Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Luang Prabang – City of the Golden Buddha

Golden Buddha
Luang Prabang city in Laos is also known as the `City of the Golden Buddha’, offering visitors many amazing temples and serene pace. It is located in north central Laos at the confluence of the Rivers Nam Khan and Mekong about 300 km north of Vientiane and is the capital of Luang Prabang Province with a population of around 50,000.

It was also known by the ancient name of Chiang Thong and till the communist took over in the year 1975, it was the royal capital and the seat of the government of the Kingdom of Laos. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city is well known for its various Buddhist temple and monasteries where hundreds of monks from various monasteries walk each morning through the streets collecting alms. The Luang Prabang Monks are an interesting part of the culture and a signature of the city.

Main Industry - Tourism

Most of the people of Laos are Buddhist and hence an integrated part of society. Boys especially from poor families attend monk classes and get educated through these monasteries though most of them leave at the age of 18 -20 resulting in less monks.

Those who do not spend time at the monastery think it their duty to become monks later on in life, devoting some time for the same. A major landmark in the city is a large steep hill which has the Wat Chom Si. The surrounding areas of Luang Prabang is occupied with stunning mountains with lust green vegetation and the popular spots to explore are the waterfalls, Kuang S and Tad Sae as well as the caves Pak Ou.

One can also visit the whiskey village or weaving village close to which is the paper village and visitors can take the opportunity of good bargains on handmade paper books or beautiful silk scarfs.

The main industry in Luang Prabang and Laos is tourism with the main attraction in Laos being the chance to get a glimpse of the old, unspoiled Asia. The official slogan of Laos is `simply beautiful’, which is an apt description of this amazing city.

Entertainment – Traditional/Modern Dancing

Golden Buddha
There are many options on transportation in Luang Prabang. The inner city is easy to walk on foot since there is one-way traffic on both the roads by the river and other side roads. It takes about twenty five minutes by the main road of Luang Prabang to walk from the start of the night market to the tip of the peninsula.

With regards to entertainment, it ranges from traditional dancing to movies, modern dancing or sports like petong and pool. The national museum offers traditional dancing shows at night and the tickets are quite affordable.

 The shows though short are intense and well balanced. Luang Parbang has a tropical wet and dry climate under the Koppen climate classification and though the city is very warm throughout the year, it is fairly cool during the months of December and January.

 It also has wet and dry seasons with wet season starting from April till October while dry season during the remaining five months.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Roseau – Largest and Capital City of Dominica

Roseau is the largest and the capital city of Dominica having a population of around 16,852 inhabitants. It is an urban settlement, small, chaotic, noisy, compact and a vibrant capital located within the Saint George parish and surrounded by the Roseau River, the Caribbean Sea and Morne Bruce.

It is built on the site of the ancient Kalinago Indian village of Sairi and is the most important and the oldest urban settlement on the island of Dominica. It is on the west coast of Dominica with a combination of modern and French style architecture.

The streets of Roseau are lined with historic stone as well as wood buildings which range from ramshackle to elegant. On close look, one will spot a blend of English, French and Spanish architectural elements like porticoes, hurricane shutters, louvers and overhanging verandas.

Best Way to Explore is on Foot

The best way to explore this amazing destination should be done on foot since there are many interesting sites which are clustered around the cruise ship dock along the Dame Eugenia Charles Blvd also known as Bayfront.

Its historic area is the French Quarter, to the south of King George V St; and towards the south of the center along the coastal road is the suburb of Newtown Citronier and Castle Comfort. Roseau is also Dominica’s important port for foreign trade with some exports like bay oil, vegetables, bananas, grapefruit, cocoa and oranges. Its service sector plays a very important role on the local economy.

Several Conflicts between French and the British

Roseau city is situated on an alluvial fan, formed many years ago as the river for which it is named, passed across the area from its presently known Newtown to its current location. For over two thousand years, the Amerindians migrated through the island and attracted by the nearby river settled in that area.

After the Europeans arrived on the island in the 16th and the 17th centuries, a small settlement established by the French whose tradition of naming place, named the settlement with their name for the river reeds that grew alongside the river banks.

There were conflicts on several occasions between the French and the British and finally the British had a stronghold and by late 18rh and early 19th centuries, they set plans for the city for fortifications and government structures, grid road street system and blocks with new urban areas towards the north and south which today is known as Potter’s Ville and Newtown.

Extensive Botanical Gardens

Roseau’s central district is packed with large as well as small houses together with even larger modern concrete structures. The open green spaces within the city which was once a commonplace within the city are now giving way to office space.

