Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Paraty – A Preserved Portuguese Colonial

Paraty, a preserved Portuguese colonial and Brazilian Imperial town has a population of about 36,000 inhabitants and is located on the Costa Verde or Green Coast which is lush green running along the coastline of the state of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

It is a famous tourist attraction and is known for its historic town and the coast and mountains in the region. It was first founded formally as a town by the Portuguese colonizers in the year 1667 in region inhabited by the Guaianas Indians who lived where the city stands now and was called Paraty. In Tupi language, Paraty means river of fish.

When the region was colonized by the Portuguese, they adopted the Guaianas name for their new town. Its old churches, nearby forest, waterfalls, cobbled streets, islands with its emerald green seas are a sheer attraction for every tourist.

Paraty a Medium Sized Town

Set amidst jutting peninsulas with secluded beaches along with a backdrop of steep mountains which plunges into an island surrounded bay, Paraty is a nice medium sized town in Southern Brazil and is one of Brazil’s most exciting and appealing destination and exquisitely preserved historical gems.

The town is located on the Bay of Ilha Grande dotted by many tropical islands and rising above 1,300 meters behind the town are the tropical forests, mountains and waterfalls which is the westernmost and southernmost city of Rio de Janeiro state.

It is also surrounded by several parks and nature reserves which include Serra da Bocaina National Park, Serra di Nar State Park of Sao Paulo, the Park Reserve of Joatinga and the Cairucu Environment Protection Area where the village of Trindade is placed. Besides, the municipality includes a village and an Afro Brazilian quilombo.

Century’s Old Architecture

Its colonial centre is known not only for its century’s old architecture but also for its absence of automobile traffic and the irregular cobblestone streets are closed to motor vehicle enabling one to stroll peacefully in the streets.

The elegant white building with fanciful multihued borders with latticed window blends with the natural beauty of this amazing town.Paraty is a town which is crowded and lively during summer vacation with Brazilian and European tourists and its cosmopolitan flavour is enhanced with the entry of a number of artist, chefs and writers, foreigners as well as Brazilians who have settled in this town and opened galleries, restaurants and shops.

The town is compact and can be explored on foot, though cars, besides taxi for pick and drop of passengers are not permitted in the historic city centre. The historic centre is small and easy to navigate, though street names and addresses are a bit confusing and while some streets have more than one name, house numbers do not follow a predictable pattern.

Export Port for Gold

Paraty became an export port for gold to Rio de Janeiro and from there on to Portugal, after the discovery of the world’s richest gold mines in 1696 in the mountains of Minas Gerais.

The gold rush led to the construction of the Caminho do Quro or Gold Trial which was a 1200 km road paved in steep areas by huge stones connecting Paraty to Diamantina via Quro Preto and Tiradentes.

This was used to transport gold to Paraty and also to convey supplies, miners and African slaves by mule train across the mountain, to and from the gold mining areas, The Gold Trail was included in the World Heritage List in August 2004.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Quebec Four Centuries of History

Quebec City is around four hundred years old with four centuries of history marked by encounters with the First Nations, terrible epidemics, battles between the English and French as well as acts of men and women after whom the streets have received their names.

This city has grown and developed all along the centuries with its amazing history, culture, economic success together with its urban transformation, neighbourhood life accompanied with the French language. Quebec City, the crown jewel of French Canada is one of North America’s oldest and most magnificent capital cities of Canada’s Quebec province.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site

The picturesque Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a living museum with narrow cobblestone streets with 17th and 18th century houses along with soaring church spires with the addition of the splendid Chateau Frontenac towering above it all.

Its population of 491,142 in 2006 made Quebec the second most popular city and the tenth most popular city in Canada and is known for its location on Saint Lawrence River and its historic Old Quebec featuring fortified city walls which are the only ones left in northern North America.

Main Attraction – The Old Town

The attraction of this destination is the Old Town which is split between the Haute Ville; the Upper Town perched above the St. Lawrence River on the Cap Diamant cliffs and the Basse Ville, the Lower Town where Samuel de Champlain had established the first French foothold in the year 1608.

The Old Town is filled with museums, mansard roofed houses along with Cobblestone Street which are tempting to be explored. Beyond the walls, through the historic town gates of Porte St. Louis and Porte St Jean, four more neighbourhoods are accessible namely St Jean Baptiste, Colline Parementaire, Montcalm and St. Roch each having awesome restaurants, shopping and nightlife.

Winter and Summer Entertainment

The vast Plains of Abraham, where the British defeated the French in 1759, is presently enshrined as a national part, offering excellent recreational opportunities.

There is plenty of entertainment in this city where in summer, musicians, actors and acrobats in period costume go on the streets bringing about a festive spirit with fireworks and song.

In winter, during the months of January and February, Quebec’s Winter Carnival is the biggest and most colourful winter festival while fall and spring bring in beautiful foliage all around.

French Speaking Province

The province of Quebec is a French speaking city and is known for its architecture and various annual festivals, the most popular being the Winter Carnival with skiing, ice sculpture and ice castle. Quebec City was the first city to be established in Canada with goals of being a permanent settlement rather than a commercial outpost like St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador or Port Royal Nova Scotia.

