10 Most Beautiful Churches in Armenia That You Must Visit

Armenia being one of the oldest countries in the world was also the first country to adopt Christianity as its state religion back in 301 AD (that’s more than 1,700 years ago!). Its millennium old monasteries can usually be found situated on highlands amongst picturesque landscapes where they are less vulnerable to attacks. Armenia, also known as the “land of churches”, has around 4,000 monasteries and churches. Here’s our curated list in random order for the 10 most beautiful churches in Armenia that you must visit at least once in your life!

1. Khor Virap Monastery

It’s no wonder why Khor Virap is one of the favourite attractions of most travellers in Armenia. The majestic Mt Ararat positioned right behind the church makes a fantastic backdrop for a panorama view of the church. The locals also believed that Mt Ararat protected the monastery against a strong earthquake in the past.

The absolutely stunning Khor Virap against the majestic Mt. Ararat.

It is believed that St Gregory the illuminator was imprisoned here in this dungeon was dug 7-8 metres underground for his preaching of Christianity to the people in Armenia. It was such a miracle that despite being imprisoned for 13 years, he was still alive when they found him. It turned out that throughout the years, there was this Christian lady who continued to give him some bread surreptitiously.

Tip: For those who are claustrophobic, it’s advisable to not enter the pit. It was quite challenging climbing down the vertical ladder into the pit.

The pit where St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for 13 years

2. Noravank Monastery

This monastery is most famous for its two-storey church whereby you will have to climb up to the main entrance via a narrow staircase made from stones jutting out from the face of building.

3. Echimiazin Armenian Apostolic Church

This was the first cathedral that was ever built in Armenia and also the oldest cathedral in the world. Sadly the main church building has been under construction for the past few years, hence we were not able to get a nice shot of it. The photo below shows the main entrance to this Church. This place was also the headquarter for all the churches in Armenia.

And yes, this is the majestic view of the Echmiadzin church in summer when it was not under any renovation. Very beautiful right?

 

4. Zvartnots Ruins

Zvartnots is also known as the “temple of ruins” and it is listed as a UNESCO heritage site. This place was the first circular 3 storey church built back in the 6th century which only lasted for 3 centuries before it was destroyed by an earthquake. Some of the pillars and the altar of the church were relatively well preserved and you could also still see its exterior circular architecture.  The Armenians later learnt to built more stable rectangular based churches instead of circular shaped.

5. Geghard Monastery

This was one of the most interesting and unique monasteries that we’ve seen during our time in Armenia and also my personal favourite. This entire cave monastery was carved inside a rock mountain, how is that even possible back then with limited tools and technology?! Its name “Geghard” means spear and this spear was actually referring to the same spear that was used to pierce Christ after he was being crucified on the cross to check if he was still alive. Many pilgrims head here to see the relic of the “spear” and hence they eventually renamed the monastery to Geghard Monastery (Spear Monastery).

Can you imagine, this entire church was carved inside a rock mountain! Look at the details on the pillars and sides of the walls. Also, the exact spot where we were standing in the photo below was said to have the best natural acoustics ever. We did try humming a tune and it immediately sent tingles up our spine! The echo was unbelievable and even the slightest whisper could be heard clearly and beautifully!

Remember to try singing a tune at this exact spot if you ever get a chance to be here!

6. Sevanakvank monastery

Most people travel to this monastery situated on a hill adjacent to the beautiful Lake Sevan to get a glimpse of the unique green cross stone that was made from limestone. This place was originally built for the priests that have sinned as this monastery was isolated and far away from the city and women. Also, this was one of the only 3 churches in Armenia that has Christ illustrated on the cross stone.

Can you spot the outstanding green cross stone?

The maze on the right of the photo used to be the dormitory for the monks

7. Tatev Monastery

Another stunning fairytale like monastery that literally took our breath away. This was in fact Daniel’s favourite out of the lot that we’ve seen! But this monastery is definitely more beautiful during summer.

During winter, the road that leads up to the spot where you could capture a nice panorama shot of the monastery was too slippery and dangerous. Hence we were unable to capture the monastery from the other angle. Daniel was very disappointed actually 🙁

Useful tip: During winter, the cable car that leads up to the monastery only operates on Sat & Sun.