Besides this, the district is framed in every direction with natural elements with the sea and the river providing water and the botanical gardens and the Government House gardens framing the city with green space which is rare in the Caribbean. One will not find extensive botanical gardens with central location as well as the Roseau River which is one of the largest rivers flowing through the Caribbean capital in any center in the region.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Bruges – Cosmopolitan and Bourgeois

Bruges, a town in Flanders, is in the northern part of Belgium and is a historic capital of West Flanders which is one of the three regions of Belgium. With its compact size, it is relatively cosmopolitan and bourgeois and is one of the best preserved pre motorised cities in Europe offering all types of charms which are very rare to find anywhere.

Belgium has three official regions namely Flanders in the north, Wallonia in the south and the Brussels Capital region located within Flanders, The people in the Fleming region speak Dutch while the Walloons speak

French with a little bit of German around the country since it is positioned between the Germanic and the Latin countries. This has placed Belgium in the centre of both European commerce as well as battle over commerce for many years.

Operated as a Major Hub of Shipping

Bruges had used its location to a very great extent in the early years in the 13th to the 16th centuries in building wealth trading in wool textiles, spices wine and grain. The industrial of Bruges grew in banking helping in improving the development of the Flemish region while the northern Wallonia remained more pastoral and agricultural.

 Its historic division between the two main regions still influences the Belgian economy till date. Bruges operated as a major hub of shipping and trade till the Zwin channel got filled with silt towards the 16th century causing limitation to access to the sea and the decline in trade affected Bruges to a great extent while the nearby Antwerp benefited from Bruges set back.

 After almost two hundred years Bruges managed to rebuild its industrial structures and reclaimed its capacity for large ships and got recognised as a tourist centre during that time.

Historical Centre Beautifully Preserved

The historical centre is not too big and has been beautifully preserved;with most of its attractions are in close proximity and hencecan be explored on foot. The only mode of transport within the city is the public buses which are operated by the Flemish public transport company, De Lijn.

Taxis in the market place and the station cost around € 10 and bicycles can be rented to move around the city with speed though the cobblestone path makes the rides a bit uncomfortable and bumpy. Belgium has three airports; the local airport for Bruges is Ostend/Bruges International Airport-OST with Ostend being 30 km from Bruges with availability of plenty of car rental services.

The other two airports are Deurne Airport-Antwerp and Zaventem Airport-Brussels and the option of train is also available between them

Belgium’s Chief Tourist Attraction 

It is also Belgium’s chief tourist attraction and has become a major tourist city and an industrial port. It has been nicknamed as The Venice of the North, due to its many canals and the proximity to the waterways.

Bruges has a population of about 117,000 and in the entire metropolitan area around 250,000. Bruges was designated in 2002 as European Capital of Culture and its well preserved historic centre is filled with medieval art and architecture.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

San Sebastian – Modern Cosmopolitan Destination

San Sebastian
San Sebastian located on the shores of the Bay of Biscay in Basque Region of northern Spain is a modern cosmopolitan destination for exploring interesting sites in the country and is one of Spain’s pearls of touristic supremacy. San Sebastian flanked by a number of promenades with awesome beaches, the most famous being the Playa de la Concha.

The La Concha Bay has a small offshore island which enables visitors with a few hours of pure enjoyment in this beautiful setting while the nearby popular Ondaretta Beach is a better version for those interested in relaxing by the sea or swimming in chilly clean water. Geographically being a small city, San Sebastian is divided into areas which are worth visiting and exploring.

The Old Part has a variety of amazing restaurants and tapas or pintxo bars which are of great reputation both among tourist and locals. One of the city’s most amazing Michelin Star restaurants has some delicious and the finest quality of food stuff which should not be missed while visiting this appealing destination.

Known for Parades and Festivals

Leisure strolls by the seashore on a warm afternoon towards sunset will give one the privilege of the best fresh fish and shellfish together with a vibrant nightlife that follows thereafter in the city. One could also take the opportunity on some affordable and homely menus at the back streets. The summers is the best time to visit the city with the climate being mild with comforting warmth and during the day it is just pleasant and not too hot.

San Sebastian is also known for its several parades and festivals throughout the year most of which takes place during the summer months. The main economic activities are tourism and commerce and it is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Spain.

 Being the city’s small size, events like the San Sebastian International Film Festival have given this destination an international recognition together with Wroclaw, Poland, and will be the European Capital of Culture by 2016.

Oldest Museums – San Telmo Museo

The Culture in San Sebastian as the Basque speakers call Donostia, is a costal beauty which is experienced best in the summer season accompanied with music, film festivals together with bar snacks and one will always find some sort of culture where visitors can involve themselves at any point of time. The dFeria, held in March, a festival of theatre and dance is held in order to present performing arts creation with focus given to Basque theatre groups which runs for five days.

