough Bluffs
Scarborough is not known for its beauty as a city – it is mainly a suburban agglomeration east of downtown – but it has an astoundingly beautiful coastline on Lake Ontario called the Scarbourough Bluffs. The high sandy peaks that lead down into the blue waters of Lake Ontario are remnants of a much larger lake that existed during the glacial periods. One of the nicest places to see the bluffs is at the Guild Park, also known as Guildwood Park. Here there is an added bonus, as the park is home to a great collection of architectural remnants – parts of 19th century buildings that were relocated to the park from downtown Toronto. Most of the architectural remnants reached the park in the 1970s when numerous beautiful bank buildings in downtown Toronto were demolished. In the park you can wander around Greek-revival marble columns and arches and carved reliefs, among many other architectural features. A forested path leads to the bluffs where you can take in great views of the water.


3) Sugar Beach
One of Toronto’s newer parks, Sugar Beach, is east of the main waterfront area in downtown. It is next to the Redpath Sugar factory, and the design plays off this delightful association. Pink umbrellas and white beach chairs sit on an artificial beach of light pink sand overlooking Lake Ontario. It is a fun design, and you can also walk along a boardwalk to another little park called Lower Sherbourne Commons with its artificial river. A very relaxing, enjoyable place to spend a couple of hours.

4) Kayaking Lake Ontario
Another beautiful, relaxing outing is to go kayaking in Toronto’s harbour. You can rent a kayak or canoe at Paddle Toronto . You can rent a single or double kayak, which I prefer over the canoe – they are easier to steer and don’t take much (if any) previous skill. With the canoes you have to know what you are doing or take a lesson.  It’s great to take an outing into the Toronto Islands and see a spectacular view of the city skyline.  It can be a bit pricey, but you can buy a book of stamps to use for several outings at a reduced rate.

kayaking in toronto

5) The Leslie Street Spit
The Leslie Street Spit is in the far east side of Toronto’s waterfront. It is an idyllic point of land jutting out into lake Ontario, and the long road along the spit is a favorite for rollerbladers, walkers and cyclists. It is beautiful, with wildflowers, trees and ample wildlife, including many varieties of bird, cute little bunny rabbits and even a small colony of coyotes (rarely seen, and no danger to the average visitor!). Such a pastoral natural setting against the blue of the lake is a dreamy outing from the city. Most of the land is actually created through landfill, and dumping of cleanfill along the spit still occurs, growing the size of the spit every year. Along the spit you can enjoy views of downtown Toronto and the harbour. 

toronto's leslie street spit is great for walking, rollerblading, and biking

This article was originally published on Joel Garten’s blog: The Beauty of Life.

Be sure to check out Joel’s travel tips for Venice and Florence!

Follow Joel Garten on Twitter:


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The Scoop on Europe’s Ridiculously Cheap Airline, Ryanair

by Joel Garten
originally published in the Huffington Post 

If you want to travel from city to city in Europe on the cheap, you should turn to Ryanair, Europe’s quirky yet ridiculously inexpensive airline.

Europe’s Schengen agreement has gotten rid of customs at the border, and with this ease of travel has come a number of low cost airlines.  Ryanair is the most popular, in fact it is one of the largest airlines in the world based on number of international travelers.  The airfare rates are often seriously reduced.  For example, a recent search showed a one-way fare from Santander, Spain to Pisa, Italy to be €12. But one shouldn’t confuse it with a normal discount airline you would find in North America.  There are numerous quirks.

First off, everything is done on the cheap on Ryanair.  That begins with the logo, which looks like they spent ten minutes and ten dollars creating it.  Before boarding, you must check in online and print out your boarding pass on an 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper.  If you don’t, they will charge you €60 to print your boarding pass.  I know, ridiculous!  If you are traveling while you make your booking, make sure you have access to a printer to print out your boarding pass.