This is the breathtaking panorama view that you can get when you travel here during summer. Super amazing right?! Photo not taken by us obviously since we were there during winter 🙁

8. St Grigor Lusavorich

The St Grigor Lusavorich cathedral is also the symbol of the 1700th anniversary of the proclamation of Christianity as a state religion in Armenia as well as a tribute to St Gregory, the illuminator, who was responsible for introducing Christianity to Armenia. This church is one of the newest church in Armenia and was built only around 6-7 years ago.

Useful tip: Visit this church twice! Once in the day and again at night. This church is particularly beautiful at night after being illuminated by the floodlights.

9. Odzun church

This church was different because of its pink felsite stoned walls. Most of the other churches that we’ve seen were grey/dark coloured, so this was indeed quite refreshing for us! Especially with its picturesque setting of the magnificent ridge as the backdrop, this church quickly became one of our favourites.

10. Sanahin monastery complex

The Sanahin Monastery was very impressive because of its remarkable archways. The Sanahin was especially rich in Khachkars (cross stones) where more than 80 of them survived till date. If you’re visiting this complex, do remember to pay more attention to the intricate details on the khachkars. Most of these khachkars depict the traditional cross growing out of a grain with branches at its sides. According to our guide, this symbolises “life”.

 

7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Settle For Someone Who Doesn’t Make An Effort

7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Settle For Someone Who Doesn’t Make An Effort

Isn’t it the best feeling to hear “It wasn’t the same without you” or “I missed you so much”?

We all want to feel desired, wanted, and needed. We all want to feel loved and cared for. We all want to be missed. When it comes to significant others, we need to feel desired. That desire drives the passion, intimacy, and love that we feel between each other.

Sometimes we feel the passion but not the desire. We receive the response to our text a day or two later without any acknowledgement that it was late. Sure, people can be busy. Of course, we’re always busy. But how busy do you have to be to not respond with a “So sorry, busy day, will respond later”? It’s the respectful thing to do.

In our society, texting is many times our primary form of communication. We get to know each other by what emojis we send, whether or not we use periods or commas, and of course, our response time. We’re never asking for much, but we do expect a response within a respectable amount of time.

It might be that you’re trying to plan a date with the person from your English class that you’ve been crushing on for the entire year. It might be an old fling that you’re trying to reconnect with. It might be someone you’ve gone on a few dates with and you’re really feeling the potential.

Whether you’re in a potential, new, current, or nonexistent relationship, there’s never a reason to settle for someone who doesn’t make it known they want you. Here are seven reasons why.

1. You deserve better.
First comes first: You deserve better. If your best friend was complaining that the guy she likes was only texting her back every three or four days, what advice would you give her? You deserve better. It doesn’t matter whether this person is the sweetest person ever when you’re together. Making plans is a crucial step to continue getting to know each other. If they’re wishy-washy, it’s not worth it to you.

2. Your time is valuable.
When this person is off “being too busy,” you’re waiting around for their text and either coming up with excuses for them or feeling sorry for yourself. Stop that! Your time is valuable and you could be doing much better things than thinking about the “what ifs.” Stop “what if-ing” and spend your time investing in someone who will also invest time in you.

3. The Golden Rule.
Treat others how you want to be treated. You know that you wouldn’t be this flaky with someone, so why let yourself be treated this way? Indirectly, it’s insulting to you. You don’t need to be insulted or played with.

4. You won’t know what other opportunities are out there.
When you’re distracted by what this person could be doing instead of texting you back, you’re wasting your own time. You could be missing out on bumping into that cute person at the coffee shop who is completely willing to spend the 30-seconds it takes to reply to a text and make plans. Who knows what else you’re missing? You don’t! Not until you start looking.

5. You’ll become dependent on someone who isn’t dependable.
Let’s say you end up waiting 3 days for the reply. Even though you’re frustrated that this person made you wait, you make plans for Saturday and you’re looking forward to it. Saturday is a blast and your optimism is restored that this person is the one for you. They end up taking another 3 days to reply when you try to make plans again. This becomes a cycle of feeling so down when you’re waiting for the reply, but so happy when you finally make plans. You don’t need this madness! There are already so many stressors in life; waiting the whole week to confirm your weekend plans shouldn’t be another one.

6. There are better things to do than wait around.
Cook a new recipe. Bake cookies. Sing. Dance. Go to the beach, for a drive, for a run. There are endless possibilities for you to do that will stimulate your mind, body, and spirit much more than waiting around for a text back.

7. You are strong!
You might be feeling like it actually is worth it to you to wait around or that there actually aren’t better opportunities for you out there. But trust me, there are. Be a little more patient—the best has yet to come.

