Monday, October 1, 2007

Kew Palace (London) – A Royal Residence once upon a time

Part of the famed Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew, in London, the Kew Palace is actually one of the Royal Palaces in use by the British Royal Family, though it now opened to the public as a museum.

Originally constructed a private manor by a Dutch trader, Samuel Fortrey in 1631, it was called the Dutch House. Later on King George II and his wife, Caroline lived here while King George was extending the Richmond Gardens. In 1781, their son, George III, who moved his extended family here, purchased it.

The building, which is noted for its distinctive, decorative carved brickwork and rounded gables, is constructed in what is known as the Flemish Bond style with bricks arranged with sides and ends alternating. The front entrance, which is gabled, gives a house a very ‘Dutch’ appearance, but later alternations have changed certain original installations especially the original sash windows.

In 1818, when the lady in residence, Queen Charlotte died, Kew palace was closed down. In December 1896, the palace was included into the Kew Gardens properties, with the consent of the then monarch, Queen Victoria.

In the 1960s the Queen Gardens were constructed by then Director Kew Gardens, Sir George Taylor, in 17-century style that includes only those plants that existed in that era.

Administered separately by the Historic Royal Palaces department, the palace recently underwent a major restoration and was re-opened to the public in 2006 like many other royal palaces.

Homely tourists’ destination at Mafia Island, Africa

Mafia Island is a cluster of islands, one major island and numerous islets. Apart from the main one, only a few islets are inhabited, with approximately 41,000 locals calling these islands home. Many of which are fisherman and others subsistence farmers cultivating various spices.

With its deep-water anchorage and numerous sandy beaches, the Mafia Island cluster is an excellent place for scuba diving, game fishing and other water sports.

For all those thrill seekers and active gamer fishing enthusiasts, these islands provide the ultimate experience. These visitors on arrival can find these great accommodations:

Pole Pole Bungalow Resort:
Mafia Island, Tanzania

Kinasi Lodge:
Mafia Island, Tanzania

Mafia Island Lodge:
Mafia Island, Tanzania

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The many attractions of ancient Cusco, Peru

The ancient city of Cusco and its ancient monuments plays host to whole lot of ancient and not-so-ancient monuments.

Some of these are:

Sacsayhuaman: This ruined complex of a military fortress dating back to the Incan civilization is a marvel of construction. It is composed of large boulders, some weighing more than 300 tons each, fitted together without the use of cement.

San Blas: This is an old living area of Cusco, that is home to narrow and steep streets, colonial-styled houses and various art workshops.

Santo Domingo Church (Iglesia de Santo Domingo): This is a 17 century church which is located on the site of the Incan’s Temple of the Sun.

Temple of the Sun (Coricancha): This ruin was once the most important temple of the Incas, which was later used as a base for the Church of Santo Domingo when the Spanish plundered the city.

Cusco Cathedral: This magnificent renaissance-style, 16 century building is built in the shape of a Latin cross and contains about 400 colonial paintings including the famous ‘Last Supper’ by Marcos Zapata. It dominates the skyline of the Plaza de Armas.

Some of the Iceland’s beautiful waterfalls

Iceland, the island literally, middle of nowhere, is ideally suited for waterfalls. The rocky island, which is home to countless glaciers that melt, in summer, feeds equally countless rivers and streams, it is only natural that somewhere along the routes of the river, there will be ravines, and hence, a waterfall.

Some of its spectacular waterfalls are:

Dettifoss: Located in the northeastern Iceland, Dettifoss Waterfall is one of the largest waterfalls of in the country. It is situated on the Jokulsa-a-Fjollum River, which flows from the Vatnajokull Glacier. The Glacier, which itself is the largest glacier in Iceland is situated on the southeastern coast of the country.

It is also said to be the most powerful waterfalls among all of its mainland European counterparts.

Selfoss: A few hundred meters downstream from Dettifoss lie the Selfoss Waterfall whose width is 100 meters and the fall, 44 meters. The water comes from the Jokulsa-a-Fjollum River that originates from the Vatnajokull glacier. After passing through a gorge, it flows into the Artic Sea.