Ryanair is often fastidious about baggage.  They allow only one – and they mean one – piece of carry on baggage, including any purse, laptop bag, etc.  And they can be pretty tough about ensuring your carry on luggage can fit into their size requirements.  This can be a real hassle, as I learned on my first Ryanair flight when I had two bags (not knowing the rule) and was charged €60 to gate check the bag.  All  checked luggage (that you pay for in advance when you check in online) costs €15 or more, and extra fees apply  for additional luggage over one piece.  At different airports they can more or less fastidious about their carry-on rules (some even allow you to take an extra bag of duty free), but it’s worthwhile planning ahead so you don’t get hit with extra fees.

Another quirk is that they do not have assigned seats, so you must line up in advance of the opening of the gate to boarding to get a seat. When they allow you on board, everyone scrambles on to the plane like a herd of sheep and tries to get whatever seat they want.  I would suggest that to make the whole thing more pleasant, you should upgrade to priority seating for only €5, or buy an assigned seat in one of the first two rows for €10.  It is well worth it.

Other quirks include lack of seatback magazine compartments – they hand you a booklet of in-flight reading.  This must really cut down on airplane clean up times and lower their turnaround times.  In fact, they claim to have the best on time record of any airline in Europe.

Other little quirks abound: The bulkheads are plastered with advertising; they have no in-flight entertainment; they constantly try to up sell you on their website and in the flight.

And be warned, while the fares are cheap, there are little extras that can bump up the cost of the fare, such as a €6 administration fee on all filghts, the cost of in-flight meals, etc.

Another big consideration is that they occasionally fly to airports that are nearby major destinations, such as the Milan airport, which is actually in the nearby town of Bergamo; or the Paris airport, which is really in the city of Beauvais more than an hour away.  If flying with Ryanair, make sure you know which airport you are flying into.  In my experience, even though they fly into secondary airports, the secondary airports are well equipped to get you to the major city you intend to travel to.  For example, when I flew into the Charleroi airport, they had half hourly buses for an inexpensive fare to get me into the center of Brussels, Belgium.  Another handy airport is the Pisa, Italy airport, from which I took an hour long bus ride to get to the center of Florence.

Another major quirk is that Ryanair doesn’t have its fares published on the popular airfare search engine  That means when searching for cheap airfares on Kayak, the cheapest option – which is often Ryanair – doesn’t show up.  You can search their fares on their website or you can use the discount airfare search engine  Also note that Ryanair is not a connecting airline and takes no responsibility for missed connections or checking through baggage to other airlines.

All in all, it is a quirky but very inexpensive airline, and the leg room is not that bad at all considering how cheap the fares can be.

Other super discount airlines in Europe include the delightfully named Wizz Air which serves eastern European destinations, and Air Europa, which functions more or less like a regular airline.

Potentially the best thing from Ryanair, in fact, is its hotel search engine, which can offer deeply discounted rates in many cities, and can be found at .

Happy Flying!

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Ten Tips for a Happy Trip to Venice, Italy

This article I wrote on Venice Travel was just published in the Huffington Post.  You can read it below, have a great trip!

Ten Tips for a Happy Trip to Venice, Italy
By Joel Garten

Venice is one of the most beautiful cities of Europe. Wandering down narrow, crumbling streets lined by canals, you can watch as gondolas silently slide by in the teal colored water, marvel at ornate churches and view a huge trove of masterpieces by Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and Tiepolo.  Here are some tips to help you enjoy your trip to Venice.

travel tips venice

photo by Joel Garten


1) Take the vaporetto!

You might be surprised to find out that the main island of Venice has no cars or motorcycles. There are simply too many canals and narrow winding streets for them to be of any use. That means the best way to get around is the vaporetto, which is the Venetian water bus. A system of boats, the vaporetto is by far the easiest way to get around the city and a great way to see the beautiful palazzos lining the Grand Canal. A ride on the vaporetto is one of the greatest attractions of the city and is quite easy to figure out how to use.
The main line is #1 and it goes up and down the Grand Canal and ends in the Lido (another island that has a beach). Each ride of the vaporetto costs 7, but you can buy the TRAVELCARD, which is available in timed tickets (from 12 hours to 7 days) that offer unlimited travel. I recommend you get the TRAVELCARD for however long you plan to be in the city. Though a bit pricey, the ease and freedom of going on the vaporetto whenever you like is a great boon to travel.   You don’t think twice about taking it only one stop, and you can also take it simply for the sightseeing on the boat, which is great if you snag a seat at the front or stand along the sides of the boat.
Be sure to pick up a map of the vaporetto system, which is available at the main tourist info spot in front of the main train station. You can also print one out here. Line #1 runs every ten minutes until evening and less frequently until midnight. There is also a line #2 that goes up and down the Grand Canal and functions like an express bus, stopping at fewer stops.
Some vaporetto docks go in both directions; some stops have separate docks for each direction. Each dock has a sign showing which lines are served by that dock and in which direction. After you use it a couple times it is pretty self-explanatory.