The bottom line is that if someone wants you in their life, they’ll make an effort to keep you in it. You’ve done nothing wrong. Don’t wait for someone to “come around” and show you they want you. If they do, you’ll know.

Be more gentle with yourself Little strategies in 8 steps

1. Consider the mistakes as part of the learning process
No one likes to make mistakes, but we need to learn that only when we make mistakes we realize what is not working and what can be changed or be done better. We should always keep in mind that we are not what we do, we are much more than that. Our actions, what we do, is the self-efficacy which can be increased with the practice; our essence, who we are, our self-esteem, is separated from everything and do not depend on our performance.

2. Do not compare yourself to others

Comparing yourself to others is never constructive. Focusing on what others do better than us is a trap that no one is immune and is very insidious because it leads to focus on what we do or do not possess losing sight of the many gifts that are already present in our lives. Continuing to bring our attention to others makes us take everything for granted. The comparison leads us to measure ourselves using inappropriate parameters, risking to live someone’s life and desiring things we don’t really want. When it happens to envy someone ask yourself: “I really want that thing, that result, that goal?” And if you do not want it, then why are envious? Are we convinced that this person will appear in the eyes of others better? But in the eyes of whom? And that’s really so important?

3. Be loyal to your values even if it means being unpopular

Key values are those that belong to our soul, do not change over time and lead us in our lives. Be true to your values, even if it means going against and be unpopular. It is not easy, you will lose people along the way, but you won’t lose yourself and this is the only thing that matters. Being faithful to your values means loving yourself.

4. See the past as an adventure

Life is an adventure: every day we have the opportunity to discover something new and wonderful to experience. The past is what allowed you to get to this moment, including errors. Do not condemn your past, even if you suffer, it made you the person you are today.

5. Do not underestimate your talents

All of us have unique talents that make us special, but very often we underestimate them or we are not even aware of them. What makes you feel most alive? What gives you more excitement, what you dream to be, do, have, give? What were your dreams, your passions as a child? What makes your heart beat? What are
your favorite topics? What are your interests? What would you do even if your are not paid for? What makes you feel so absorbed that you lose track of the time passing? What are your features, your peculiarity? It’s just by looking within yourself that you can discover your talents and make them available to the world.

6. Surround yourself with people that inspire you

We are social animals and we need to interact and share experiences with others. Surround yourself with people who want the best for you and inspire you to be the best version of yourself.

7. Express your anger creatively

Anger is an important emotion, but many times we try to repress or deny it, hurting ourselves. It’s important to express anger and there are many different ways to do that. Playing sports, spending time in nature, writing, screaming (in the car or with a cushion for example): find ways to express anger, not hold it in!

8. Celebrate every success

Celebrate every success, even when it seems insignificant, it is important to keep motivation high. Celebrate the wonderful person you are, whatever you do or whatever result you get. Just because you’ve decided to do something new and try to be happy, you deserve all the possible respect.

10 Things Exceptionally Successful People Do on the Weekends

It is one thing to be successful and it is another thing to be exceptionally successful. But to attain a high level of success, you have to be willing to put in the work. Because the theme of the modern-day careerist is this: How do you get more done in less time?

So while a lot of people see the weekend as a time to hang out and relax, exceptionally successful people have a different idea of how Saturdays and Sundays should be spent. Here is how they spend their weekends to set the tone for a week of crazy productive work.

1. They wake up early.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is said to wake up at 3:45 a.m. every morning. Including on weekends. It’s wrong to assume because it’s the weekend, you need to stay in bed until midday. Successful people still get up early because they know time is precious and shouldn’t be wasted, no matter what day it is.

2. They read.

You cannot negate the power of reading. Eimantas Balciunas, CEO of Travel Ticker, says, “Reading and staying abreast on what happens in the travel industry puts me in a position to discover those things the competition apparently may have ignored!” By reading and expanding your knowledge, even and especially on weekends, you are better informed to approach your tasks for the week.

3. They spend time to reflect.

As Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” And successful people follow that philosophy, using the weekends to look back at what worked and what didn’t. By reflecting on your week, you can focus on the improvements you need to make on Monday.

4. They make time to pursue their interests.

Successful people know that chasing success shouldn’t mean they have to forget their favorite hobbies. The weekend offers you the opportunity to be creative, whatever it is you like to do most in your spare time.

