Monday, December 29, 2014

Taos Pueblo


Taos_Pueblo
Taos Pueblo – Oldest Communities in United States

Taos Pueblo is an ancient pueblo of the Tiwa speaking Native American tribe of Pueblo people which is around 1000 years old. It lies about 1 mile north of the modern city of Taos, New Mexico, USA. The pueblos are considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the US. It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Taos Pueblo is also a member of the Eight Northern Pueblos and the people speak two variants of the Tanoan language. The community is noted for being one of the most secretive, private as well as conservative. Placed in the valley of a small tributary of the Rio Grande, this settlement comprises of dwellings and ceremonial building which represents the culture of the Pueblo Indians of Arizona and New Mexico.

 Taos also has remarkable traditional form of architectural ensemble from the pre-Hispanic period of the Americas which are unique and have retained its traditional forms successfully till date due to the determination of the latter day Native American community who have been successful in resisting the pressures of modern society. Taos is the best preserved of the pueblos north of the borders marked by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Tradition method of Adobe Construction

The modest rural community of Taos appeared before 1400 which was characterized by common social as well as religious structures and traditional agriculture practices. Taos Pueblo has the traditional method of adobe construction, comprising of two clusters of houses each of which is built from sun dried mud brick with walls that range from 70 cm thick at the bottom to around 35 cm at the top.

 The walls are refinished with new coat of adobe plaster each year as a part of the ceremony of the village and the rooms are placed back so that the roofs of the lower units form like terraces for those above while the units at the ground level as well as some of the ones above can be entered through doors which originally were small and low.

Access to the upper area was by ladders comprising of holes in the roof. On the top and outside were the living quarters while the rooms deep within the structure were utilised for storage of grains. Cedar Logs were used for the roofs with their ends protruding through the wall and mats of branches were placed on the logs which were laid grass covered with thick layer of mud with a finished coat of adobe plaster. This system of structure was most suitable for their rigorous climate.

Two Forms of Spiritual Practices 

Throughout the 18th century, it was a time of war for Taos, who had an important role in resisting the colonizers and their breeds of cattle as well as the types of grain were introduced by the conquerors in their agricultural system.

Converting the Pueblos to Christianity was made and ill-received though unconsciously the religious mentally of the people underwent a change. Two forms of spiritual practices were represented in the Pueblo, the original indigenous religious and spiritual tradition and Roman Catholicism.

While most of Taos Indians practiced their still vital, ancient indigenous religion around 90% of the Taos Pueblo community were baptized as Roman Catholics and St. Jerome or San Geronimo were the patron saint of the pueblo.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Glacier Bay National Park


Glacier_Bay_National_Park
Image Credit: National Geographic (By Peter Robertson)
Glacier Bay National Park – UNESCO World Heritage Site

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a United State National Park and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is in the Panhandle of the state of Alaska, west of Juneau.

Glacier Bay became part of a bio national UNESCO World Heritage site and inscribed as a Biosphere in 1986 and undertook an obligation to work with Hoonah and Tlingit Native American organization in handling the protected area, in the year 1994, On February 25, 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed this location around Glacier Bay, a national monument under the Antiquities Act and subsequent to an extension of the monument in 1978, by President Jimmy Carter, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act – ANILCA, on December 2, 1980, increased the national monument by 534,000 acres, the process of which give rise to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve with around 57,000 additional acres of public land.

This has been preserved as national preserve to the northwest of the park to protect an area of the Alsek River together with related fish and wildlife habitat at the time of sport hunting. The park is known for its massive glaciers as well as a remarkable destination for those interested in wildlife, kayaking or seeking to find a relaxing atmosphere.

First Surveyed in 1794 – Team of H.M.S. Discovery

The park comprises of snow-capped mountain ranges which rise to over 15,000 feet, with coastal beaches together with protected coves, deep fjords, tidewater glaciers, coastal and estuarine waters as well as freshwater lakes.

Sculpted, steep peaks, rock strewn valley indicate glacial activity, marking the advances and retreats of glaciers which date back over 115,000 years to prior to the Wisconsin Ice Age. The ocean waves lash the beaches of the wild and remote Gulf of Alaska coast and between the coast and the bay, snow clad peaks of Fair weather Range draws the moisture that comes in from the Gulf of Alaska spawns the park’s largest glaciers. Towards the base of these huge peaks lie the deglaciered foothills and plains which spread the greenery around once the ice retreats, portraying an awesome spectacle of nature.

The park and the preserve cover an area of 5,130 square mile and the major part of the Glacier Bay is designated as wilderness area covering around 4,164 square miles.The Glacier Bay was first surveyed in 1794 by a team from the H.M.S. Discovery and headed by George Vancouver.

 The survey indicated a mere indentation in the shoreline and the massive glacier was over 4,000 feet thick in some places and up to 20 miles wide, extending over 100 miles towards the St, Elias mountain range.

Discovered in 1879 – John Muir

Towards 1879, it was discovered by John Muir when the ice had retreated to over 30 miles and formed a bay and by 1916, the Grand Pacific Glacier which was the main glacier credited with carving the bay, melted back 60 miles to what is presently the Tarr Inlet.

Great efforts were taken by Muir and other conservationist to protect Glacier Bay and in 1925; President Calvin Coolidge signed a proclamation making Glacier Bay National Monument. The monument, at that point of time covered less than half the area of the current park.

 The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservations Act, in the year 1980, elevated the monument to the national park status as well as extended the park boundary northwest to the Alsek River and Dry Bay which gave rise to further recognition and protection of Glacier Bay’s significance, when the Glacier Bay Admiralty Island Biosphere Reserve, in 1986, was established under the United Nations Man and the Biosphere Program.

 The Glacier Bay became a part of an international World Heritage Site in 1992 together with neighbouring Wrangell-St-Elias National Park and Preserve as well as Canada’s Kluane National Pa.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Savannah, Georgia


Savannah
Savannah – Oldest City in Georgia

Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia and the location of one of biggest National Historic Landmark district in the country. It was established in 1733 and became the British colonial capital of the Province of Georgia which later on became the first state capital of Georgia. Savannah, a port city in the American Revolution during the American Civil War is presently an industrial centre as well as an important Atlantic seaport, whichis Georgia’s fifth largest city and the third largest metropolitan area.

This amazing destination attracts millions of tourist who get the opportunity of enjoying the city’s architecture as well as the historic building, such as, the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, who was the founder of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, the Georgia Historical Society – the oldest continually operational historical society in the South, the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, which was one of the South’s first public museums, the First African Baptist Church – one of the oldest African-American Baptist congregations in the United States, Central of Georgia Railway roundhouse complex – the oldest standing antebellum rail facility in America and Temple Mickve Israel – the third oldest synagogue in America.

Largest Historic Landmark Districts in United States

Its downtown area includes the Savannah Historic District and the Savannah Victorian Historic district together with 22 park-like squares and is the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States which had been designated in the year 1966, by the U.S. government.

The downtown retains the original town plan which had been prescribed by the founder, James Oglethorpe, a design presently known as the Oglethorpe Plan. Moreover, Savannah was the host city for the sailing competitions in the summer of 1966 Olympics which was held in Atlanta.

The Port of Savannah, in the 19th century, became most active in United States and the people had the opportunity of having some of the world’s finest goods which were imported by the foreign merchants and its port became the mainstay of the city’s economy.