 It brings the global theatre down to Donostia with a lot of festive ambiance and should not be missed by enthusiastic of dance and theatre.The San Sebastian Heineken Jazz Festival in July is a tradition which is followed since 1966, hosted with a hundred concerts across twelve indoor and open space venues. It is shown at Kursaal Auditorium and Zurriola Beach which are very popular.

The San Sebastian International Film Festival in September is an annual Donostia festival which is considered as important as the Cannes festival showcasing about 200 to 250 international films, awarding the Golden Shell. One of the oldest museums, San TelmoMuseo in the Basque country was built in 1902 which is situated below Mount Urgull housing over 26,000 art pieces across 11,000 square meters of space.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Kyoto, Historical City

Kyoto city historically known as Meaco is in the central part of the island Honshu, Japan, having a population of around 1.5 million. This imperial capital of Japan formerly for more than a thousand years is now the capital city of Kyoto Prefecture which is in the Kansai region and also a major part of the Kyoto Osaka Kobe metropolitan area.

The city had been called Kyo or Miyako or Kyo no Miyako, in Japanese and in the 11th century the city was named Kyoto after the Chinese word for capital city. Kyoto the ancient capital of approximately 1,000 years was moved to Tokyo by the Emperor, Kammu, after the Meiji Restoration who established the capital `Heian Kyo in the city in 794. Kyoto is surrounded by mountains and one can witness the amazing changes of nature all through the four seasons in Kyoto. Ancient Japanese traditional customs and heritage still continues through their festivals and in their everyday lives,

Combination of Modern and Old Japan

Kyoto is filled with history of beautiful old city packed with famous temples, shrines and markets which creates a combination of modern and old Japanese world and is the best city since it has everything appealing from a tourist point of view transporting them to a different era altogether.

It has been the centre of Japanese culture in art, literature as well as education and all of the National Treasures in culture are situated in Kyoto and nearby areas of Nara. Besides the temples, shrines and markets they also have many beautiful gardens screen paintings and soft meditating statues of Buddha which have been restored with care.

Birth Site of Quintessential Japanese Culture and Traditions

The city flourished as the capital of Japan and was the birth site of the quintessential Japanese culture and traditions. After its transfer of the capital to Tokyo with the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the city continued to maintain its position as Japan’s cultural capital and is a home of various treasures of the country, worthy of global pride together with various historical buildings as well as traditional crafts and arts.

Moreover, Kyoto is also noted as the spiritual home of the Japanese and it is believed that without knowing Kyoto, it is impossible to grasp the true essence of Japan. Kyoto is a perfect blend of tradition, industry and culture with the combination of its rich and colourful history together with its geographical and climatic factors which is laid out in a grid pattern with the Palace placed at its centre.

Modelled on Modern Day Xian

The city was modelled on modern day Xian, the capital of the Tan dynasty of China and the surrounding were named according to their positions related to the Imperial Palace – Rakucha for central Kyoto, Kitayam – northern Kyoto, Higashiyama - eastern Kyoto and Nishiyam – western Kyoto.

The river that flows from north south through the middle of the city known as the Kamo river, serves as a useful reference point and the areas besides the river bank have been developed into walking trails, parks as well as playing fields thereby making the riverside a favourite spot for both the locals as well as tourists who can relax within the city.

Santa Fe – New Mexico

Santa Fe – Earliest known Settlement

Hotel Santa Fe
Santa Fe city was originally occupied by Pueblo Indian villages which date back from 1050 to 1150 and the earliest known settlements is presently the downtown Santa Fe which came after 900. Cluster of home which centred around the present day site of Plaza and spreading over half a mile to the south and west across the village known as Ogapoge was originally built by a Native American group and the Santa Re River provided water to the people living in that vicinity.

The Santa Fe River is also a seasonal waterway that was a year round stream till the 1700s. By 2007, the river was recognized as the most dangerous river in the United States according to the conservation group of American Rivers.

Highest State Capital

Santa Fe is located at 7,199 feet above sea level making it the highest state capital of the United States of New Mexico and is the fourth largest city in the state and also the seat of Santa Fe County. Santa Fe means the holy faith in Spanish which had a population of around 69,204 in the year 2012 and is also the oldest capital city in the United States.

Moreover it is the principal city of Metropolitan Statistical Area that covers all of Santa Fe County besides being a part of the larger Albuquerque-Santa Fe Las Vegas combine Statistical Area. When the city was founded, it full name was La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis – The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi.

Open Landscape of Sand Mining

During the Spanish colonial era and towards the 1st century of independent Mexico, the town of Santa Fe at that time had open landscape of sand mining activity which had been divided between the towns of San Pedro Tlaltenango Cuajimalpa, San Mateo, Santa Fe and Santa Lucia. Santa Fe was moreover connected by the former royal road connected by Tacubaya to Toluca and the royal road was at the present avenue known as Cuajimalpa Arteago and Salazar in the Sierra de las Cruces which continues with the current route of the federal interstate highway joining Mexico City to Toluca.