5. They give something back.

Alexey Chuklin, founder and CEO of Write!, says, “I can use the weekend to give back by showing I am a part of a community.” And in the book Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals, author Thomas C. Corley discovered that 70 percent of successful people give back at least five hours every month.

Related: 16 Rich Habits

6. They disconnect.

Successful people know they have to carve out downtime where they put away phones and don’t check emails. The weekend is the most ideal time to seek a break, even if it’s a small one.

7. They connect with their family.

Weekdays might not offer busy successful people enough time to spend with their family and friends. So the weekend can be the opportune time to catch up.

8. They stay in shape.

Exercising can be refreshing. Not only does it strengthen your mind, it gives you the opportunity to clear your head and embrace fresh ideas for the new week.

9. They build momentum.

Successful people don’t settle for average. They are always focused on excellence by keeping up the momentum. The weekend is a good time to put things in perspective and gain clarity, to refocus on your most important goals.

10. They plan for the upcoming week.

Twitter’s Jack Dorsey has an insane work ethic—he works 16 hours Monday through Friday. But he makes sure his schedule allows him to take off Saturdays, and he uses his Sundays to plan for the upcoming week.

How do you spend your weekends?

5 habits of truly happy marriages, according to a marriage expert

Positive psychology is the science of strengths and looking at what makes individuals and couples thrive.

Marriage takes work. Everyone knows this. But what many don’t realize is that they might be working on the wrong things. Or even working on the right things in the wrong way.

“In our culture, there’s so much focus on getting together rather than on being together and staying happy together,” says Suzann Pileggi, who, along with her husband, James Pawelski, director of education at the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center, authored Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts. “Looking at positive psychology research and seeing what is it that can actually lead to a happier marriage.”

Positive psychology is the science of strengths and looking at what makes individuals and couples thrive. “The research shows that, if you’re focusing more on growing the nuggets of what’s good, you have a better chance of having a happy relationship.” In other words, know your strengths and spend time maintaining them. Here, then, are five tips that Suzann and James say will lead to better days for you and your spouse.

1. Cultivate a healthy passion

That idea of starry-eyed lovers who are forever on each other’s minds and obsess over each other daily? Total B.S. In fact, per Pileggi this thinking is detrimental, as it can give rise to the idea that obsessive passion is a healthy thing.

“In the beginning of a relationship, you can’t stop thinking about your partner, you might be distracted at work, you might cancel plans with friends to see your girlfriend or future spouse,” she explains. “But if that continues months or years into the relationship and you’re not seeing your friendsanymore, you’re not engaging in activities that you did before the relationship, and you can’t focus on anything else, that could be more of an obsessive passion.”

In order to create a healthy passion, Pileggi says to be sure to make room in your mind for your other interests and other people. Then, when you are with your partner, find ways to connect over things that you both enjoy. “It’s about forging a deeper bond, not trying to be competitive,” Pileggi says. “So don’t choose something that you really like and enjoy and your wife has no interest in. The idea is to connect, not to compete.”

2. Embrace the upside

At the beginning of a relationship, positive emotions are flowing with regularity. Excitement, joy, passion are all right at your fingertips. But, as the relationship progresses and you both get more comfortable with each other, some people expect that those positive emotions will just happen without any effort. Not so.

“The research shows that the happiest couples with the most sustainable marriages are the ones who actively cultivate them all the time and prioritize them as opposed to waiting around for them to happen,” she says. “Because, like with anything, the newness of something, those heightened positive emotions, the level and the frequency just naturally don’t occur as much as in the beginning of a relationship, the falling-in-love stage.”

So, couples in long-term relationships who are looking to cultivate positive emotions have to ask themselves what can they do each day, what activities or actions can they do in order to keep positive emotions flowing in a marriage.

“Imagine if you just bought a gym membership and went once and then said, ‘Okay, now I’m going to be fit,’” Pileggi says. “No, you work out regularly and throughout your lifetime.”

One activity that Pileggi and her husband discuss in Happy Together is a ‘Positive Relationship Portfolio,’ And yes, it is actually a portfolio: of pictures, mementos, and other such items that mean something in your relationship. If that’s your style or not, we get it. The point of the exercise is to devote time to thinking about the fond memories, which, per Pileggi, is extremely important. However you do it is up to you.