Earlier for United States, goods that were produced in the New World had to pass through Atlantic ports like Savannah before they were shipped to England. Presently, Savannah Port manufacturing the military as well as the tourism industry is its four major economic sources.

Well Known for Architecture/Reputation/History 

During the first two centuries, agriculture was very essential for Savannah’s economy and silk and indigo productions were in great demand in England which was the early export commodities. Towards 1767, about a ton of silk each year was exported to England.

Its mild climate was suitable for the growth of cotton which turned out to be the dominant commodity after the American Revolution and its production under the plantation system and shipment through the Port of Savannah, was of tremendous help to the city’s European immigrants to enjoy prosperity and wealth. Savannah is well known for its architecture, reputation and history for Southern charm and hospitability.

Its former promotional name was `Hostess City of the South’, a phrase which is still in use by the city government while its earlier nickname was `the Forest City’, based on the large population and species of oak trees which flourished in that area.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Montenegro


Montenegro
Montenegro – Amazing Tourist Destination 

Montenegro, a country in the Balkans is on the Adriatic Sea, bordering Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina towards the north, Serbia to its northeast, Kosovo to the east and Albania to the south. Towards the west of Montenegro lies the Adriatic Sea.

Due to Yugoslavia’s tragic civil war in 1990, Montenegro’s tourism suffered to a great extent though in recent times tourism in Montenegro has begun to recover along with stabilized situation in the region and is being explored by tourist from across the world.

Montenegro received a high level of tourism in 2007 which reached a pre-war volume resulting in several roads being renovated which reduced the driving time together with many hotels been renovated or constructed. Podgorica is its largest and the capital city while Cetinje is designated as the Prijestonica which means the former Royal Capital City.

This amazing destination was founded as a state in the 15th century and follows the tradition of the Slavic state of Duklja and was able to maintain its independence at the time of the reign of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans. Its independence was acknowledged formally at the Congress of Berlin in the year 1878.

Mountainous Landscapes/Historic Monuments …..

It formed the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, after the World War I, while fighting for the Allied powers and later in 1929, became the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Later on it also became part of several incarnation of Yugoslavia till it gained its full independence from the federation of Serbia-Montenegro on the referendum of June 2006.

It was the only subsequent republic of the earlier Yugoslavia which rendered its support to Serbia at the time of the wars of the Former Yugoslavia in the year 1990. Montenegro being small with regards to its area, boasts of amazing mountainous landscapes, historic monuments, dramatic coast lines together with beautiful walled towns. It has gorgeous coast like its known neighbour, Croatia and is a good reason for tourist to visit and explore this beautiful destination.

The Serbian Orthodox Monastery of Ostrog is one of the most appealing sites, which is located against a practically vertical background around 15 km from Niksic. It was founded during the 17th century and is one of the most visited pilgrimage destination on the Balkans. It has a magnificent view from the Bjelopavlici plain which is breath-taking.

Middle Income Country 

Montenegro has been classified as a middle income country by World Bank and is a member of the UN, the World Trade Organisation, the Central European Free Trade Agreement, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe and a founding member of the Union for the Mediterranean.

Moreover it is also a candidate for European Union as well as NATO. Aluminium and steel production together with agricultural processing make their contribution to its industrial output while tourism is an important contributor to its economy.

Montenegro had approximately one million tourists in the year 2007 providing tourism revenue of around £480. Tourism is the backbone of its future economic growth with the government expenses on infrastructure improvements are focused on this goal.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew


Royal_Botanic_Gardens
Royal Botanic Gardens – Collections of Conserved Plants/Living Plants/Document

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew was founded in 1759 and this historic landscape garden features the significant period of the art of gardens during the 18th to 20th centuries, housing botanic collections of conserved plants, living plants as well as documents, which have been enriched all through the centuries. Since its creation, the gardens have made remarkable significant as well as uninterrupted contribution to the study of plant diversity and economic botany.

It has also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. The Kew Gardens is one of main visitor attraction of London while the second garden in West Sussex, is home to Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank and its science and conservation work, provide help in discovering as well as describing the world’s plant and fungal diversity in safeguarding the plant life of the world for the future, together with promoting the sustainable use of plants.

The Royal Botanic Garden is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in UK. Being an international important botanical education and research institution, it has 750 staff with its chief executive being the current Director, Richard Deverell while its board of trustees is chaired by Marcus Agius, Barclays PLC’s former chairman.

Home to Internationally Important Millennium Seed Bank 

The botanic gardens at Kew is organised in Richmond upon Thames in southwest London and at Wakehurst Place, which is a National Trust property in Sussex. This is home to internationally important Millennium Seed Bank and the Seedbank is the site of several research project as well as international partnerships with around 80 countries.

The seeds stored at the banks helps in two functions namely, it provides an ex situ conservations resource as well as facilitates research across the globe by posing as a repository for seed scientists. Kew also functions jointly with the Forestry Commission, Bedgebury Pinetum in Kent that specialises in growing of conifers. Kew’s `Old Lions’ are the oldest and the most magnificent trees together with known dates in the Garden that dates back to the year 1762 while the first of the five `Old Lions is the oriental plane – Plactanus orientalis, which stands towards the northern end of the Broad Walk and opposite the Orangery. The others being pagoda tree, maidenhair tree – Ginkgo biloba, black locust – Robinia pseudoacacia, Caucasian elm – Zelkova carpinifolia,

Kew’s Old Lion Trees 

The pagoda tree which is given a tongue twisting scientific name – Styphnolobium japonicum is a native to China inspite of japonicum, indicating that the tree is Japanese which grows off of the Broad Walks’ central path near the Ice House. The maidenhair tree is a male tree with pollen producing catkins and it is the female trees that produce the fruits with their smelling fleshing coatings.

This tree is also the early introduction from China and one of the remaining trees from the first section of the botanic garden which was started in 1759, by George III’s mother, Princess Augusta. The black locust or false acacia was introduced in 1630s to Europe and the tree originally planted in 1762 at Kew is presumed to have come from the Duke of Argylls’ estate in Whitton and seems to be the survivor of other trees that had been brought to Kew from the estate during the 18th century. The Caucasian elm is the last of the three original Zelkovas and grows in the Herbarium paddock and is not in the public area of the gardens.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Killarney National Park


Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park – First National Park in Ireland

Killarney National Park is besides the town of Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland and was the first national park in Ireland which was created when Muckross Estate was donated in 1932, to the Irish state. The park has been expanded, encompassing around 102.89 km of diverse ecology which includes the Lakes of Killarney, yew and oak woodlands and mountain peaks.

The park is of great ecological value due to the quality, diversity and extensiveness of several of its habitats as well as the wide variety of species which they accommodate, some of which are rare. In 1981, the park was designated by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve and forms a part of a world network of natural areas having conservation, education, research and training as main objectives.

The main focus of the National Park for visitors is Muckross House and Gardens where the house is presented as a late 19th century mansion with all the necessary furnishings, while the artefact of the period is a major attraction managed jointly by the Park Authorities as well as the Trustees of Muckross House.

Close to Killarney Town is the former Kenmare Desmene which is also part of the National Park featuring Killarney House and Gardens and Knockreer House, an education centre of the park.

Nature Conservation – Important Objective

Killarney National Park is one of the few places in Ireland which had been continuously covered by woodland till the end of the most recent glacial period around 10,000 years ago which was inhabited since at least the Bronze Age around 4,000 years ago.

Archaeologists have discovered evidence that copper mining occurred in the Ross Island area during that era which indicates that it was of considerable importance to Bronze Age people. Moreover the park also has several archaeological features which included a well preserved stone circle at Lissivigeen.