Santa Fe has mainly high-rise buildings which surround a large shopping mall and is currently the third largest mall in Latin America – Centro Santa Fe and the district also has a residential area with three college campuses besides other facilities. The atmosphere, food, open spaces and the architecture here is amazing which can take a full day to explore the places of interest at this destination.

Chilly Winters and Warm Summers

The climate of Santa Fe is a semi-arid climate with chilly winters and very warm summers with the average 24 hour temperature in the city ranging from 30.3 degree F. in December to 70.1 degree F. in July. Due to the relative aridity and elevation, the averagediurnal temperature exceeds to 25 degree F; every month and most part of the year at 30 degree F.

It receives around six to eight snowfalls each year between November and April and the heaviest rainfall is experienced in July and August along with the arrival of the North American Monsoon.

Animal Supplies

When you make the decision to care for animals on a farm or in your home, you need special hardware for their health and well-being. From the basic bowl for food and water to a hen house to keep all of your chickens, you can find a variety of items if you shop online. There are items that you can get to feed your pets easily so that you don’t have to step inside the pen or through the fence. You can also find hoses that you can use to put water in bowls inside the fence so that you can keep your animals hydrated.

Transporting animals might be part of your responsibilities if you own a farm and have cows, horses or other livestock that people want to buy. You could also transport animals to a doctor when they are sick. There are pieces of hardware that you can get that will help you transport the animals easily such as a trailer or carrier. Items can be found online that will help with the birth of animals on a farm. You can also get items to nurse baby animals in the event that something happens to the mother. Heaters and de-icers are also sold online so that animals stay warm and the food and water wont freeze.

Taking a Tour

Explore the world
If anything is worth doing, it is worth doing correctly. For those who are looking for a grand adventure, climbing one of the world's tallest mountains may be something that you are interested in. However, if you are going to climb a tall mountain, you want to make sure that you are doing so safely.

Climbing a mountain in a safe manner requires that you have a guide with you to help you get to the top without any issues. If you do encounter health issues while attempting to climb to a high elevation, having someone alongside you can make it easier to return to the bottom of the mountain or summon emergency assistance.

In most cases, a guided tour of a new location is always more fun than doing it yourself. Having someone with you who can point out the historical significance of a location or simply provide fun facts about climbing as you go can help you learn while you are attempting such a daring feat.

Humans are meant to explore. If you have time off from work that you haven't used or are simply looking for something to break the monotony of everyday life, taking a trip to the top of the world may be just what you need.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Charleston – In Honour of King Charles II of England

Charleston founded in 1670 as Charles Towne in honour of King Charles II of England, adopted its present name in 1783 and moved to its present location on Oyster Point in the year 1680 from the west bank location of the Ashley River which was known as Albemarle Point. From 1690, Charles Towne became the fifth largest city in North America and remained among the first ten largest cities in the United States through the 1840 census.

By 2010 census, its population had reached around 120,093, putting Charleston currently as the fastest growing municipality in South Carolina. Its Metropolitan area covers Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties with its population by 2012 estimating to 712,220 being the third largest in the state as well as the 76th largest metropolitan statistical location in the United States.

Well Preserved Architecture, Rich History

Charleston is the second largest city in the south-eastern State of South Carolina and is also one of the oldest and the principal city in the Charleston North Charleston Summerville Metropolitan Statistical Area. It lies on the south of the midpoint of South Carolina’s coastline on the Charleston Harbour, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean which has been formed by the confluence of the rivers Ashley and Cooper.

Charleston is known for its well preserved architecture, its rich history, awesome restaurants with friendly and well-mannered locals and has received many accolades which includes `America’s Most Friendly City’, by Travel & Leisure in 2011 and by Conde Nast Traveler in 2013 as well as the most polite and hospitable city in America by the magazine – Southern Living. There are many attractions to look for, from the harbour to the inland plantation while the main hub of activity is the Charleston’s Historic Market area.

Famous Sweetgrass Baskets

Getting to and around Charleston is fairly easy unlike many of America’s historic Colonial towns with the Interstate 26 being the main highway serving Charleston which terminates at Meeting Street and is the main drive into town leading to the Historic market location.

The Market had been the main part of life for over two hundred years in Charleston where the Greek Revival style market hall building was completed in 1841, and facing the Meeting Street which currently houses the Daughters of the Confederacy Museum. The vendor’s sheds stretch behind it all along the East Bay Street with over 100 vendors inhabiting it. One will find a variety of options on clothing, souvenirs, jewellery, artwork, crafts and food items inclusive of the low Country’s famous sweetgrass baskets.