You can buy a TRAVELCARD card here at the Venice Connected site, along with many other types of discount cards, including WIFI passes and parking passes.

rialto bridge by vaporetto

The Rialto Bridge seen from the vaporetto. Photo by Joel Garten


vaporetto venice

View from the vaporetto boat. Photo by Joel Garten


2) Get the Museum Pass

A great way to save money (and occasionally time, as it allows you to cut entrance lines) is the Museum Pass. It allows a single visit to 11 museums in Venice, including the Correr Museum, with its fabulous painting collection, and the Doge’s palace, with its enormous reception halls. The card is available at any of the participating museums for 20.

doge's palace venice

The Doge’s Palace. Photo by Joel Garten


3) Get The Chorus Card
Another card that is a great value is the Chorus Card, which allows free access to 15 churches, and includes a handy map of most of the churches and sights of Venice. The card is available at any participating church and costs just €10. Note that it does not cover every church in Venice – some are free, and some have their own separate entry fee.

4) Bring a GPS
Venice is an extremely confusing tangle of narrow streets, winding canals and small bridges which can leave you baffled and lost.  I recommend bringing a GPS, which is a real help and can make getting from point to point a breeze.
Many people now have GPS on their cell phones. This is one option, but make sure to find out if your cell phone GPS uses data to fix a position or download maps. If so, find out how much that data will cost while roaming in Italy. Beware! The data may add up to hundreds of dollars if you are unaware.
Another option is to use an automotive GPS which you may have for use in your car. This has its limitations as well, as many automotive GPS units have a very short battery life, which can leave you stranded an hour into your trip. Check the specifications of your unit to see how long the battery will last, and set it to ‘pedestrian’ setting. Of course, also make sure you have maps of Venice on your device.
The solution that I rely on is to use a handheld GPS unit. The device I use is the Garmin GPSMAP 62, but there are other similar devices on the market. It has a nearly 24-hour battery life, it is reasonably easy to use, and I downloaded a map of Venice off the Garmin website for only $10 (see the ‘in the city’ section of their map site). I was able to navigate the streets of Venice easily – including looking up nearby locations such as an ATM – though the maps do not contain the vaporetto stop locations. A problem with the device I use is there is no touch screen or keyboard, so it can take a while to input addresses or scan around the map using the buttons.

gps venice

GPSMAP 62 from Garmin. Photo from


5) Stroll Piazza San Marco in the evening

The Piazza San Marco (or St. Mark’s Square) is one of the most beautiful sights in Venice. Unfortunately, it can be clogged with tourists during the day. I love to visit San Marco in the evening, around sunset, when many tourists have left and the dark blue of the sky is set against the sloping rays of light of the sun illuminating the pinks of the bricks of the Doge’s palace. It is a great time, as well, to walk along the waterfront out of the heat of the day.
A couple of time saving tips: leaving the square and turning left (when facing the water) you can find a water fountain behind some benches where you can refill your water bottles for free. If you keep going in the same direction along the path along the water, you will find a public WC open until 9 pm (which can be a real life saver!).


travel to san marco venice

San Marco at Evening. Photo by Joel Garten

6) Save on Lunch
Food in Venice, as in the rest of Italy, can be very expensive. Rather than eating in a restaurant, I highly prefer going to a local supermarket and stocking up on some prosciutto, parmesan, arugula and chocolate and having a mini picnic (I also lost a lot of weight on this diet, but that is the subject for another article!). This tactic can save you quite a lot of money and time. It can be tricky to find a supermarket in Venice, but two chains that have several locations are called Billa and Coop.

