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One of the more interesting things I’ve seen in Ho Chi Minh is the Independence Palace, the former home of South Vietnam’s president, right up until it was taken by North Vietnamese forces in 1975.

Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

You can basically just wander around the enormous building, where everything has been left the way it was in the ’70s.

Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

It’s a fascinating piece of history.  There’s an old movie theatre.

Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Including the projection room.

Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Plenty of offices.

Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

People lived here.

Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

It’s a bit eerie, and absolutely worth spending some time wandering around.

Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

 

Free museums appears to be a UK thing, because all of the big museums in Scotland are free just like the ones in London.

So I’ve been to a ridiculous amount of of them over the last couple of weeks (I’m actually starting to get a bit museumed out).  Still, Glasgow has a couple of museums that are worth mentioning.

The Kelvingrove museum is enormous and impressive, with a really varied collection that includes paintings…

Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

Sculptures…

Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

Historical artifacts…

Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

And more.

Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

And it’s free!  I don’t know how they can afford to do that, but I’m certainly not complaining.

There was also the Riverside Museum, which has a much more single-minded focus (on transportation: mostly cars, trains, and boats), and a really interesting layout.

The Riverside Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

These look like model cars in this picture, but nope, they’re the real deal.

The Riverside Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

Plus, there’s a small recreation of a historical street, including stores you can actually walk into, that’s pretty fascinating.

The Riverside Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

I’m not going to post about every museum I went to, because like I said, I went to a bunch (they’re free! So why the hell not??). But I did want to quickly mention the Natural History Museum.

It’s another ridiculously large, super impressive museum in London. And though a lot of the exhibits are obviously directed at children, there’s some good stuff here.

Natural History Museum in London, England

Including dinosaurs! It’s hard to go wrong with dinosaurs, though apparently they usually have an enormous dinosaur skeleton (of a diplodocus), which is currently on tour. It’s a shame to miss that, but it was still a pretty impressive exhibit.

Natural History Museum in London, England

Plus, is it even possible to look at stuff like this without having the theme from Jurassic Park in your head? I submit that it is not.

I’m just going to admit it: I don’t quite understand the vast majority of the oddball, experimental modern art that you find at places like the Tate Modern.

All this stuff?  I don’t get it.

Tate Modern in London, England

That looks like a pile of garbage to me.  At least with more traditional art, even if I don’t necessarily understand what the artist’s intention was, I can appreciate the beauty of the art itself.

Meanwhile, here’s a scrunched up pile of barbed wire.

Tate Modern in London, England

I don’t get it.

Tate Modern in London, England

Nope, don’t get that either.

I think I’m just a meat and potatoes guy when it comes to art, and I’m okay with that.

Pretty much all of the major museums in London are completely free — free! — which is an absolute gift when you’re on a budget. So I’ve been to a bunch, obviously, because why not?

I kind of figured they’d be lesser, somehow, being free and all, but that’s definitely not the case. The National Gallery, London’s main art museum, has some really impressive art on display.

National Gallery in London, England

It’s actually kind of insane that they don’t charge for it.

And I mean, how do you go wrong with an art gallery that has a Ninja Turtle room? Not sure why Raphael wasn’t invited though. I guess those sais are pretty dangerous.

National Gallery in London, England

Plus, there’s this painting by Picasso; it’s weirdly similar to Jigsaw from the Saw movies. It seems too close to be coincidental, but who knows.

National Gallery in London, England

The Victoria and Albert museum is a nice compliment to the National Gallery — while the National Gallery focuses on paintings, the V&A has a more diverse collection encompassing all areas of art and design.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England

It’s absolutely enormous. If you wanted, you could easily spend a full day here.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England

And they actually do have some paintings as well, so whatever you like, you’re probably going to want to check out the V&A.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England

Plus, as a compliment to the weird side-eye baby I posted about at the Louvre, here’s a weirdly muscular baby:

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England

I’m pretty positive the artist of this painting had never actually seen a baby before. “Hey, babies are super buff, right? That’s why they’re so stocky? Because they’re so jacked? Yeah, I’m going to paint this baby super ripped.”

They have a really interesting exhibit at the Art Ludique Museum in Paris that’s DC-Comics-themed.  There’s a bunch of original art from various DC comics, not to mention costumes from pretty much all of the DC films from the last few decades.

The Art of DC, Paris Art Ludique museum

There’s something pretty fascinating about seeing the original comic book artwork — it’s all done in a computer now, but it’s interesting to see the way they had to physically paste the titles onto the page.

The Art of DC, Paris Art Ludique museum

It’s also pretty neat to see all of the original costumes — they have all of the Batmans (Batmen?), from Michael Keaton to Ben Affleck.  They even have the infamous George Clooney batsuit, nipples and all.

The Art of DC, Paris Art Ludique museum

Though maybe I’m being a cheapo, but this thing cost about the same as the Louvre (it’s fifty cents cheaper), and I mean, come on.  It took me like twenty minutes to see everything.  Get out of here with those prices.

The Art of DC, Paris Art Ludique museum

Holy crap, the Louvre is impressive.  I know — that’s kind of like saying “the Beatles are a pretty good band” or “hey, you know Citizen Kane?  It’s worth watching!”  Everyone knows this already.