Leisure Carriage Rides 

Leisure carriage rides can also be taken down Charleston’s back and main streets and tourists can get to know more on Charleston’s history and culture on their visit to the historic architecture with their tranquil gardens. Charleston is an attractive destination with a combination of sand, sun, history, good food accompanied with friendly people.

Its impressive architecture and beaches have been drawing many tourists to this amazing destination besides the over friendly locals who have been contributing genuine hospitability to every visitor thus enhancing the travellers delight at this remarkable destination.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Siena – World Heritage Site

Siena, a city in Tuscany, Italy is the capital of the province of Siena and the historic centre of Siena has been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Siena is one of the most popular tourist attractions for traveler to Tuscany and is famous for its cuisine, museums, art, medieval cityscape and the Palio, a horse race which is held twice each year.

This historical town of Siena Italy is located conveniently between Florence and Rome and is a home to a various historical landmarks as well as tourist attractions. One of the most amazing towns square is the Piazza del Campo, where the Siena Town Hall and Civic Tower are found with many great restaurants.

Visitors come to Siena, Italy from Rome or Florence at Siena’s central train station or one can take an intercity bus to reach this medieval city. The closest airport to Siena is the Amerigo Vespucci Airport in Florence while the Pisa’s Galileo Galilei Airport is also some distance away. Besides this, there are also two to three buses daily between Siena and Bologna Airport.

Reach Siena by Train from Pisa

One can also reach Siena by train from Pisa as well as Florence by changing at Empoli while the Siena railway station is at the bottom of a long hill outside the city walls where travelers with luggage can hire taxi or bus from the stop near the station.

Buses are also available from Florence as well as from Rome, Milan and from various other towns in Tuscany and beyond. Siena is linked by road to Florence by a superstrada, which is a form of toll free autostrada and the same to Florence is indicated on some road signs with the letters SI-FI, related to province abbreviations.

No automobile traffic is allowed within the city and several huge car parks are available immediately beyond the city walls. The car parks, La Fortezza and Il Campo are the nearest to the centre while free lots are located further on. Commercial traffic is only allowed during morning hours within the city.

An Intriguing Medieval City

Siena is an intriguing medieval city which was once a major military, trading and banking center. This walled city rivaled Florence in prestige and power and is a home to various beautiful cathedrals and churches. The Siena Cathedral is one of the examples of Italian Romanesque Gothic architecture and its main façade was completed in 1380.

 Its axis runs north south which is unusual for a cathedral and this was because it was intended originally to be the largest cathedral in the world with an east west nave and a north south transept. On completion of the transept and the building towards the east wall, they fell short of funds and the rest of the cathedral remained abandoned.

The famous Gothic octagonal pulpit by Nicola Pisano is inside which is supported on lions with the labyrinth inlaid on the flooring, traversed by penitents on their knees. There are also some preserved renaissance frescos by Domenico Ghirlandaio within the Sacristy and below the Duomo in the baptistery, is the baptismal font by Donatello, together with Lorenzo Ghiberti, Jacopo della Quercia and other 15th century sculptors.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cusco a Charming and Fascinating City

Cusco is a fascinating and a charming city in southeastern Peru near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range and is the capital of the Cusco Region and the Cuzco Province. The city had a population of 510,000 in the year 2009 and located at the end of the eastern area of the Knot of Cuzco, it has an elevated height of around 3,400m (11,200 ft).

 This destination was the site of the historic capital of the Inca Empire which was declared in 1983 as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Moreover it also a major tourist location with almost two million tourists visiting this place every year and has been designated by the Constitution of Peru as the Historical Capital of Peru.

Several people believed that the city was planned as an effigy in the shape of a puma, a sacred animal and under the Inca; the city had two sectors, the urin and hanan which were further divided to cover two of the four provinces Chinchasuvu (NW), Kuntisuvu (SW), Antisuvu (NE) and Qullasuvu (SE).

Lost City of Inca, Machu Picchu

Each of these quarters had a road leading from it to the corresponding quarter of the empire where each local leader had to build a house in the city and live for some time of the year in Cusco, in the quarter only, corresponding to the quarter of the empire within his territory. After the Pachacutis rule and at the demise of an Inca, his title was passed on to his son and the property was handed over to a corporation which was controlled by his relatives which is known as split inheritance.

The title holders each had to build new house adding new land to the empire to enable them to own the land his family would need to maintain after his death. Many of the tourists are lured by its cobbled streets, with its unique combination of colonial and religious splendors which are built on the high stone foundations of the Incas. Within the close quarters of the city is the country’s biggest draw card, the `lost’ city of Incas, Machu Picchu which is a lofty Inca citadel standing tall on an isolated mountaintop.
Flamboyant Fiestas and Carnivals

Cuzco boast of a list of flamboyant fiestas as well as carnivals where the nation’s past pagan collides solemnly in a colorful manner with Catholic rituals and modern Latin American mayhem. One can enjoy the breathtaking attitudes of the Andean peaks as you descend through cloud forest painted with rare orchids to lush lowlands of the Amazon jungle which can be done while trekking on foot, or mountain biking, river running or availing the local buses and trucks which drive the tourist to these remote areas of this destination.