At different period of time, the woods in the park had been disturbed and cleared since the Iron Age, causing a gradual decline in diversity of tree species in the park.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service are responsible in the management as well as the administration of the park and nature conservation is the most important objective of the park where the ecosystems in their natural form are highly valued.

Several Features of National & International Importance

The park is also known for the beautiful scenery and provision for tourism amenities and recreation has been taken care of. The National park has several features of national as well international importance with an abundance of evergreen trees and shrubs together with a profusion of bryophytes and lichens that thrive in the mild Killarney atmosphere, besides the woodlands.

The native red deer are unique in Ireland, a presence in the country since the last Ice Age. The most amazing archaeological remains in the park are from the early Christian period and the most important of them is the Inisfallen Abbey, which are the ruins of a monastic settlement on Inisfallen Island in Lough Leane. The same was founded by St. Finian the Leper in the 7th century and was occupied till the 14th century.

The record of the early history of Ireland, the Annals of Inisfallen as it was known by the monks was written in the monastery between the 11th and 13th centuries which was presumed that the monastery had given rise to the name Lough Leane meaning `Lake of Learning’.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Antelope Canyon


Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon – A Popular Slot Canyon

Antelope Canyon is a popular slot canyon, small but an exquisitely beautiful geological formation in northern Arizona. Placed on the Navajo Reservation, few miles east of Page, it is open to visitors by Navajo led tour only.

There are two antelope canyon actually located on either side of route 98 – Upper Antelope Canyon and the Lower antelope Canyon which are both owned by the Navajo Nation though separate fee of $18 for each person is charged for each area of attraction.

The Navajo name for Upper Antelope canyon is Tse bighanilini meaning `the place where water runs through rocks’, while the Lower canyon is Hazdistazi or `spiral rock arches’. It was formed by erosion of Navajo Sandstone mainly because of flash flooding and other sub-aerial processes.

 During monsoon season, the rainwater ran into extensive basin above the slot canyon areas with speed and sand as it rushed into the narrow passageways and over a period of time these passageways eroded away ending in making the corridors much deeper, smoothening the hard edges in a way so as to form flowing shapes in the rock.

Flooding still continues in the canyon and the flood which took place in October 30, 2006, lasted for 36 hours, which caused the Tribal Park Authorities to close Lower Antelope Canyon for five months

Ladders & Staircase Lead to Unbelievable Narrow Canyon

Photographers, nature loversas well as a source of tourism business for the Navajo Nation, will find Antelope Canyon an amazing and a popular destination. Since 1987 private tour companies had the permission to offer tours and have only been accessible by tour since 1997 when Navajo Tribe had made it a Navajo Tribal Park.

Due to the wide exposure range, photography within the canyons is not very easy which is due to the light reflecting off the canyons walls. When one approaches the Canyon on foot, it is not noticeable even from a short distance and will only see a small crack in the rock at the bottom of a dry stream bed. On closer inspection, it reveals a small metal ladder descending into the crack which is barely wide enough for a single person to pass through.

A number of ladders and stairs lead you down in an unbelievable narrow canyon. The sandstone bedrock is intricately carved by the infrequent though violent flow of water and is sculptured into beautiful curves and hollows which vary from one to three meters wide up to 50 meters deep.

Explore Through Guided Tours

The sunlight which filters down portrays a myriad of soft colours and shadows, the effect of which is amazing. Antelope Canyon is to be explored through guided tours especially in areas where it rains during monsoon season and the canyon tends to get flooded quickly since the rain falling several miles away upstream of the canyon tends to funnel into them with little prior notice resulting in flash floods which can take the tourist unaware.

The ladder systems have now been bolted in place and cargo nets are installed at the top of the canyon for safety purpose, while at the fee both, NOAA Weather Radio from the National Weather Service together with an alarm horn has been placed. In spite of improvements being done for safety purpose, the risks of injuries prevails from flash floods.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Capilano Suspension Bridge



Capilano Suspension Bridge
The Capilano Suspension Bridge – A Simple Suspension Bridge

The Capilano Suspension Bridge, a simple suspension bridge crosses the Capilano River in the district of North Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada. It was originally built in 1889 by George Grant Mackay, a Scottish civil engineer and park commissioner for Vancouver.

 It was an award winning bridge which is one of Greater Vancouver’s top attractions where locals as well as visitors came from all over the world to enjoy the thrill of crossing the 450 ft. swaying bridge which is suspended on 230 ft. above Capilano River.

It was originally made of hemp ropes together with a deck of cedar planks which was replaced with a wire cable bridge in the year 1903. Towards 1910, Edward Mahon purchased the bridge and MacEchran purchased it from Mahon in 1935 inviting local native to place their totem poles in the park and added a native theme and in the year 1945, the bridge was sold to Henri Aubeneau. The bridge was then completely rebuilt in the year 1956.

Offer Spectacular Views

The bridge offers spectacular views below and the old growth forest. It offers visitors a mixture of adventure, culture and history, making it attractive with complete British Columbia experience and the most sought after site for exploration while on a trip to Vancouver.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge is located in a West Coast rainforest and as one explores the nature trails in the Park, they will find interpretive information with regards to ecosystem all over the park. All information with regards to trout ponds with majestic evergreens is provided as one strolls through the rainforest and to get to know more one could join some of the complimentary mini guided tours that are offered on hourly basis within the park.

This bridge is part of a private facility with an admission fee, drawing over 800,000 visitors every year. In 1983, the park was sold to Nancy Stibbard, the present owner. Annual attendance seems to have increased and Treetops Adventures were opened in May 2004. The latest attractions comprised of seven footbridges that are suspended between old growth Douglas fir trees towards the west side of the canyon forming a walkway of around 30 metres above the forest floor.

Largest Private Collections of First Nations Totem Poles in North America

Besides the bridge and Treetops Adventure which is the first venue of its kind in North America, the park also has more attractive features like the rain forest eco-tours, award winning gardens, nature trails, largest private collection of First Nations totem poles in North America, period décor and costumes with exhibits highlighting the park’s history as well as the surrounding temperate rain forest.

Visitors also get the opportunity of experiencing a First Nations performance with their traditional Regalia or ceremonial dress, masks, storytelling as well as dancing. Another attraction was added to the park, in 2011 known as CliffWalk where an entrance fee was applicable.

The heart pounding cliff side journey takes the visitors through rainforest vegetation through a series of suspended walkways which juts out from the granite cliff above Capilano River to previously explored parts of the park. It is high and narrow and not meant for the faint hearted.

Types and Benefits of Travel Packages


Travel packages have been a popular choice among the travellers who like to travel hassle free and make all the arrangement well in advance and enjoy the trip. Also, the tour packages allow people to travel on a pre-determined budget and therefore they have better control on the amount of money they spend. Apart from having a better control, you can also avail Musafir Discount coupons and get valuable savings on your trip.
  • Group Package
As the name suggest, this type of travel package is made especially for travellers in a group. If you are planning to travel with your group of friends or family members, the group package is the ideal solution for planning your travel arrangements. No matter, if you are booking a travel package online if you are booking it from a travel agent you would need to provide certain important information including – the current location of the different member who are travelling, the destination that you want to travel to, number of people who would be travelling. Based on the information you provide and your budget, the travelling agencies meticulously plan the itinerary.