7) See 18th-century Venice
By far my favorite museum is the Ca Rezzonico, the museum of the 1700s in Venice. It is housed in an extraordinary palazzo along the Grand Canal, with room after room of frescoed ceilings, many by Tiepolo, filled with decorative art treasures, many in a thrilling Rococo style.
Nearby is the tiny but very charming Casa Goldoni, included in the Museum Pass. It is a restored mini palazzo with a beautiful courtyard.  Upstairs, three rooms made up to look like a party in the 1700s had just taken place.  It’s very cutely done.

8) Start with a dose of Baroque when you arrive
If you arrive in Venice by train, very close to the train station is the Santa Maria di Nazareth Church or Church of the Scalzi, an amazing Baroque church that is a great jumping off point to visit when you first arrive.

9) Take the boat to and from the airport
If you are staying on the main island of Venice, a great option for getting to and from the airport is to take an airport boat. These are operated separately from the vaporetto (which does not go to the airport) by a company called Alilaguna. They operate on their own schedule, with spiffy water buses that take about half an hour from the city to the airport. The cost is about 15 per person, and tickets can be bought on the boat or in advance at the main tourist office. Note that the stop is a five to ten minute walk from the airport, and the Alilgauna service stops at only some of the vaporetto stops, using the same docks. Click here to get more info. A private water taxi, on the other hand, can be very expensive.

10)  Avoid the sun and the summer heat
During the summer the heat can be unbearable, and just a few minutes in the sun can leave you sweaty and wilted. I highly recommend, if you are in town during the summer, to take it easy and stay out of direct sun as much as possible during the time between 11 AM and 5 PM. You can walk around some shaded side canals, go to a museum or simply hang out at your hotel for a couple of hours. Being out in the intense sun and humidity in the middle of the day can leave you drained and make it hard to enjoy the rest of your trip. So feel free to take a siesta to get the most out of your trip.

Bonus Tip:
Hotels in Venice can be very expensive and heavily booked up. To get the most out of your trip, try to stay on the main island (either side of the Grand Canal), rather than on the Lido, which is not nearly as beautiful. One website that can be of help finding a place to stay is – the hotel search engine of the Ryanair airline. It is an excellent website that looks through multiple booking engines and can find great deals. Another website I found useful is  Make sure to try a few different hotel websites, as not all of them show every availability.

Enjoy your trip to Venice!

* If you have questions about travel in Venice or in Europe, contact Joel Garten through Twitter or comment below.

Be sure to check out Joel Garten’s 10 Tips for Travel to Florence as well!


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10 Tips for Travelling to Florence, Italy

This article I wrote on Florence Travel was just published in the Huffington Post . Have a great trip!

10 Tips for Travel in Florence, Italy
By Joel Garten

Florence is a beautiful, ancient city in Italy’s Tuscany region. Walking among buildings and churches that are hundreds of years old, you can encounter an enormous wealth of Renaissance art, from Botticelli to Donatello to Michelangelo.
I recently spent a week in this graceful city, taking in the architectural and artistic treasures. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy a trip to Florence:

1) Take it slow, don’t rush from site to site.

There is an overwhelming number of things to see – churches, museums, gardens and monuments.
The real key to enjoying Florence is not to get overwhelmed, but rather to take it slow, to develop something like a leisurely stroll through the city. Fortunately, everything is concentrated into a very compact central area, so it is easy to go from one site to another. So go slow, don’t rush from one place to another, take time to take in the architecture and atmosphere. For example, in the Palazzo Pitti, spend time  absorbing the beauty of the palace itself, rather than looking at each one of the hundreds of paintings stacked from floor to ceiling.

It is far better to wander around strolling through town from place to place, taking in the beauty and grace, looking at the charm of churches and palaces and gardens, stopping to admire a masterwork here and there. If you don’t have time to see everything, it is better to miss a few things and to truly enjoy yourself.