3. Savor experiences

Positive emotions and moments are fleeting. Pileggi says that it’s important to slow down and take time to enjoy them. “Research shows that if you spend at least 15 minutes savoring something you could increase your satisfaction,” she says. “One way to do that is sharing secrets with one another. Ask your spouse about a favorite childhood experience, or a secret they never told anyone or big idea or dream they always had for the future.” The point is this: The more you open up and talk about these sorts of things, the deeper a bond you’re able to create.

4. Locate and focus on character strengths

What are your partner’s strengths? Do you know? Positive Psychology researchers have identified 24 character traits that people possess in different measures. Things like creativity, curiosity, zest, love of learning, leadership. Pileggi recommends taking a Character Strengths test with your partner (one is available here). Then, once you’ve determined what your strengths are, you can have conversations with each other about them. From there, Pileggi says, you both can go on what she and her husband call a “strength date.”  Sounds weird right? But the idea is sound: each of you to pick a top strength and go on a date that plays to — and satisfies — both of them.

5. Emphasize gratitude

“If your partner feels taken advantage of and not acknowledged, they’re not going to be satisfied,” she says. And just saying “thanks” isn’t enough.

An example: If your spouse gives you a gift or does something kind for you, don’t just thank them, but also say something like, “You really know what I need and you’re such a good listener.” or “You’re so thoughtful, and I can see how thoughtful you are with our children and the way you are at work.”

It’s about being deliberate and specific in how you express appreciation for your partner. “Express your thanks and express it well,” says Pileggi. “Which means focusing on your partner and her actions and her strengths rather than solely on the gift and the benefit to you.” The end result: Per Pileggi, couples who did this decreased their chances of breaking up six months later by 50 percent.

The USA’s 13 Coolest College Towns (Did Yours Make the List?)

Back to school is seriously cool in these scholarly destinations. With food, nightlife, and art scenes that are anything but elementary, these 13 spots are the best college towns in the U.S. to visit this fall.

  

  1. Eugene, Oregon

Nike gives Eugene serious athletic cache—just look at the fashion-statement uniforms the Oregon Ducks unveil every season or the state-of-the-art sporting facilities on campus. It’s also where frat-bro favorite Animal House was filmed and home to New Max’s Tavern, the inspiration for Homer’s famed hangout Moe’s Tavern on The Simpsons. Willamette Street is lined with art galleries like White Lotus, which showcases Asian works, and Sattva Gallery, where local artists display handcrafted ceramics and jewelry. Bonus: Portland is only a two-hour drive away.

 

      

2. Athens, Georgia

Athens is an incubator for artists and rock musicians—R.E.M and the B-52’s got their start here—and it oozes southern charm with its historic Georgian mansions in the Five Points neighborhood. Two music venues are the heart of the nightlife scene: 40 Watts Club, the legendary spot for big-name acts; and Georgia Theatre, which reopened in 2011 after a fire (the Grammy Award-winning and local group Zach Brown Band donated $250,000 to bring it back to life). Fun fact: Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia doubles as a pet cemetery; every English bulldog mascot since 1956 is entombed in wall mausoleum near Gate 9.

   

3. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis may not have the distinct curb appeal of LA, NYC, or Boston, but the major city does have a pretty sick Frank Gehry-designed landmark that earns them major bragging rights. The Weisman Art Museum, a monolithic stainless steel page out of the famed architect’s book, sits on a bluff over the Mississippi, sprawling out on the U of M campus. Follow the college crowd and at some point or another, you’ll wind up in Dinkytown (yes, that’s its actual name) – a tiny neighborhood overflowing with restaurants (look past the chains for eclectic indies like the Kitty Cat Klub), bars, specialty stores and theaters.

 

     

4. Santa Cruz, California

Massive swells, redwood-filled forests, an abundant haze of “medical” marijuana—it’s easy to see the appeal of Santa Cruz. Along with miles of misty beaches and endless bike trails that run through the nearby mountains, the city has killer microbrew and coffee scenes. Two standouts: the organic suds at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, in the Swift Street Courtyard, and single-origin promoter Verve Coffee Roasters, which has locations scattered around town.

  

5. Madison, Wisconsin

Madison’s historic downtown is perfectly situated on an isthmus flanked by the Mendota and Monona lakes, with the 1,200-acre Arboretum and various biking trails nearby. But make no mistake, Madtown is a tailgaters paradise (game day favorite: fried cheese curds). Ask a Wisconsin grad about his alma matter and he’ll tell you the following: the Kollege Klubon Saturdays, Dotty’s for the Melting Pot burger, and the Terrace at Memorial Union for snapshot-worthy water views.