  • Individual Package
If you love to travel alone or with a small group of 2-3 people, independent package would perfectly suit your needs. You can plan your own schedule and list down the names of the attractions that you wish to visit and e-mail it to the travel agency. The good thing about this package is that since the number of travellers is less, you get the liberty to alter the plan as you wish.
  • Family Package
If you want to go on a vacation with your family there are plenty of travelling agencies that offer special tour packages for family trips. Typically, the travelling agencies require you to mentioned details like the travel dates, destinations, current location and the number of people who will be travelling and the agency will make arrangements for your complete trip.

Benefits
  •   The biggest benefit of subscribing for a travel package is that it allows you to save a lot of money on your travel expenses. Majority of the agencies that offer tour packages have tie-ups with hotels, resorts, restaurants and even with the transport services. Thus, when you book your package through the agency you would get valuable discount on your food, accommodation and transportation.
  • Since the travelling agency provides you a detailed plan of the tour well before you start your journey you would exactly know how much amount you would be spending. This would help in planning your budget in a better and easier way.
  • Often times, while travelling along people face a lot of hassles like not getting reservation in a hotel or not getting an entrance ticket for a particular show. But if you have availed a tourist package, the agency is always with you to help you in emergency situation.
  • By subscribing for a travel package you get rid of the hassles of going through the tedious process of making travel reservations, arranging the transportation facilities or booking hotels. The tour operator will do everything on your behalf, you simply have to pack your bags and get going.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

San Diego, California


Museum of Man, San Diego
San Diego – Major City in California

San Diego, a major city in California lies on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California around120 miles south of Los Angeles and adjacent to the border along with Mexico. It is the eighth largest city in the United States as well as the second largest in California. It is also one of the fastest growing cities in the nation and is the birthplace of California.

San Diego is known for its mild climate all year round, natural deep water harbour with extensive beaches, long association with the U.S. Navy and the recent emergence as healthcare and biotechnology development centre. It was the historical home to the Kumeyaay people and was the first site which was visited by the Europeans which currently is the West Coast of the United States.

Arriving in San Diego Bay in 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo claimed the complete area for Spain and formed the basis for the settlement of Alta California some 200 years thereafter. The Mission and Presidio of San Diego established in 1769 formed the first European settlement to what is now California and in 1821 it became part of a newly independent Mexico.

Towards 1850 it became part of the United States followed by the Mexican American War together with the admission of California to the union.

Seat of San Diego County – Economic Centre

The city is the seat of San Diego County which is the economic centre and the San Diego-Tijuana metropolitan area. Moreover, San Diego’s main economic engines are its military and defence related activities, international trade, tourism and manufacturing.

With the presence of the University of California, San Diego – UCSD together with the affiliated UCSD Medical Centre has made it a centre of research in biotechnology. San Diego’s main attraction is the weather where the average daytime temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit and most of the days it is sunny. The winter temperature rarely fall below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the average annual rainfall is less than 10 inches which occurs during the months of December right through March.

Besides the 70 miles of beaches, it is also home to the historical site of Old Town State Park, Wild Animal Park, the world-renowned San Diego Zoo and the centrally located Balboa Park, together with its 13 Japanese Garden museums, outdoor organ pavilion and several other attractions.

Rich & Diverse Cultural Mecca

San Diego is also known for its rich and diverse cultural mecca with heavy emphasis on performing arts and is home to two Tony Award winning theatres namely the Old Globe Theatre and the La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego Opera together with dozens of dance companies, theatre groups and famous musical entertainers.

Due to its temperate climate, it makes several outdoor concerts at many venues, enjoyable events.The economy of San Diego is influenced by its deep-water port which has the only major submarine as well as the shipbuilding yards towards the West Coast with several major national defence contractors that started and are headquartered there including the General Atomics, NASSCO and Cubic.

The largest naval fleet in the world is hosted in San Diego and is also a home to the California National Guard’s 79th Infantry Brigade Combat team. Five percent of the civilian jobs are military related while 15,000 businesses in San Diego County depend on Department of Defence contracts.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tower of London, UK


Tower of London, UK
The Tower of London – World Famous Fortress

The Tower of London is one of the world’s most famous fortresses, a historical castle which is located towards the north bank of the Thames River in central London and lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets which is separated from the eastern side of the square mile of the City of London through the open space called Tower Hill.

 It has served the purpose as royal palace, armoury, prison as well as a zoo where the ancient stoneshold secrets as fortified vaults that shine with priceless jewels together with historic uniformed Beefeaters that guarded the grounds. It was founded at the end of 1066 as a part of the Norman Conquest of England and the White Tower which gives the castle its name was erected by William the Conqueror in the year 1708.

 It was considered as a resented symbol of oppression which was inflicted on London by the new ruling elite. From 1100, the castle was used as a prison till 1952, but it was not the main purpose. Early in its history, it served as a grand palace of royal residence and overall, the tower is a complex of many building set within two concentric rings of defensive walls as well as a moat with several phases of expansion under the guidance of Kings Richard, the Lionhearted, Henry II and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The White Tower – Keep/Donjon

The White Tower, a keep, was also known as a donjon and in medieval castle was the strongest structure containing lodgings which were appropriate for the lord. According to Allen Brown, a military historian he states that `the great tower – the White Tower’, was also by virtue of its strength, lordly accommodation and majesty, the donjon was par excellence and being one of the largest keeps in the Christian world, is described as `the most complete eleventh century palace in Europe’.

The Tower of London is considered as one of the most popular attraction for tourist and has been a tourist attraction since the Elizabethan period when it became one of the sights of London and foreign visitors related about it.

Painting of  Tower of London
Royal Menagerie and displays of armour were the most popular attractions while the Crown Jewels also drew much interest which has been on public display since 1669. The Tower gained popularity gradually among the tourist through the 19th century in spite of opposition from the Duke of Wellington to visitors with the number of visitors reaching very high by 1851, which give rise to the erection of a purpose built ticket office. Towards the end of the century, there were over 500,000 tourists visiting the castle every year.

Location very Convenient 

Between the 18th and the 19th centuries, this magnificent building was slowly utilised and demolished and only the Wakefield and St Thomas Towers survived. The tower’s location at London is very convenient and the site is a five minute walk from the underground station of Tower Hill where trains and Dockland light railway also stop near the tower.

Bustransports are available to reach the tower together with riverboats which stop at the Tower Pier. Besides these, taxis, bicycles and foot power are also good means of reaching the tower. Driving is not much fun due to the location in the Congestion Charging Zone with limited parking facilities. It is open all year round with the exception of Christmas holiday and New Year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Port Elizabeth, South Africa


Fairy Knowe
Port Elizabeth – The Friendly City/The Windy City

Port Elizabeth is the fifth largest city in South Africa which is located on the Indian Ocean coast half way between Cape Town and Durban in the Eastern Cape, some 260 km from Knysna. The city in short is PE and is also known as `the friendly city’ and `the windy city’ and stretches for 16 km along Algoa Bay and is one of the major seaports in South Africa. Port Elizabeth was founded in 1820 as a town and named after the wife of Rufane Donkin who was the acting Governor of the Cape Colony during that time.

The town was to house British settlersfor the purpose of strengthening the border region between the Cape Colony and the Xhosa and now forms part of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality having a population of over 1.3 million.