2) Uffizi card

One of the best deals in the city is the Amici degli Uffizi card. You can buy the card in the Uffizi Gallery. (Ask at the museum where you can buy it so you don’t have to wait in line.) The card costs  €60 per person, less for families and students. It allows free and unlimited access to five State museums in Florence and it is valid to the end of the calendar year. Best of all, it allows you to cut the at times huge lines for the Uffizi (home to Botticelli’s Birth of Venus) and the Accademia (home to Michelangelo’s David). With the card you can go straight into the shorter lines for those with reservations. With the power of free admission and shorter wait times, you can enjoy the relaxed stroll I recommend, dipping into the Uffizi to see a few paintings here or there, stopping in at the Bargello Museum to see a couple of Donatellos, then wandering down to the Boboli Gardens for a relaxing time looking at the view over the city from a park bench.
The Uffizi card is best if you are spending a few days in the city, as it allows multiple entries to the museums, so you can return a couple of times to the Uffizi Gallery, for example. Taking in the whole Uffizi at once is a lot, as there are so many paintings, so being able to return a couple of times is a great plus. Another benefit is being able visit the Boboli Gardens several times, which is a refreshingly wonderful thing to do.
If you are only staying a day or two in the city, it might be a better deal to get the Firenze card ( €50 ) which allows only one entry to each museum over a 72-hour period, but covers a much greater variety of sights (up to 50 at last count, as well as use of the public transit system).

3) The Baptistery

The Duomo, along with the bell tower next to it and the baptistery right in front of it, are together some of the most beautiful buildings in Europe. While there is a lot of emphasis put on the Duomo, there is not a lot of attention paid to the Baptistery, which is a shame, as it has an incredibly beautiful interior. Its entire huge ceiling is covered in dazzling mosaics that date from the 1200s.
The entrance to the Baptistery is by one of its side doors, but first you need to buy a ticket. The ticket office is located in a building across the road to the right of the Baptistery, if you are looking with your back to the Duomo. (There is also a handy WC in the ticket office building.)
One of the nicest things about the Baptistery is that three nights a week it is open in the evening, until 10:30 pm, even though this is not advertised anywhere. During the evening opening hours you can buy a ticket directly at the side door. The Baptistery is beautiful and quiet in the evening and you get a very clear view of the mosaics without glare from the windows.

florence;s baptistry

4) The Boboli Gardens

The Boboli Gardens are classical Italian gardens, with statuary, manicured lawns and topiary. They are a quiet and beautiful retreat, and a short walk up the main walkway leads to a romantic panorama across the city. The Gardens are located in the Pitti Palace complex, which is a quick walk across the river Arno from the Duomo. The walk from the Duomo passes over the beautiful Ponte Vecchio, an ancient bridge over the Arno River lined with jewellery shops.

boboli gardens picnic

5) Visit a couple of house museums

There are two beautiful house museums near the centre of town, the Bardini Museum and the Horne Museum.
The Bardini Museum (not to be confused with the Bardini Villa) is a collection put together in the 19th century by an art dealer and preserves a wide assortment of paintings, sculptures and decorative arts from the Renaissance. It is housed in a beautiful palazzo and each room is painted a different shade of blue.
The Horne Museum is another house museum, decorated to replicate the look of a Renaissance palazzo and has a rich collection of paintings and decorative arts. It is very atmospheric and it is worthwhile spending some time just taking in the beauty of each room.

bardini museum florence italy


6) Palazzo Vecchio

The Palazzo Vecchio is Florence’s original town hall and is replete with gilded ceilings and art treasures. There are room after room of frescoes and gilding, including a room with Bronzino frescoes.
One of the great things about the Palazzo Vecchio is that it is open everyday until midnight and in the evening there are few visitors so you can have the place to yourself.
The Palazzo Vecchio also has a number of innovative tours offered including a tour of secret passages. These tours must be booked in advance.