Once can find some of the most fascinating archaeological site in and around the Inca’s ancestral homeland in the Sacred Valley of the Rio Urubamba with quaint colonial towns, artisan markets along with fascinating trekking routes to fulfill a trekking expedition.

Peru has two basic seasons of wet and dry and the rainy season is from November to April where traveler can look forward to brief afternoon showers during this period while during the rest of the year, it is dry with warm days and cold nights.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Essaouira - A Fortified Town

Essaouira is an exceptional piece of late 18th century fortified town which was built according to the European contemporary of military architecture in North African context and is surrounded by a wall influenced by the Vauban model. Since its foundation, it has been a major international seaport trading center connecting Morocco and sub Saharan African with Europe and the rest of the globe.

Essaouira is a city in the western Moroccan region of Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz on the Atlantic coast and the city had been known by its Portuguese name of Mogador or Mogadore since the 16th century. Archaeological indicate that Essaouira had been occupied since prehistoric period and the bay at Essaouira was partially sheltered by the island of Mogador which made it a peaceful harbor protecting it against strong marine winds.

This destination had been considered as one of the best anchorages of the Moroccan coast and the Carthaginian navigator, Hanno who visited this place in the 5th century BC established the trading post of Arambys. During the middle Ages, a Muslim saint by the name Sidi Mogdoul was buried in Essaouira and this could probably be the origin to the name Mogador.

Cultural and Natural Sites

The Mogador archipelago consists of a huge number of cultural and natural sites of Outstanding Universal Value and its relatively late foundation when compared to other medina of North Africa was the outcome of the Alaouite Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdullah whose desire was to make this small Atlantic town a royal port as well as the chief Moroccan commercial centre which would be open to the outside world.

For a long time Essaiuira was known as the Port of Timbuktu and became one of the major Atlantic commercial centers between Africa and Europe by the end of the 18th century and during the 19th century. It was during the 18th century that the present city was built by Mohammed III with the intention of reorienting his kingdom towards the Atlantic for increased exchanges with European powers choosing Mogadore as his main location.

His objective was to establish a harbor at the nearest point from Marrakesh and the other was to cut off trade from Agadir in the south which was supporting the political rival of Mohammad III and the inhabitants of Agadir had to forcibly relocate to Essaouira.

UNESCO Listed World Heritage Site

The first thing any tourist feels is walking around the fortification which is a sheer temptation and from the Kasbah’s Sqala, the old artillery platform of the medina’s maritime rampart, the scene over the port’s Sqala together with the ocean’s coastline and the medina which is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site is simply awesome.

In the souks, at street levels, which surround the Clock tower, one will find some of Morocco’s best marquetry craftsmen fashion sandarac wood along with ancestral precision. Close to the medina’s Sqala is the Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah museum, presenting beautiful collection of regional art works and marquety furniture, costumes, jewelry rugs and much more.

Besides these there are also Arabo Andalusian and Gnaoua musical instruments which are accompanied by singing and dancing promoted at an international festival every year in the month of June with programs that include jazz and world music.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bora Bora surrounded by Lagoon and Barrier Reef

Bora Bora
An island in the Leeward group of the Society Islands of French Polynesia and the most romantic island in the world, Bora Bora, is world famous for its glinting turquoise lagoon, with dazzling white sandy stretches of beach and luxurious resorts.

The island is located around 230 km northwest of Papeete and is surrounded by a lagoon and barrier reef. In the center of the island lie the remnants of an extinct volcano from two peaks, the highest point at 727 meters namely Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu.

The resorts have been a tempting retreat for couples for over forty years with their special amenities which have been fined tuned to perfection. Each resort has been designed with their own individual blend of unique romantic atmosphere for guest to choose from. An hour’s flight from the island of Tahiti or Moorea, the island of Bora Bora with lagoon of blues and greens is a great getaway for couples.

 This amazing island is love at first sight, with its lush tropical slopes and valleys blossoming with hibiscus where the castle-like Mount Otemanu reaches the skies and the palm covered motu border the lagoon like a necklace.

A Major International Tourist Destination

Bora Bora is a major international tourist destination and is famous for its aqua centric luxury resorts and Vaitape being the major settlement is on the western side of the main island opposite the main channel in the lagoon.