A perfect complement to the Garden Route, the friendly city besides being a major seaport is also an excellent tourist destination placed along the beautiful shores of Nelson Mandela Bay and is also the centre of the South African motor industry which is spoiled with the moderate and warm temperature throughout the year with scattered rainfall all year round. Port Elizabeth is also a popular and significant spot for water sports offering several historical attractions like the Historic Donkin Heritage trail, taking tourist along the footsteps of the settlers of 1820.

Explore British Heritage 

The British heritage is seen in the Port Elizabeth Cricket club together with the Oldest Bowling Green in South Africa. Its best treasures are malaria free wildlife areas in its vicinity with clean beaches that are washed by warm water.

Tourist information centres are in the Donkin Reserve in the town centre at the Boardwalk – Marine Drive and at the Airport Arrivals hall.It is a coastal hub in the Eastern Cape and the locals are proud of the fact that everything lies within the vicinity of a fifteen minutes’ drive of the airport.

Some of the interesting historical and cultural icons worth exploring include the Red Location Museum, Museum in New Brighton township which portrays `the horrors of institutionalized racism as well as the heroic efforts of the anti-apartheid movement’, the South African Air Force Museum, the Donkin Reserve where one will find birds, walking paths, benches, an opera house, a lighthouse with a memorial may be seen together with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum and Prince Alfred’s Guard Memorial which are both located in St George’s Park. This is the oldest part in Port Elizabeth as well as a home to the St George’s cricket oval.

Venue for the First Test Match – March 1889

The city also has several sporting facilities for cricket, rugby union, field hockey, association football and a variety of other sports and its coastal location provides a base for many water sports. Port Elizabethis the location of St George’s Park cricket ground and holds test cricket matches and is also the oldest cricket ground in South Africa.

 Moreover it was the venue for the first Test match which was played outside Australia or England between South Africa and England in March 12 & 13, in the year 1889. A top Cricket Team, the Warriors, in South Africa is based in Port Elizabeth. It is an excellent destination for those who would like to enjoy the fine beaches in and near the city.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Madrid, Spain


Madrid, Spain
Image Credit:iaes.org
Madrid – Largest Capital City of Spain

Madrid is the largest and the capital city of Spain as well as the capital of the autonomous community of the Comunidad de Madrid. It is also the third largest city in the European Union following London and Berlin and its metropolitan area is the third largest in the European Union after Paris and London. The city’s population is around 3.3 million and the metro area population is around 6.5 million.

 The city spans a total 604.3 sq.kmarea and is located on the Manzanares River at the centre of both the country and the Community of Madrid, comprising of the city of Madrid with its conurbation and extended suburbs and villages. The community is bordered by the autonomous communities of Castile and Leon together with Castile-Le Mancha.Being a capital city of Spain, residence of the Spanish monarch and seat of government, Madrid is also the political, economic as well as the cultural centre of Spain and is known for its great cultural as well as artistic heritage. It is a city of great monuments and among its highlights is the medieval centre which dates back to the Habsburg Empire together with El Prado museum. One will find some of the liveliest nightlife in the world here.

Major Global Cities in the World

The urban agglomeration of Madrid has the third largest GDP in the European Union with influences in education, entertainment, politics, environment, fashion, media, science, arts and culture which contribute to its status as one of the major global cities in the world.

Its high standard of living, economic output together with its market size has made Madrid as the major financial centre of Southern Europe and the Iberian Peninsula. Besides this, it also heads the offices of the vast majority of the major Spanish companies like the Telefonica, Iberia or Repsol and according to Monocle magazine in its 2014 index, is the 17thmost liveable city in the world.

Majority of the companies have established their headquarters here which have profited from the wide range of service made available in the city, such as good public transport, conference resorts and the course of its leisure facilities. These include some of the excellent restaurants, theatres, opera, shopping centres, together with the popular museums and much more.

International Airport with Three Terminals

Barajas, which is its international airport with three terminals, is the busiest airport in Spain which receives domestic as well as international flights from several major cities across the globe. One will find plenty of interesting things to do and explore in Madrid and the city provides a wide range of offers for tourism, business, and culture with good facilities and services.

It was also elected as the city of European Capital of culture in the year 1992 and was also a candidate city in hosting the Olympic Games in the year 2012 though eventually the winning city was London. Madrid had been one of the favourites and has reached a third position in the competition. Moreover, Madrid has also been a home to two world famous football clubs in Real Madrid as well as Atletico de Madrid. Madrid is an amazing destination with several interesting sites to explore.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Noce River, Italy


Noce River
Image Credit: Greenline s.r.l
Noce River – Hot Spot for Rafters

The Noce River in Italy is the hot spot for rafters as the river provides plenty of excitement for all kayakers. Noce River with gigantic waves makes the ride all the more exciting and exhilarating. Situated in Val di sole, it is the leading river in North Italy which beginsits journey from the Corno dei Tre Signori Mountain of the Ortles-Cevedale Range and the complete path of the river is stirring since the river has many levels while the navigational pathways is very long.

When one tends to surf through the waves or floats through the current, surpassing diverse levels of rapids, the amazing landscapes surrounding the path is very intriguing. As the river cascades further down to Cogolo, the water body joins the Noce Bianco and thus one slides through the white waters of the Noce River.

The proximity of the huge waves is fascinating and captivating and as the waves crash on the boat, it pushes you towards a boulder and enables the rafter to past the waters. The whole experience can be an electrifying expedition on the waters of Noce River.

It is recommended to pay heed to the advice of the expert on undertaking the trip. Ensure to make the necessary preparation for the expedition, taking the essentials requirements to have an awesome experience while rafting.

Several Trips Available from Different Adventure Agencies

Several trips are available from different adventure agencies enabling participants to engage in a gradual and safe approach in these activities. After some few kilometres of surfing through lively water and the beautiful scenery, the main attraction begins and the duration of each trip may vary based on the water level, the crew, and the weather condition along with other factors.

Tourists are recommended to bring a swimming costume, a long or short sleeved shirt which can be worn under the wet suit and a towel with shoes that can get wet at the end of the trip. The most appropriate time to visit this destination is from May to September which is when the river is at its highest level. Rafter lovers would find outfitters operating from the Italian province of Trentino who are trained in guiding rafts filled with accomplished rafters to novices through challenging waters of Noce Rivers.

Sheer Cliffs/Vertical Walls/Deep Valleys/Glaciers and Pinnacles

The scenery along the course is awesome with sheer cliffs, vertical walls, deep valleys, glaciers and pinnacles at every turn in the river and the area is a famous tourist destination in Europe where visitors could find excellent accommodation together with alternative adventures in the surrounding locations.

The Noce River in Italy is truly a rafter’s paradise since it offers the maximum entertainment to rafters which sports gigantic waves making one’s ride all the more exciting, captivating with an awesome experience.

Lonely Planet has declared Noce River as one of the top rafting rivers in the world and this ranking confirms that it is the best river for white-water rafting in Europe. Moreover the Noce River has also received a lot of recognition these past several years making it an ideal spot to enjoy river sports while the National Geographic has ranked it as the top 10 rivers for White-water rafting in the world which is the only European river in this ranking and has also been ranked ninth at an international level.

Zion National Park, Utah


Zion National Park, Utah
Zion National Park – Interesting Feature, Zion Canyon 

Zion National Park is situated in the south-western United States near Springdale, Utah and the most interesting feature of the 229 square mile park is Zion Canyon, 15 miles long and around half a mile deep, cut through the reddish and tan coloured Navajo Sandstone, by the North Fork of the Virgin River.