  

6. Bozeman, Montana

Who would have guessed that one of America’s coolest college towns is the middle of cow-country Montana? Bozeman, home to Montana State University, has been drawing more and more visitors north. In summer, there’s world-class fishing at the nearby Madison and Yellowstone rivers; come winter, snow junkies flock to Bridger and Big Sky resorts. The town itself has a laid-back college vibe, with bistros, galleries and watering holes like Molly Brown bar, a note-perfect dive in the “bar-muda triangle.”

            

7. Ithaca, NY

Ithaca may weed out a few (hundred) prospective students each year with the promise of a brutal winter and somewhat middle-of-nowhere locale (it’s 4+ hours from NYC), but the picturesque city is a hell of a lot more than blizzard country. First and foremost, Ithaca topples the scenic scale with rolling hillsides, more than 150 cascading waterfalls (hence all the “Ithaca is GORGES!” merch) and winding trails. Extremely walkable, and home to a generous handful of breweries and wineries, the town also maintains a young crowd, with a population that’s more than 50 percent college kiddos thanks to Ithaca College and a place you probably haven’t heard of–Cornell.

        

8. Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Chapel Hill might have the strongest foodie cred of any college town in the country. Here, sports bar nachos and divey burger joints take a back seat to James Beard-nominated chefs like Andrea Reusing, whose Asian-inflected Lantern sources from local farms; and the Pig, a nose-to-tail Carolina-style barbecue joint that’s perennially packed. Beyond food, there are plenty more diversions, from the Carolina Basketball Museum to the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

   

9. Charlottesville, Virginia

Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819 and his legacy lives on, from the grand 18th-century buildings to the secret societies like Seven and Z. In addition to a surprisingly cool art scene ⎯ check out art collective C’ville Arts⎯ lively restaurants (we love the rustic-chic C and O ) and the open-air pavilion on the Downtown Mall, one of the country’s emerging wine regions is right outside of town, shadowed by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

 

10. Burlington, Vermont

Burlington’s granola roots run deep. This is the place Ben and Jerry bestowed their psychedelic flavors on the world, and where a generation of LSD-charged roadies discovered Phish. These days an organic food movement and highly acclaimed craft beer scene have taken hold in and around UVM. See it firsthand at the City Market, where local purveyors hawk everything from freshly brewed kombucha to high-point ciders to pasture-raised pork.

  

11. Oxford, Mississippi

Home to William Faulkner’s 19th-century estate Rowan Oak, the storied paperback palace Square Books, and chef John Currence’s destination Cajun spot City Grocery, Oxford is the quintessential Southern small town. The magnolia-lined streets have added luxury boutiques and new-wave restaurants in recent years, but original treasures remain ⎯ Neilson’s, for instance, is the oldest department store in the South. The hotel of choice: the Z, a classic B&B run by two twenty-something Ole Miss-alum sisters. Don’t miss their breakfast cheddar biscuits.

12. Williamsburg, Virginia

Cheesy historical reenactments have long defined Williamsburg, but a growing arts district is giving the town of William & Mary College a polished new edge. Don’t miss the Sculpture Gallery, a public art initiative that features 21 pieces from East Coast artists, including terra cotta works by Barbara Kobylinska, and Century Art Gallery, a showcase for contemporary paintings inside a 1920 Sears Roebuck house. And if you do happen to enjoy colonial history, visit the Jamestown Settlement, eat at one of the many 18th-century-style taverns, or take a tour of the Berkeley Plantation.

  

13. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Football season in Ann Arbor is no joke—just ask the University of Michigan team, who basically acquire star status every September. For non-collegiates and non-sportifs, life is still pretty swell with post-grad job prospects at big name companies like Google AdWords and Toyota making the town a comfy locale for former co-eds. Plus, pair all that with a bustling downtown–say hello to a multitude of late-night bites and plenty of beer at local faves like Ashley’s—and residential charm courtesy of tree-lined streets and Ann Arbor just about has it all.

 

The story behind Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ shows us how to make projects our own

Aretha Franklin, the great American singer who became a defining voice of the 20th century and the acclaimed Queen of Soul, died at her home in Detroit on Thursday from pancreatic cancer, her publicist said. She was 76.

“We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on,” Franklin’s family said in a statement.