Bora Bora has a population of 8,880 according to 2008 census and the island’s economy is driven solely by tourism. The produce of the island is limited to what is obtained from the sea and the coconut trees, the copra, which were historically of economic importance. Since the past few years, several resorts have been built surrounding the lagoon.

Thirty years ago, the first over the water bungalow on stilts over the lagoon was built by Hotel Bora Bora and presently over water bungalows are a standard feature of most Bora Bora resorts where the bungalows range from cheap, basic accommodations to very expensive and luxurious resorts to stay in.

Scuba Diving and Snorkel - Popular Attraction 

Besides the attractions of aqua centric resorts there are also other attractions on land like the WWII cannons. The island is served by the Bora Bora Airport on Motu Mute in the north and Air Tahiti provides daily flights about five or six, to and from Papeete on Tahiti.

There are no public transports but rented cars and bicycles are the recommended mode of transport besides small two-seater buggies for hire in Vaitape and there is also the possibility to rent motorboat to explore the lagoon. Scuba diving and snorkeling in and around the lagoon are popular activities for the tourist where one will find many species of sharks and rays inhabiting the water body.

There are also a few dive operators on the island offering their services in manta ray dives as well as shark feeding dives to those who are interested. Besides the existing islands of Bora Bora, the new manmade motu of Motu Marfo is another addition in the northeastern corner of the lagoon on the St. Regis Resort.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Chama - The Oldest, Longest, Highest and Scenic Railroad

At the foot of the 10,000 ft Cumbres Pass, lies a small town of Chama in Mexico which is bordered by the Rio Grande and Santa Fe national forest, offering various outdoor adventure, the most popular being the ride on the vintage railway, one of the oldest railroad. Chama, a cute little hidden town is a setting for the Cumbres and Toltec Steam Train which is a 3 ft – 914 mm narrow gauge heritage railroad running between Chama, Antonito and Colorado.

It runs over 10,015 ft (3,053 m) Cumbres Pass, through Toltec Gorge from which it derives its name. The trains operate from both ends meeting at the midpoint and presently the railroad is the highest narrow gauge steam railroad in the United State. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, a vintage steam locomotive driven excursion train leaves either from Antonito, Colorado or Chama and as one journeys through it they get an amazing experience of journeying through spectacular mountains, canyons and valleys.

It takes one to the highest elevation in America in rail and its narrow gauge train ride is the most beautiful setting for anyone travelling by train in the oldest, longest, highest and scenic in North America.

A Living History Museum

This railroad is a living history museum which was built in the late 1800s which travels in 3 feet wide narrow gauge where the trains are pulled by historic steam engines. Steam engines carried passengers as well as goods from one place to another before roads linked the towns of the Rocky Mountains.

The railroad has been designated both as a National and State Registered Historic Site as well as a National Civil Engineering Landmark. The trains depart every morning from Chama, New Mexico and Antonito, Colorado and in peak seasons, trains are available in both directions every day of the week, meeting at Osier, the midpoint of the line where lunch is available.

Passengers have the option to continue on their train journey to the end or switch trains to return to their original destination, again with the option of a motor coach return to their original terminal. Reservation needs to be done especially during peak seasons though in rare cases, at times seats are available for last minute travelers.

Parlor Car and Gondola

Passengers are provided with standard seats in the coaches or first class seats in a parlor car while gondola without seats is usually provided for first class and standard riders who would prefer to ride in the open air. Besides this, a concession car with provision of snacks and gifts, along with bathrooms on each train is also made available for the travelers.

All the passenger trains are pulled by historic steam locomotives which earlier worked on this line as well as the others of the Denver and Rio Grande Western, while heavy trains out of Chama may have two locomotives for Cumbres Pass.

The steepest part is the east bound from Chama and hence the steam engines tend to work hard giving out an acoustic and visual show and the balance ¾ of the east bound trips is downgrade with the locomotive being fairly quiet. Westbound from Antonito, the grade is comparatively less though the locomotive tends to work harder especially on the last few miles to Cumbres Pass.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Krakow - Poland’s Second Largest City

Poland’s second largest city, Krakow, is a historic and visual gem covering both banks of the Wisla or Vistual River. At the foot of the Carpathian Mountains lies the metropolitan area which has over 1.4 million inhabitants and the city has grown from Stone Age settlement to the most important city of Poland. On Wawel Hill, it began as a hamlet and was reported as a trading center of Slavonic Europe in 965. Krakow reaffirmed its role as a major national academic and artistic centre with the establishment of new universities as well as cultural venues at emergence of the Second Polish Republic in 1918 and through the 20th century. As the royal capital for over 500 years, this city has absorbed plenty of history as well as talent through the centuries and is presently a treasure trove of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Krakow’s centerpiece and the most sought after attraction site, is the Wawel Castle where most of the tourist find themselves drawn towards the Old Town with its soaring Gothic churches and gargantuan Rynek Glowny or the Main Market Square which is the largest in the nation. Outside the Old Town are the former Jewish quarter Kazimierz and its silent synagogues, reflect the tragedy of the past.