 It is an amazing cliff and canyon landscape as well as wilderness which are full of the world’s most unexpected and largest arch, the Kolob Arch which measures around 310 feet. Millions of years of flowing water which has cut through the red and white beds of Navajo sandstones have formed the sheer walls of Zion and the geologic heart of the canyon originated as a vast desert many years ago while the winds blew one dune over the other till the sands reached a depth of over 2,000 feet.

Located between the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin and Mojave Desert regions, its unique geography as well as variety of life zones have given rise to unusual plant and animal diversity with numerous plant species together with 289 species of bird, 75 mammals inclusive of 19 species of bat and 32 reptiles which inhabit the park’s four life zones namely desert, woodland, riparian and coniferous forest.

Showcase of Geology – Shaping Zion

Besides this, the park also comprises of mountains, buttes, mesas, canyons, monoliths, slot canyons, rivers and natural arches. Wildlife like golden eagles, mule deer together with mountain lion also tend to inhabit the Park. The Park is also in the vicinity of St. George, Utah and is known for Tuacahn Amphitheatre and Tuacahn is an interesting site to explore.

Zion National Park is a showcase of geology with geologic processes playing a very important role in shaping Zion. Its arid climate and sparse vegetation has given rise to exposure of huge expanses of bare rock, revealing the park’s geologic history.

 The rock layers seem to be lifted and eroded which forms a features known as the Grand Staircase, a series of colourful cliffs that tend to stretch between Bruce Canyon and the Grand Canyon while the bottom layer of rock at Bryce Canyon is the top layer at Zion and the bottom layer is the top layer at the Grand Canyon.

Great Place for Rock Climbing

Zion is also a great place for rock climbing with short walls like Moonlight Buttress, Touchstone, Spaceshot and Prodigal Son which are very famous. Accommodation is available at Zion Lodge which is located halfway through Zion Canyon and is open throughout the year. Moreover it also has motel units as well as cabins together with restaurants, café and gift shops.

Three campgrounds are also available namely South and Watchman at the far southern area of the park and a primitive site at Lava Point which is in the middle of the park off Kolob Terrace Road. Watchman seems to be the only campground in the park which has reservations while Lava Point has only primitive facilities which are usually open from June to October and permits are essential for overnight camping in the backcountry. Guided horseback trips, nature walks together with evening programs are available from late March to early November for those interested.

Are You Storing Your Marine Vessel Properly?



Boat
Although your boat is made to tread, it doesn't need to be in the water day-in and day-out over the span of its lifetime. Many ships will experience a variety of problems such as barnacle growth across the hull or perhaps the off chance of being damaged by another ship. While the boat dock can offer some protection, storing your vessel on land can be beneficial in terms of security as well as making repairs easier to commit.

Avoiding Storms

While not all shorelines are subjected to the same stress delivered by tropical storms and hurricanes, storing your vessel securely on land can prevent a myriad of damage ranging from capsizing to the crushing effects of debris and other ships. Depending on where and how the vessel is stored, it could also decrease the risk of losing it due to violent storms sweeping it away to other areas. Many ships have found their way to the bottom of the ocean merely from being sunk from the effects of tides and storms.

Committing Repairs

Some repairs can be made while the ship is on the water. However, bringing the ship on land can allow a variety of repairs to be made without risk to the vessel or those working on the vessel. Whether these include holes made by sandbars and reefs to replacing motor and propellers, the work is much easier when repair specialists are not fighting against the movement of the waves.

Whether you're in need of vessel repairs or need new welding and fiberglass for your vessel, contact Dixon's Marine. From crab boats to yachts, your needs are addressed when it comes to your ship. Trust your vessel in the hands of professionals.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Portland – The City of Roses


Portland, the city of roses is one of the largest cities in the U.S. state of Oregon, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. Its population of 583,776 according to the 2010 census is estimated to have reached 609,456 in the year 2013 thus making it the 29th most populous city in the United States as well as the third most populous city in the Pacific Northwest region.

Around 2,314,554 inhabitants live in the Portland metropolitan area MSA, the 19th most populous MSA in United States. Portland is the county seat of Multnomah County which was incorporated in 1851. It has a commission based government which is headed by a mayor with four other commissioners and Metro, a distinctive regional government.

 Moreover the city is known for its superior land use planning as well as investment in light rail. Portland is recognized for its great outdoors environment scenic beauty, a large amount of microbreweries together with its eco-friendly urban planning policies.

It is the largest city which lies between San Francisco and Seattle and on comparing with these cities, its environment is not as fast paced but it has a more laid back feel of smaller town to it.

Largest Collections of Zine and Independent Publishers

Being a city it has its own amenities which include great music as well as arts scene together with the largest collections of zine and independent publishers. Though the city has not developed yet, in recent years, Portland has grown tremendously and has started to catch up with the daily activities like having some of the worst traffic congestion in the West, a high cost of living relative to wages as well as chronic underemployment.

The city has an amazing blend of historic as well as modern architecture together with lush parks like Forest Park and the Washington Park in the hills towards the west area of Downtown offering a variety of plants, trails and wildlife near the city.The beautiful seasonal colour is the result of the Vistas of Mt. Hood and the Willamette River,stately Douglas fir trees together with roses and trees at every corner.

Besides, environmental friendly practices like recycling and extensive public transportation system have been part of the culture here, fuelling several progressive city panning practices like an urban growth boundary making Portland a relatively compact city.

Divided into Five Sections/Five Quadrants

Moving around in Portland is easy either by bike, public transport or even walking though there are topographical features which could affect how the streets and roads flow, hence planning and maps would be essential on a journey of over a few blocks.

Portland is divided into five sections and at times referred to oxymoronically as the `five quadrants’ which are divided by Burnside Street between north/south, the Willamette River between east/west, fifth sector – north between the Willamette River and Williams Avenue. Situated in the Marine west coast climate region, its climate has both warm dry summers and wet cool to chilly winters which is ideal for growing roses having many rose gardens, the prominent one being the International Rose Test Garden.

Portland is a home to several numbers of independent microbreweries, micro distilleries as well as food carts which contribute to the unofficial slogan – Keep Portland Weird.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Colonia Tovar; The Germany of the Caribbean


Colonia Tovar
Colonia Tovar is a town of Venezuela, the capital of the municipality Tovar in Aragua state. It was founded in 1843 from the independent state of Baden then, by a group of immigrants which was later incorporated into Germany.

It is called the `Germany of the Caribbean’, and this northern Venezuelan community has great Bavarian architecture and pride. The economy is dependent on agriculture and tourism and the town is situated 42 km from Caracas. Colonia Tovar is known for its temperate corps like peaches, beets, strawberries, cauliflower, carrots, cabbage, chard, broccoli, onions, potatoes and lettuce together with their derivatives.

Population growth has been rising since 1990 from 3,373 to 14,309 in 2001. The Colonia is around 2,200 m towards the central coastal mountains of the Venezuelan Coastal Range and is connected with Caracas and La Victoria by road.

The city is located in the northern area of Aragua state while the municipality is `L’ shaped and bounded on the north by the Caribbean Sea, while the northeast by the state of Vargas and in the east, Caracas with the south bordering the Aragua River. The east ends with the Santiago Marino Municipality and is settled in rugged terrain with streams and creeks.

Organised as Closed Community

From earlier times, Colonia Tovar was organized as a closed community and the founders were keen in maintaining their cultural traditions for a very long time wherein on arrival; they started building houses retaining its distinctive architecture of the Kaiserstuhl.