A preacher’s daughter, Franklin began her career as a teenager in the 1950s, and her inimitable voice allowed her to hop between gospel, R&B, classical and jazz genres with grace. She went on to win 18 Grammy Awards, sell more than 75 million records in her life, and become one of the best-selling selling artists of all time. But out of all the songs she recorded, “Respect,” her demand for dignity, became her signature song that is still played in living rooms and at political protests today. The story of how Franklin took a song originally written and released by Otis Redding and made it her own can be career inspiration for us all.

How Franklin made “Respect” her own

In Redding’s version, “Respect” is about a man pleading with a woman to give him respect in exchange for what he can provide for her. Redding sang: “Hey little girl, you’re sweeter than honey / And I’m about to give you all of my money / But all I want you to do / Is just give it, give it / Respect when I come home … ”

When Franklin recorded “Respect” on Valentine’s Day in 1967, she kept most of the original lyrics but transformed the meaning of the song with the addition of a bridge and the call-and-response of her sisters. Under Franklin’s version, “Respect” became more than a domestic dispute. It became an empowering feminist anthem for women to be treated equally at home and at work.

“Oooh, your kisses,” Franklin sang, “Sweeter than honey / And guess what? / So is my money.” In her most memorable addition, Franklin spelled out her demand for parity for emphasis in the bridge: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T/ Find out what it means to me /R-E-S-P-E-C-T / Take care, TCB [take of business].”

 

 

When Franklin’s version hit the airwaves, it became a massive hit, spending two weeks as the No. 1 song in America in 1967. It became a rallying cry for women’s rights and the civil rights movement. Today, it has been referenced and sampled in dozens of feature films. We all want R-E-S-P-E-C-T. “I think that hook line is something we all relate to,” Franklin told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s something we all appreciate and expect.”

It ranks No. 4 on “Songs of the Century,” a 1999 project by the National Endowment for the Arts. “Respect” is now remembered for being Franklin’s more than Redding’s. Even Redding acknowledges this. When he played it himself at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, he said, “This next song is a song that a girl took away from me!”

The 8 Most Underrated Cities in America

Are those sky-high rents, $10 beers, overhyped restaurants, and so-packed-you-can’t-move museums of America’s great cities starting to bring you down? It might be time to consider a trip (or even a move) to one of these eight overlooked gems, where you’ll find equally excellent food scenes, historic sites, and world-class art.

 

     

  1. Boulder, CO

Know someone headed to Colorado? They’re probably bound for Denver—CO’s urban playground of art, culture, and food—or any one of its premiere ski towns (Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge, Telluride, Steamboat Springs). But just north of the capital is a nature-lover’s paradise. Boulder’s location at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains means world-class hiking and skiing are literally at your doorstep. (Don’t miss the trails through the Flatirons in Chautauqua Park, known for their iconic sandstone slab rock formations.)

The area’s local farms are to thank for the top-notch food scene: hit up Emmerson Restaurant, a Pearl Street newcomer, for fresh pastas and cocktails from a former LA Weekly “Best Bartender.” If you happen to be in town in the warmer months, check out Boulder’s summer music series. At day’s end, retreat to Basecamp Hotel, a stylishly affordable boutique that capitalizes on its mountain town ethos: hanging canvas tapestries take the place of headboards and Coleman coolers stand in for mini-bars in the 50 rooms, and there’s an indoor rock-climbing wall as well as an outdoor deck and fire pit for roasting s’mores.

 

   

2. Portland, ME

A charming waterfront, 19th-century brick architecture, cobbled streets, a surplus of seafood—Portland, Maine is every bit the New England stereotype, but with a true cosmopolitan edge. Stroll around the Old Port, past lauded restaurants like Eventide Oyster Co. (famous for its traditional clam bakes, brown-butter lobster rolls, and Maine oysters on the half shell) as well as less-expected gems like the vegetarian-focused Silly’s and Miyake, whose menu is influenced by washoku—the Japanese dietary practice that emphasizes vegetables and fish—and comes from a twice-James-Beard-nominated chef. For the best of both old and new, check into the Danforth Inn, a 1823 Federal mansion that contains quirky objets d’art and a Shanghai-inspired bar.