A Centre of Science, Art and Culture in Poland

Krakow is blessed with attractions and diversion of a modern variety with a good number of restaurants, music clubs and bars, tucked in its narrow alleyways. Krakow has been the centre of science, art and culture in Poland for over a thousand years and has plenty of attraction in store for the visitor. Wawel Castle is a symbol of national identity and this Renaissance palace was built in the 16th century, the original being smaller was built by King Boleslaw Chrobry in the early 11th century besides the dedicated chapel to the Virgin Mary. Kazimierz III Wielki had turned it into a Gothic castle and when burnt down in 1499, Zygmunt I Stary had commissioned the new residence. The current palace was restored back in place within 30 years, designed by Italian architects and inspite of further extensions and alteration, this three storey structure has been preserved till date complete with a courtyard arcaded on three sides. Most of the coronations, entombments and funerals of Poland’s monarchs and well known personalities over the centuries were conducted in this cathedral. As one wanders through this monument, it seems like a tour through Polish history with many outstanding artist leaving behind a wealth of magnificent work of art which has made this cathedral an amazing artistic achievement as well as Poland’s spiritual sanctuary.

Famous Ultra Deep Salt Mine

Southeast of Krakow’s city centre, some 14 kms, is Wieliczka, famous for their ultra deep salt mine which is operational for 700 years. Everything within its depth has been done by hand from salt blocks and it has an eerie world of pits and chambers. Moreover this mine has been included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1978. The Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady also known in those parts as the Mariacki or St. Mary’s Church overlooks the Rynek from the northeast side where the first church built on this site was in 1220 and was oriented eastward. After its destruction during the Tatar raids, its construction of the basilica began with the foundation of the previous church.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Rotterdam – A City With Vibrant Life

Rotterdam – A City With Vibrant Life
Rotterdam a city of many faces is a tough port city with amazing nightlife, sophisticated shopping centers, all combined in an artistic city. It is a city bursting with energy, a diverse, multi ethnic community, intensely interesting maritime tradition with a wealth of top class museums. Rotterdam is an architecture city of Holland with stimulating innovation and its always changing skyline is very amazing.

It is an awesome destination to explore and should be visited on a trip to Holland if on a high speed train on the way to Amsterdam or to the south. It is a city with many attractions like the Spido harbor tours, the historic Cruiser Rotterdam, the Euromast panorama tower and the Rotterdam Zoo. Museums like the Boijmans - Van Beuningen, the World Arts Museum and the Kunsthal exhibition centre are worth visiting. Rotterdam is also an excellent place for shopping at big market square with fresh produce, flower and cheese and the modern Rotterdam metro service can take you to the big Alexandrum Mall within a few minutes. The shops in downtown Rotterdam are open all through the week.

Various Street Markets 

Several weekly markets in various districts of Rotterdam covers the Binnenrotte square from Blaak to shopping street Meent containing more than 400 stand and the largest street markets of the Netherlands is at Binnenrotte, near Railway Station Rotterdam Blaak, which is an underground station and the other being in the South of Rotterdam, Afrikaanderplein.

One will find a wide selection of goods from mobile telephone accessories and other stuff to Dutch cheese, affordable fashion items, fresh fruits, flowers, vegetables and fish besides Dutch and other imported products. A visit to their street market in Rotterdam will give the visitor an experience enabling them to meet multi cultural local people. Near the Blaak area one will find fresh produce like fruits, fish, cheese, vegetables, flowers and candy and in the vicinity of Meent, clothes, vintage goods, fabrics and souvenirs, and smart phone accessories are available. In the afternoon, the markets get quite crowded especially at weekend while on rainy days the street markets have functional shelter of plastic covers. A visit to the Rotterdam can be clubbed with street market shopping since the market square is connected to the Meent and Hoogstraat shopping streets.

Marketing with Live Musical Performance

In summer one can visit the Rotterdam Summer Sunday Market at Binnenrotte near Blaak which has different themes during the summer season like fabric or books, though they are slightly smaller. Their city lounge is centrally located on the market square offering a variety of stalls with appetizing snacks and cold drinks. One could also get the opportunity to taste some of the famous Dutch fries or exotic snacks from the multi cultural communities in Rotterdam.

There is also a lifestyle market besides the traditional street market, known as the Swan Market which is diverse with creative goods and are organized on several weekend a year at different areas in Rotterdam like the Grotekerkplein and Museumpark. This market offers jewelry, fashion, vintage, accessories, kid stuff together with affordable art as well as snacks and drinks accompanied with live musical performances.