The French explorer Jacques Cartier in 1535 built a fort and stayed there for a year and returned in 1541 to build a permanent settlement though it was abandoned in 1542. Presently Quebec City is one of the largest cities of Canada and most of the economy is based on tourism, transportation, defence and service sector. A major part of the city’s jobs are through the provincial government being the capital city and its main industrial product from the city are paper and pulp, metal, wood items, chemicals and electronics.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Seville – Largest Historical Centres of Europe

Credit: psu.edu
Seville was founded by Hercules and its origin was linked with Tartessian civilization. It lies on the banks of the Guadalquiver River and is one of the largest historical centres in Europe. It is locally a Spanish city, the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Andalusia as well as the province of Seville.

The inhabitants of this city are known as sevillianos/sevillanas or hispalenses, called after the Roman name of the city, Hispalis. In 2011, this city had a municipal population of around 703,000 and a metropolitan population of around 1.5 million which has made it the fourth largest city in Spain as well as the 30th most popular municipality in the European Union.

Three UNESCO Heritage Sites

It has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in its Old Town namely the Alcazar palace complex, the Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies, where the historical records of the American continent are kept, the Fine Art Museum, one of the second largest picture gallery in Spain besides convents, parish churches and palaces.

The minaret of La Giralda, the cathedral is one of the largest in Christendom and part of the treasure includes Casa de Pilatos, Torre del Oro and the Town Hall. To visit the old city with the Cathedral and the Giralda tower, one can climb the steps inside the tower for a great view of the city.

Close to it is the royal Mudejar palace with beautiful gardens with the Santa Cruz quarter having cramped streets, flowered balconies with richly decorated facades and hidden patios. It has a harbour which is located about 80 km from the Atlantic Ocean and is the only river port in Spain.

The quarter of Triana on the other end of the river, La Macarena, Santa Cruz and San Bartolome, the street of Las Sierpes, and La Maestranza bullring, together with Maria Luisa part and the riverside walk are all the images of Seville.

A Joyous Town with Impressive History

Seville is universally considered being a joyous town with all its important monuments and impressive history and is the largest town in Southern Spain, the city of Carmen, Don Juan and Figaro. The people of Seville are known for their wit and sparkle while the city is full of vitality.

 Moreover, the Sevillians are known to be great actors with their extraordinary performance at their annual Feria de Abril which is a weeklong event with food, drink and dance that takes place day and night in over a thousand especially mounted tents for this occasion.

Besides this, it enables men to parade on fine horses while the women dance in their brilliantly coloured gypsy dresses to the tune of the music. During the Holy week, Semana Santa, a religious festival is held where hooded penitents march along in long processions followed by large baroque floats on which is mounted the image of Christ or the Virgin amidst a crowd of cheerful Sevillians.

Some of the sights which should not be missed in the old city, are the Casa de Pilatos which has a large sixteenth century mansion that blends with the Mudejar, Renaissance and Gothic styles, harmoniously with exuberant patios and gardens.

Crossing of the Triana Bridge over the large Guadaquiver River and the lively quarter of Triana with its charming narrow streets all around the church of Santa Ann together with the traditional ceramic factories are worth exploring.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Venice – A Sanctuary on a Lagoon

Photo: Alamy
Venice is one of the most beautiful and interesting place in the world. It is a small city, with every corner having monuments, Church or museum which contains history, a tale or tradition besides the daily events they offer to citizens as well as tourists.

It is a sanctuary on a lagoon which is the same as it was six hundred years ago adding to the splendour and beauty of this amazing destination. It is filled with a romantic charm drawing many tourists to this awesome destination. Venice is a city in north-eastern Italy located on a group of 118 small islands which are separated by canals and connected by bridges.

It is placed in the marshy Venetian Lagoon which stretches in line with the shore between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. It is known for the beauty of its setting, its artworks and architecture and has been listed as a World Heritage Site with its lagoon.

A reader has described Venice as a beautiful and intriguing place where every view seems like a painting and has an unbelievable atmosphere. It is a paradise for shopping and fashion and seems like a city apart from this world. One can have a perfect experience on waking up in the morning with an espresso on a narrow street and enjoy in the gondola in the evening.

Venice, Europe’s Romantic Cities

Venice is the capital of the Veneto region. The name was derived from the ancient Veneti people who had inhabited the region in the 10th century BC and the city was historically the capital of the Republic of Venice. Venice has been described as one of Europe’s most romantic cities by the Times Online.

 Venice is also known as the La Dominante, Serenissima, Queen of the Adriatic, City of Water, City of Masks, City of Bridges, The Floating City and the City of Canals. According to Luigi Barzini’s description in The New York Times, it is the most beautiful city built by man.

Vaporetti, Best Option to Move around

Since Venice is placed on a lagoon, the water plays a very important part in transportation and from whichever way one arrives, the last leg of the journey is done on foot from the nearest waterbus or water taxi jetty. It is the world’s only pedestrian city and easily walk able. The absence of cars gives one a pleasant experience while moving around this city.

 The Rialtine Island which is the main attraction of Venice is small enough to walk around and explore from one end to the other in an hours’ time. If one needs to get around more quickly, the vaporetti, water buses or water taxis can be availed which are generally the best option to move around the city and also the cheapest mode of transport while exploring Venice.

The gondola ride can enhance the experience with a romantic ride along the canal though they tend to exist for a scenic purpose instead of taking people from one point to another. One can undertake their Vacation Travel at this amazing destination and experience the beauty of this age old city.