Baden dialect,theBadische was the language which dominated at that time and food and clothing remained intact and to a certain extent, marriages outside the Colonia were discouraged to ensure the continuity of ethnic and culture.

Though the official language of Venezuela is Castilian, most of the people in that state spoke alemannisch – Alemannic, Aleman Colonjero, well. It is a variant language which has been inherited from the previous generations after 150 year though several phonetic as well as lexical turns are now not in use in Europe.

Places of Interest 

Some of the places of interest are:

The Breikanz Mall is in the centre of Colonia Tovar in CodazziStreet which has a series of shops with crafts, typical of the region of Germany. The Museum of the City which was created by Dr Nestor Rojas offers glimpses of the history, customs and traditions of the Germanic people. Codazzi Peak Natural Monument has a maximum height of around 2,429 m in Aragua state jurisdiction with a covering area of around 11,850 which is shared by the states of Vargas, Miranda as well as the Capital District.

It has been declared by presidential decree of June 5, 1991 as a national monument, in honour and national recognition to the Italian cartographer and geographer, Agustino Codazzi. The natural area has the installation of the Archaeological Museum Panarigua and Inn Panarigua.

The Historical Centre has several buildings in the city centre while around the Plaza Bolivar are the historical axis of Colonia. The Tovar Brewery was the first Venezuelan beer that was made in Colonia in 1843 on the arrival of the founders and since then, production has remained the same.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cotswolds


Cotswolds
Cotswold - An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Cotswolds is located in south central England with the Cotswold Hills which is a range of rolling hills that rise from the meadows of the upper Thames to escarpment such as the Cotswold Edge. This is above the Severn Valley and Evesham Vale and the area is defined by the bedrock of Jurassic limestone creating a kind of grassland habitat which is rare in U.K, and is quarried for golden coloured Cotswold stone.

In 1966, it was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is considered to have some amazing features from the local Cotswold stone and the rural landscape have some stone built village, stately homes and gardens as well as historical towns. The Cotswold is an area of England somewhat the size of greater Tokyo which is popular with English as well as tourist from all across the globe.

The name Cotswold is attributed to the meaning `sheep enclosure in rolling hillsides where the term `wold’, means hills though the English Place Name Society, for several years have accepted the term Cotswold derived from Codesuualt of the 12th century or other variation, the etymology of which was given as `Cod’s-wold’, which is Cod’s high open land.

Gentle Hills/Sleepy village/Typically English 

It is well known for its gentle hillside, sleepy villages and being typically English. One will find some of the famous cities like Bath, well known beautiful towns – Cheltenham with hundreds of amazing villages like Burford and Castle Combe.

The local honey coloured limestone found here is used for everything right from the stone flooring in the houses to the tiles on the roof and the area has a magical uniformity of architecture. The amazing honey coloured towns and villages of the Cotswold appear as if from the 21st century from another era which is characterized by gentle dynamism together with vibrant festivals and lively galleries with liberal endowment of intriguing museums.

Occupying an area of around 800 square miles across five counties like Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, the region of `wolds’ or rolling hills as it is called, is one of the biggest of the thirty eight Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty –AONB in England and Wales.

Drystone Walls in Fields

One will find the `Drystone walls’ all over in the fields and most of which were built in the 18th and 19th centuries as a matter of considerable skill since there is no cement to hold the wall in shape.

These represent a unique historical landscape with a major conservative feature which is still used by farmers to enclose their sheep and cattle. During the medieval period between the 13-15th centuries, the native Cotswold sheep were very popular throughout Europe and were known for their heavy fleeces with high quality wool which were priced very high.

The revenue generated from the wool trade enabled the wealthy traders to leave their mark by building fine houses together with beautiful churches which were known as `wool churches’.Besides the amazing countryside, one will also find interesting places to explore which include magnificent castles, ancient churches, stately homes with historic houses and glorious gardens.

You could shop at some of the oldest chartered weekly markets and also visit some market towns to shop or indulge in some leisurely ramble or have a traditional meal at the pub. Cotswold is an amazing destination with plenty to explore.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cook Island, New Zealand


Cook Island
Cook Islands – Formed by Volcanic Activity

The Cook Islands is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean in free association with New Zealand located in Polynesia between French Polynesia to the east and Tonga to the west. This archipelago comprises of 15 inhabited islands which are spread out over 2.2 million square km of ocean with no land between the tropical Cook Island and the Antarctica.

Its main population centres are on the island of Rarotonga which has an international airport. One will also find larger population of Cook Islands in New Zealand especially in the North Island. These islands were formed due to volcanic activity and while the northern group tends to be older, it consists of six atolls that are sunken volcanoes topped with coral growth.

The climate here is moderate to tropical. The islands are self-governing in free association with New Zealand which holds the primary responsibility with regards to external affairs, in consultation with Cook Islands government. The Cool Islands nationals are the citizens of New Zealand who can obtain New Zealand government services, though the New Zealand citizens are not the nationals of Cook Islands.

Not a United Nations Member State

Cook Island1
Besides, the Cook Islands is also not a United Nations member state, though with Niue, have full treaty making capacity which has been recognized by United Nations Secretariat and is now a full member of the WHO and UNESCO UN specialised agencies.

It is also an associate member of the Economic as well as Social Commission for Asia as well as the Pacific – UNESCAP, together with a Member of the Assembly of States of the International Criminal Court.

The languages of the Island include English, Cook Islands Maori or Rarotongan and Pukapukan. The dialect of Cook Island Maori are Penrhyn, Rakahanga-Manihiki, the Ngaputoru dialect of Atiu, Mitiaro and Mauke, the Aitutaki dialect and the Mangaian dialect.

Cook Island Maori and its dialectic variants are somewhat related to both Tahitian as well as to New Zealand Maori while Pukapukan is closely related to the Samoan language. Cook Islands Maori and English are the official languages of Cook Islands.

Economic Base – Tourism/Agriculture 

Music here is varied with Christian songs which are quite popular though traditional dancing and songs in Polynesian languages also remain popular. Its economic development is hindered due to the isolation of the country from foreign markets, limited size of domestic markets, periodic devastation from natural calamities, lack of natural resources together with inadequate infrastructure.

 Tourism and agriculture is the economic base with major exports made from copra and citrus fruit and manufacturing functions are limited to fruit processing handicrafts and clothing. During the 1980s and 1990s, the country had lived beyond its means and maintained bloated public service incurring a large foreign debt but with subsequent reforms which included the sale of state assets, the encouragement of tourism, the strengthening of economic management and a debt restructuring agreement, they managed to have some investment, growth and progress.

Cook Islands’ currency is the New Zealand Dollar though they issue their own banknotes and coins which include two varieties of highly unusual $3 banknotes and the triangular $2 coins. Cook Islands money can be utilised only within the Cook Islands.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Iowa, United States


Grotto Arcade
Iowa – American Heartland

Iowa, a US state in the Midwestern United States is a region which is called the `American Heartland’. It is lined by the Mississippi River towards the east and the Missouri River and the Big Sioux River on the west. Iowa is the only U.S. state which has the eastern and the western borders entirely by rivers where it is bordered by Wisconsin and Illinois to the east, Missouri to the south, South Dakota and Nebraska to the west and Minnesota to the north. Iowa was part of French Louisiana, in colonial days and its current state flag is designed after the flag of France.