7) The Duomo

You should absolutely spend time enjoying the exterior of the Duomo, it is dreamily beautiful. During my trip, I enjoyed looking at it many times a day. It is especially beautiful around sunset when it is illuminated against a deep blue sky.
During the morning there can be incredibly long lines to enter the Duomo. The best way to avoid these lines is to visit in the afternoon. Nevertheless, in general the interior is not as beautiful as the exterior, though it does have an impressively frescoed dome and intricate floor mosaics in marble. If you are cramped for time, you might decide to skip going inside the Duomo and go to the churches I recommend below.
Note that at the Duomo, as well as all Florentine churches, you are officially required to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees, though I never had problems wearing standard men’s shorts that didn’t cover my knees. The guards at the door can sometimes be picky though, especially for women wearing hot pants.

great view of the duomo

8 ) Churches to visit: Santa Maria Novella and Santissima Annunziata

There are many churches in Florence, and many of the smaller ones you might come across wandering through the city you can enter without any admission fee. If the front door is open, it usually means the church is open, though there is often a second set of doors just inside the outer doors that are usually closed. Feel free to open the second of doors and go in and look around. If there is a mass going on, though, it is best to limit your visit to a quick (and silent) peak.
Two of my favourite churches are the Santa Maria Novella Church and the Santissima (SS) Annunziata Church.
The Santa Maria Novella Church is close to the main train station (and in fact the station is named after it). It has a beautiful exterior, clad in marble, though not as stunning as the Duomo. The interior is what really shines at this church. It is a huge open space, with chapels graced by beautiful frescoes.
The SS Annunziata Church is located in a beautiful arcaded square. It is an enormous church with coloured marble columns and gilded ceilings and over-the-top Baroque side chapels.

florence church


9) Download a schedule and plan for Mondays

There is a very handy schedule that shows all of the major museums and sights in Florence and their opening and closing times. You can download it for free on the Florence Tourism website at this link : click on “Main Museums and Monuments of Florence: Opening Times” to download it.

You should know that the Uffizi Gallery and most of the Pitti Palace are closed on Mondays, along with some other sites, so it is best to plan ahead if you will be in Florence on a Monday. On the other hand, the Museum of the Orsanmichele Church is only open on Mondays. The church was formerly a granary, and the museum, on the upper floors of the church, has extremely high ceilings and is home to a collection of Renaissance statues that once lined the outside of the building.

10) Save on lunch

Food in Florence, as in much of Italy, can be very expensive. Rather than having a meal at a restaurant, I recommend buying some snacks – such as some prosciutto, arugula and parmesan – and enjoying a mini picnic, as a way to save some money. There are several small grocery chains in the city, one of which is called Conad.


Bonus tip
You can visit Florence’s smallest museum, the Bigallo, through the tourist information office across from the Duomo. It comprises two tiny rooms filled with paintings and frescoes. Access is granted once per hour during the day.


Enjoy your trip to Florence!



This article was originally published on Joel Garten’s blog: The Beauty of Life.  You can also find it published on the Huffington Post: Joel Garten’s 10 Tips for Travel to Florence, Italy

If you have questions about travel in Florence or in Europe, contact Joel Garten through Twitter or comment below.

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View of Budapest across the Danube

I took this photo of Budapest around sunset, the sun illuminating this beautiful city.  The Danube river is the heart of the Budapest, the liquid highway that brought it wealth and a cosompolitan connection to the outside world.  It also linked the city with Vienna, this city with which Hungary was soldered at the hip to during the reign of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Hungary was not a great nation that created impressive monuments or extensive landholdings. Rather it was a nation that had an intense wealth of folk culture, demonstrated in a kaleidoscopic range of folk costumes and handicrafts, strange pentatonal songs and a zest for the countryside.

The true shining accomplishment of the Hungarians reached its apogee in the creation of much of modern physics and mathematics in the 20th century.

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Painting of Paintings

This is a close up detail of a photo I took of a painting in the Musee des Beaux Arts, Brussels Belgium. This genre of painting shows a gallery filled with lots of paintngs, so the artist could show off his talent for miniature painting.

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Architecture, Brussels, Belgium

Across the street from where I stayed in Brussels was this very modern addition to quite an old building.

The view from my window!  I had a roof view.

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