But it’s still worth repeating: if you find yourself in Paris, you should probably go to the Louvre, even if you’re not a big museum person.

For one thing, the sheer volume of great art on display is almost exhausting.  There’s so much to see.  I wasn’t lingering all that much, and I might have missed parts of the gallery (the way the museum is laid out is super confusing), and I was still there for almost three hours.

The Louvre, Paris, France

Plus, I had assumed it was mostly paintings, but there’s also an impressive amount of sculptures and other art on display.  I was there for over an hour before I even saw my first painting.

The museum itself is something to behold; there’s one room in particular that’s absolutely breathtaking.

The Louvre, Paris, France

I should note, however, that the way they’re exhibiting their most famous painting (and probably the most famous painting in the world), the Mona Lisa, is exceptionally dumb.

Aside from the fact that it’s behind plexiglass, there’s a big wooden barrier that would theoretically keep everyone about five or six feet away, and then another barrier (because apparently the one barrier isn’t good enough?) that ensures that no one can get within about ten feet of the painting.  It’s absurd.

The Mona Lisa

You’ve probably heard that the Mona Lisa is surprisingly small — between the size, the glass barrier, and the sheer distance you have to squint at it from, it’s completely impossible to actually appreciate the painting.  The way they have it set up basically just gives you the right to say that you saw the Mona Lisa, and… that’s about it.

It kinda sucks, but then let’s face it — the Mona Lisa isn’t the nicest painting in the Louvre by a long shot, and it’s the only one with the absurd security measures.

The Louvre, Paris, France

But it’s obvious what everyone’s there to see.  The room with the Mona Lisa, and the rooms surrounding it, are a complete madhouse.  But everything else is only slightly crowded.  The floor above the Mona Lisa — which has some amazing, very well known paintings — is practically deserted.  Everyone’s pretty much like “is it the Mona Lisa?  Is it Mona Lisa adjacent?  No?  NOT INTERESTED.”

There are some fun paintings too, like this internet famous one.

The Louvre, Paris, France

Or this one of a woman and her baby both giving some pretty serious side-eye.

The Louvre, Paris, France

I think everyone can agree that Austria’s greatest gift to the world is the fact that it’s the birthplace of the greatest movie star of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  They’ve converted his childhood home into a museum; as soon as I found this out, I knew a stop in Austria was a must.

(Yeah that’s right, literally the only reason I’m visiting Austria is to see the Arnold Schwarzenegger museum.  I am, however, going to go to Vienna while I’m here and see all the usual touristy stuff — I’m a weirdo, but I’m not that much of a weirdo.)

Middle of nowhere

I’m staying in Graz, but the museum is actually in Thal, a small village that’s close enough that you can get there by city bus.  It actually requires two different buses — and then you finally get there and you’re kind of in the middle of nowhere and you’re wondering if you’re in the right place.  Then you see this and you realize that yeah, it’s definitely the right place.

Arnie boat

So you walk a bit, and when you finally get to the house, you absolutely can’t miss it.  There’s this:

Flexing

Not to mention a big statue of Arnie flexing in front of the house.

Statue flexing

The “museum” (it’s really just a few rooms that you can see in about 15 minutes) is small and kind of underwhelming, but as an Arnie fan, it’s still absolutely worth a visit.  There’s something special about being in Schwarzenegger’s actual childhood home.

You can see the bed he slept in.

Arnie's bed

Some of his first bodybuilding equipment.

Bodybuilding equipment

Props and costumes from his movies.

Motorcycle from T2

Not to mention a painting that I absolutely need to hang up in my house.

Greatest painting ever?

You can probably give the museum a pass if you’re not an Arnold Schwarzenegger superfan, but then aren’t we all Arnold Schwarzenegger superfans?

Note: Thanks to a bunch of terrorist douchebags, the chronology of this blog is a bit messed up. This and the next few posts were actually written before that whole fiasco, which is why this is written as though I’m still in Zaragoza.

I wound up in Zaragoza pretty much at random; the initial plan was to go to San Sebastian between Madrid and Barcelona.  It turns out I’m a cheapo and can’t afford San Sebastian, so plan B it is: spending a few nights in Zaragoza, a medium-sized city about halfway between Madrid and Barcelona.

It’s not exactly the first place place you think of when you visit Spain (I hadn’t even heard of it until recently), but I’m actually quite enjoying my time here.

There’s a quiet to it that I find immensely appealing after the teeming hordes of Madrid.  It’s endearingly unflashy; unlike Madrid, which is just wall-to-wall tourists wherever you go, it feels like a place where real people live.

And yet it’s not without its more touristy pleasures. Statues? Yeah, it’s got statues.

Statue in Zaragoza, Spain

Old churches? And how.

Church in Zaragoza, Spain

Museums? Several.

Museum in Zaragoza, Spain

It’s very easy to head straight for the more well-known hotspots like Madrid and Barcelona, but I think there’s something to be said for going to a city like Zaragoza. It’s not as exciting, but you get a much better sense of how the locals actually live.