After the Louisiana Purchase, the settlers laid the foundation in the heart of the Corn Belt for agriculture based economy. Its agricultural economy in the latter half of the 20th century, expanded to manufacturing, processing, financial service, technology, information, biotechnology together with green energy production. It is the 26thmost extensive land area as well as the 30th most populous of the 50 United States. Iowa has been listed as one of the safest states and its largest city is Des Moines.

Natural Lakes & Manmade Lakes

Iowa is not generally flat and most of the state comprises of rolling hills. It is divided in eight landforms due to the glaciation soils, topography and the river drainage. Along the western border of the state lie the Loess hills, some of which are hundreds of feet thick.

Towards the northeast area along the Mississippi River lies a part of the Driftless Zone with steep hills and valleys which appear to be almost mountainous. Many natural lakes will be found in Iowa like the Spirit Lake, West Okoboji Lake and East Okoboji Lake towards the northwest area of Iowa while to the east is the Clear Lake, Some of the manmade lakes are Lake Odessa, Saylorville Lake, Coralville Lake, Lake Red Rock, Lake MacBride and Rathbun Lake. Towards the northwest area of the state are a considerable number of remnants of the common wetlands like the Barringer Slough.

Foremost State in Farming

Iowa is one of the foremost states in farming in the United States and one fifth of the nation’s corn harvest comes from Iowa. Iowa stands first in the nation in grain harvest. It produces food, clothing, fuel; medicine for the world and agricultures is one of the leading industries, having more than 100,000 farms in the state.

Each Iowa farm family produces enough food and fibre to feed around 279 people where one-fourth of which live overseas. The wet springs together with the warm summers provide an appropriate environment for plantings of corn as well as soybeans in the top grade farmland. Though agriculture is the main economy, Iowa also encourages the growth of manufacturing and service industries.

Iowa leads the country in the production of corn and has also been called the `Land where the Tall Corn grows’ and the nickname pays tribute to Iowa’s corn crop. Iowa has also been referred to as the `Land of the Rolling Prairie’, due to the vast rolling prairies which cover the state.

Its largest source of income comes from manufacturing, followed by services, wholesale or retail trade and government while 24% of America’s pork and 4% of the nations’ grain-fed beef are raised in the state of Iowa.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Zakynthos – Largest Island in the Ionian Sea


Zakynthos Island, Greece
Zakynthos, one of the largest islands in the Ionian Sea is in fact the second most visited isle besides the Corfu. Like the other Ionian Islands, it is quite mountainous with a number of valleys which are fertile with amazing green landscape on the isle.

The island has vast coast some of which are around 123 km long together with craggy and rocky ones towards the north while they are very sandy towards the southern area which have a number of gulfs like the Laganas gulf. The highlight of this area is towards the West coast that has a spectacular view which is the blue caves.

These are also known as blue caves of Volimes, which is the picturesque village. The most impressive element of the blue caves is that they reflect the vibrating and striking blue colour of the waters and at the same time captures and reflects the shine of the sky which is seen reflected on their surface. The bright reflection creates a magical atmosphere which is at its best at the time of sunrise or sunset. The blue caves have interesting arches which have been created by erosion thousands of years ago making it possible to go through these caves and have an experience of being surrounded in this amazing environment.

The Blue Caves – Natural & Famous Attraction

The blue caves is also one of the soft spot for those interested in diving and getting here into the waters to experience the beauty of the blues caves is a once in a lifetime experience.

Besides this, once underwater, the darkness in several of the caves is interrupted by a few rays of light that dye the water with turquoise shade.

The blue caves are one of the islands natural and most famous attraction which was discovered by Antonio Komouto in 1897 and attracts thousands of visitors annually which are located below the lighthouse at Cape Skinari. The cave gets its name due to the blue waters inside them and objects below the water tend to appear blue.

This also includes people who get into the water inside the caves to take a swim. The blue caves can be visited only by boat Small boats are a good choice in navigating inside the caves and some boats have glass bottom which helps to see the marine life below. 

Shipwreck Cove/Smugglers Cove – Navagio Beach

Several boat trips are conducted to the blue caves which can be boarded at the areas surrounding the island which includes the Skinari Lighthouse as well as St Nikolas Port. Towards the North West coast of the Greek Ionian island of Zakynthos is the Shipwreck Cove or the Smugglers Cove which is also called Navagio Beach and is a famous beach in Greece which can be accessed only by boat.

Shipwreck Beach is within the enclosure of steep cliff which gives it a remote inaccessible feeling. It is also impossible to walk to the beach and one would need to take a boat to visit it. There are frequent boat services to shipwreck Cove from nearby Porto Vromi which is located to the south or from the Harbour of St Nikolas in Volimes situated to the north of Shipwreck Cove.

Besides these, there are many more interesting sites worth exploring providing the tourist with an amazing experience at this remarkable destination.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Newgrange, Ireland


Newgrange, Ireland
Newgrange – Prehistoric Monument 

Newgrange, a prehistoric monument is best known Irish passage tomb in County Meath, Ireland, which dates back to 200 BC.

It is located around one km north of the River Boyne and was built during the Neolithic age thus making it much older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. The site comprises of a large circular mount which is approximately 80m in diameter.

The circular stone has a stone passageway with interior chambers and has a retaining wall at the front which is ringed by engraved kerbstones. For what purpose the site was used is not known though it is presumed that it had some religious significance and it is aligned with the sunrise with its light flooding the chamber on the winter solstice.

It is the most famous monument in the Neolithic Bru na Boinne complex together with the similar passage tomb mounds of Knowth and Dowth and is a part of the Bru na Boinne UNESCO World Heritage Site. The highly decorated Entrance Stone is the most impressive of these stones seen at the site.

Large Kidney Shaped Mount

Newgrange has been classified by archaeologist as a passage tomb though it is now recognized to be more than a passage tomb and ancient temple could be a much more fitting classification, a place of spiritual, astrological, religious and ceremonial importance similar to the present day cathedrals which are places of prestige and worship wherein dignitaries are placed to rest.

It seems like a large kidney shaped mount and the time and labour taken in constructing it indicates a well-organized society having specialized groups who could have been responsible for the various aspects of construction.

Visitors can access Newgrange only through guided tours from the Brun na Boinne Visitor Centre towards the south side of the river Boyne while Newgrange is towards the north area of the river Boyne. Visitors need to cross the river through the pedestrian bridge after which they can take a shuttle bus to Newgrange.

No direct public access by road to Newgrange is available with the exception of mornings around the Winter Solstice and if intending using Satellite Navigation one can head to Bru na Boinne Visitor Centre.

Known for Illumination of its Chambers – Winter Solstice

Newgrange is well known for the illumination of its chamber and passage by the winter solstice sun where above the passage is an opening known as roof-box. This amazing orifice was a great surprise for those who discovered it where its purpose is to permit sunlight to penetrate inside the chamber on the shortest days of the year, towards December 21, the winter solstice.

Towards dawn from 19th to 23rdDecember, one will find a narrow beam of light penetrating the roof-box which reaches the floor of the chamber which gradually extents to the rear of the chamber and as the sun tends to rise higher, the beam begins to widen within the chamber and the whole chamber gets dramatically illuminated.

This entire scenario lasts for seventeen minutes which begins around 9 am. The winter solstice is a great attraction at Newgrange drawing many to witness it, who gather at the ancient tomb to wait for dawn.

Its demand is so great to be inside the chamber during the solstice that there is free annual lottery for the same. However the event depends on the sunshine and if the skies are overcast, not much can be seen at that time though it is worth the wait if the sunlight shows up.