INTERVIEW with Lo Mathews
INTERVIEW WITH LO MATHEWS, Workshop Organizer
Lo Mathews is the owner of Alpine Creative Tours.
She is an avid traveler, loves to discover new destinations and
Here Ms. Reidun Johansen interviewed her on current trends in
travel, her favorite locations and why coffee is so big in Sweden...
By Reidun Johansen, Professor of International Tourism and Spanish
Studies at the Linden School of Tourism in Katrineholm, Sweden.
CREATIVE EUROPE, WHAT AREA IS ESPECIALLY EXCITING
I have always loved Mallorca and that will probably never change.
Palma, the capital, has changed in an extraordinary way in the past ten years.
Today the city is a bustling metropolis full of creativity. Innovative restaurants, designer stores, avant-garde art galleries and trendy bars now fill the streets of this once very laid-back city. It is now as easy to find a restaurant that serves fusion or all vegetarian as it is to find a tapas bar.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CITY IN EUROPE?
That is a toss-up between London and Venice but then of course, I am also partial to Stockholm, having grown up there. London makes you feel that you are in this small, charming, provincial town in the country, it is surprising that you can feel that way in a large metropolis. Venice is in a league of its own, I think. I know that it is crowded with tourists most of the year, but if you try to go in the off-off season it is amazing to regard the architecture, the palaces along the canals, the villas and imagine what it was like to live here a thousand years age. The Biennale, that takes place every other year all over the city, is a fascinating hub of contemporary art, with Avant Garde installation art and thought-provoking exhibits. It would take a week to see all the art sites during this recurring art event.
WHERE WOULD YOU GO TO RELAX FOR A WEEK?
It would be one of the Greek islands. I’ve worked in Rhodes and in Corfu, two very contrasting islands in different parts of Greece. I treasure both places, and I also adore Mykonos and the other small islands that make up the Cyclades. The Greek food is fun with tapas influenced from many other cultures, the scenery is one of the most beautiful in Europe and there is no limit in the things to do – from hiking the mountains to boating in the archipelago. Lately you will find e-bike rentals everywhere and exploring the villages by bike is a very fun way to spend an afternoon.
WHAT CITY HAS AWED YOU LATELY?
I visited Vienna recently and was blown away by all the art, the museums, the Imperial palaces and the parks. It is without doubt, one of the most beautiful capitals in Europe. It would take a week to go through all the amazing art museums in Vienna. And the music scene, with the Opera (get your tickets in advance, performances sell out), the Mozart concerts and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, is extraordinary – you can go to a different concert or performance every night. (The Vienna Symphony has re-recorded every single one of Beethoven’s symphonies for 2020.) I also think there are more coffeehouses in Vienna than in any other city I’ve been, with fantastic lattes and cappuccinos…
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE MUSEUM?
Yes, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It is one of the best museums in Europe and you can easily spend days there. Not only do they have timeless art, but they frequently also include themed exhibits with thought provoking commentary. At the moment, “Operation Night Watch” is going on, a large research and conservation project, where the public is able to watch the entire operation of restoring Rembrandt’s masterpiece.
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY IN EUROPE?
There are so many beautiful countries in Europe: Switzerland, Italy etc but I would pick Croatia and Norway. Croatia’s coastline is unbelievably pretty. On one side you have the turquoise green Adriatic Sea and on the other side there is the lush, green mountain side. Contrary to many other countries by the Mediterranean, Croatia has a beautiful archipelago. A vacation in Croatia can include everything from hiking and biking to visiting medieval cities and beaches. And Norway – so gorgeous with the fjords along the coastline going from Lysefjord in the south all the way up to the Arctic Circle. I would recommend doing a fjord trip in June or July, the sunniest and lightest part of the year. In June you would get almost 20 hours of daylight…
COFFEE IS BIG IN SWEDEN, RIGHT?
Oh yes! Swedes and Finns have the highest coffee consumption in the world. I think it must have something to do with the cold weather. Winter can be long in Scandinavia. The best traditional coffee house is Sturekatten in Stockholm. You feel like you are in someone’s living room. The place is filled with antique furniture, the baked goods are divine and the tea the best in the city. In the past few years, third wave coffee houses have popped up all over Stockholm - it is hard to get a bad cup of coffee anywhere in the city.
WHAT PLACE HAS RECENTLY IMPRESSED YOU?
I would say Portugal. From the capital of Lisbon to the beaches in the south the country has so much to offer. Lisbon is going through an amazing phase at the moment. Great care is taken to preserve old facades when renovating old buildings, new concepts for retail stores and food places are popping up everywhere in the city, and music and festivals are happening everywhere. The place feels like it is bursting with energy. And then you have the beaches in the south, long stretches of sandy beaches alongside small fishing villages that have not changed much in the last 50 years. An amazing concept for an art vacation.
WHAT IS YOUR TRICK FOR GETTING OVER JETLAG?
No trick – just don’t take a nap… try to stay awake until the normal bedtime in the new time zone.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING TO DO ON A SUNDAY IN NICE?
Nice is one of my favorite places in the world. The Promenade des Anglais, the near-by mountains, the blue Mediterranean, the food, the people, the museums, the shops – I can’t say enough good things about Nice (population 340,000). A favorite pastime is spending time by the Promenade des Anglais, watching roller-bladers and skate boarders, followed by lunch on the beach, at Galina’s.
WHERE WOULD YOU GO FOR A CREATIVE ART VACATION?
It would depend on my purpose and how much time I have. If I want to sketch and draw and create a Travel Journal, I will choose Provence, Tuscany or Mallorca. Those places all have so many opportunities for creating art-on-the-go. Walking around in the small villages, you encounter one amazing sight after the other. If I could choose a place to go to work on improving my Plein air painting, I would go to Ireland, a place I have never been to. I have heard stories of the beautiful scenery, the expansive views, the amazing light and the beautiful countryside.
FAVORITE MOVIES THAT CAPTURES THE EUROPEAN FEEL?
Haha, any old Bond movie would do for that.
More modern films that I enjoy are Letters to Julia and Mamma Mia (have seen that one about 10 times…)
I binge watched The Night Manager for its scenes from Mallorca.
I still like to watch Zorba the Greek which transfers me to Crete in an instant… and My Big Fat Greek Wedding was absolutely brilliant.
Of course, I LOVE A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun – both movies give such accurate pictures of life in small towns in France and Italy.
A recent film that I enjoyed was Paris Can Wait with Diane Lane.
I also like Matt Damon’s Bourne films….
I thought Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight were genius movies, enjoyed every minute.
And I adored Midnight in Paris with Owen Wilson.
WHAT ARE SOME NEW DESTINATIONS THAT WE MIGHT SEE IN YOUR PROGRAM IN THE FUTURE?
Greece, a painter’s dream! The blue water, the white buildings, the light and the sunny days. We are currently working on an island-hopping workshop that we will announce next year.
Croatia, for the gorgeous views over the landscape and the sea. The dramatic landscape in this region is a heaven for both oil painters and watercolor artists.
Italy, we are expanding the program to additional areas in this all-time-favorite destination. Art is everywhere in Italy and workshops here are perfect for either travel sketching or watercolor or oil painting.
Katrineholm, January 2020