  

  

3. Minneapolis, MN

Minneapolis has quietly but confidently stepped up its style game with design-forward hotels and pioneering global restaurants. In the North Loop, a logging warehouse has been transformed into the Hewing Hotel, which takes “lodge-luxe” to a new level with its original pine timber beams, vibrant local art and photography, and rooftop Social Club. From here, it’s only a six-minute walk to The Bachelor Farmer, a cozy-chic Scandinavian restaurant that’s earned accolades for its Nordic-influenced toasts and the city’s first-ever rooftop garden. For great made-in-Minneapolis souvenirs, swing by The Foundry Home Goods shop for handcrafted wares like wool blankets and porcelain dish sets.

 

 

4. Asheville, NC

Taking a drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway tops our road trip bucket list, but it’s worth extending your journey with a detour to Asheville. There’s a lot to love about this North Carolina gem. The culinary scene–an intoxicating mix of serious Southern recipes and playful global influences—is one of the best in the south. The drinking scene isn’t far behind: its 18+ craft breweries have earned Asheville the nickname “The Napa Valley of Beer.” And the live music, from impromptu street performances to the Bluegrass Festival and legendary music halls like The Orange Peel, is in a class all its own. Our perfect day in town might involve lunch at buzzy Spanish tapas joint Curate; dinner at The Admiral, a popular gastropub that churns out plates like glazed sweetbreads and shaved country ham; and a show at The Mothlight, which hosts both big-name bands and local up-and-comers.

 

5. St. Louis, MO

Chicago gets the lion’s share of Midwest love, but this second-tier city to the south deserves a closer look. This year marks the completion of an ambitious five-year, $380 million revitalization of St. Louis’s famed Eero Saarinen-designed Gateway Arch and surrounding parklands, which now includes a subterranean museum and a land bridge that creates a much-needed link between the grounds and the city itself (which was formerly separated by a highway). Not to be outdone, the 105-acre Laumeier Sculpture Park in Sunset Hills was one of the country’s first of its kind and makes for a perfect springtime picnic and stroll. No visit is complete without a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery (now a National Historic Landmark) before a hearty American dinner at Olive + Oak, whose chef Jesse Mendica was a James Beard semifinalist last year. Afterwards, rest your head at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, whose highlights include dead-on arch views and a rooftop pool.

6. San Antonio, TX

Were it not for the sheer size of Texas (which lays claim to not one but three top-tier cities including Dallas, Houston, and Austin), San Antonio might have landed itself a top spot on first-time visitors’ to-do lists. The notion isn’t so far-fetched when you consider the city’s trifecta of history, culture, and food. After checking off the Alamo, head to the UNESCO-listed San Antonio Missions, which protects four other 18th-century Spanish Colonial mission churches built along the San Antonio River. For stellar barbecue, shops, and people-watching, The Pearl District is a pedestrian-friendly pocket home to the River Walk, a waterway lined with old-world taverns and riverfront restaurants that’s become known as “The American Venice.” Lately, the city has even added stylish hotels to the mix. Our favorite: Hotel Emma, a historic 1800s brewhouse turned boutique with a notable restaurant and taproom called Southerleigh.

 

7. Baltimore, MD

This all-American seaport has been likened to a more affordable D.C. Sure, some industrial areas are still rough around the edges (You’ve seen The Wire, right?) but you’ll hardly notice what with all that’s going on in regards to culture and food. Its past life as an immigration portal means Baltimore has built a community that prizes diversity and creativity, best seen at prized institutions like the Baltimore Museum of Art, Walters Art Museum, and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. Not to mention the micro-breweries, farm-to-table restaurants, and trendy cocktail dens that have taken hold of the dining scene in just the last few years. After stopping by James Beard Award-winning Spike Gjerde’s Woodberry Kitchen for dishes that spotlight Chesapeake-sourced ingredients, check into the new Sagamore Pendry Baltimore hotel, whose pool overlooks the harbor.

8. Buffalo, NY

Some 70 years after the Great Depression delivered a mighty blow to this once wealthy industrial boomtown, Buffalo is finally on the upswing. Forward-thinking creatives are beginning to repurpose the gritty grain silos and Frank Lloyd Wright architecture that once defined the city landscape, while the arrival of younger residents seeking out Buffalo’s still-affordable housing options has reenergized the city’s social scene. You won’t go wrong at corner taverns like Arty’s Grill and Gene McCarthy’s, which keep the fun going until 4 a.m., or getting a taste of what Buffalo does best (yes, we’re talking wings!). Don’t miss the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, a bastion for 20th-century American art, or Hotel Henry, a stylish 88-room sleep built inside an abandoned 1870s asylum designed by lauded American architect Henry Hobson Richardson.