Gooafoss: One of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland is the Gooafoss Waterfall. Located in the north of the country, in the Myvatn district, the water of river Skjalfandafljot falls from a height of 12 meters, spread over range of 30 meters.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Malmo Castle - Last of the Scadanavian castles of the renaissance

One of the oldest renaissance castle left in this part of the world (Scandanavia), Malmo Castle was originally constructed as a citadel by King Eric of Pomerania in 1434.

Later in the 16 century, it was demolished and rebuilt in the newer style by then King Christian III of Denmark, as the area was part of the then Kingdom of Denmark. For many years after that the castle remained a stronghold of the kingdom, defending the land against foreign aggressors.

Malmo Castle also once served a prison, with one of its famous inmate was the Earl of Bothwell, third husband of the Mary Queen of Scots, who served a prison sentence of 5 years from 1568-73.

Surrounded by moat and lots of greenery, Malmo Castle is now ‘serving life’ more as a museum than a prison fortress. Currently it houses the Art Museum, City Museum, the Natural History Museum, Aquarium & Tropicarium, and the Konstmuseet.

The latter one contains one of the largest collections of old Scandinavian masters. It also houses a large Russian painting collection dating around to 1900 – the largest outside Russia.

Located in the western side of the city of Malmo in Sweden, Malmo Castle is easily accessible by anyone wishing to visit it. It lies west of the area of Stortorget, the castle can be easily reached on foot.

Preston: A market town with a historic past

Preston, a small cosmopolitan city has always been a center of trade and commerce - even during the Middle Ages.

Located halfway between London and Glasgow, the city is still carrying out its commercial duties acting as not just as a shopping center for the whole Northwest England region but also as an exporting center, trading goods, with many mainland European countries.

Preston, a small town with a population of 129,000 souls started out as what can easily be described as a Church Town, or as historians would have us believe, Priest Town; hence, the name, ‘Preston’.

Situated on River Ribble, Preston is the administrative center of Lancanshire and was recently inducted in the ‘city hall of fame’, when it became the nation’s 50th city. This honour was bestowed in 2002, the Golden Jubilee Year of Queen Elizabeth II accession to the throne. Since then, the city is known by its new title, “Queen’s Golden Jubilee City”.

Preston has always been a significant town during the ages. In the Roman times, a major road ran just north from the then city. In 1179, the village of Preston, received the Royal Charter, and thereafter became a town. The Middle Ages saw the town developed into a major commercial center as it sat on a main route from England to Scotland, contributing to its growth.

Then later on during the 16 and 17 centuries, it got embroiled in a political situation due to which it became the scene of the last major civil war fought in England in 1715. Aptly named, ‘Battle of Preston’ took place when Preston town-folk, sympathizers of Scottish Army loyal to James III of Scotland and England took on English army who were against his accession.

Preston during the ages, has not just been a commercial centre but also a tourist destination. It is more so evident as mentioned by an 18 century writer who visited it and described the city as a pretty town with lots of rich people.

Preston has a lot to offer to visitors. It’s main attractions are St. Walburge’s Church, Miller Arcade, Town Hall, Harris Building, St. John’s Minster, former Corn Exchange, Fishergate Baptist Church and beautiful Georgian buildings at Winckley Square.

Australian Bush tucker: Lets put on a barbie

Australians are very fond of their ‘bush tucker’. Bush tucker is associated with food cooked outdoors either on camping sites or at out-of-station trips.

These usually include cooking or rather, barbequing meats of their iconic animals such as Kangaroos, Emus (a flightless bird), Barramundi (fish) and yabby (crayfish).

The famous Aussie slogan, ‘Let’s put on a barbie’, cannot emphasize their love of cooking outdoors anymore than this.

Their modern-day, but traditional food items include vegemite (a black yeast spread); meat pie (minced meat pie); Tim Tams (chocolate coated biscuits); Anzac Biscuits (large wheat biscuits).

Then there Vanilla Slice (a custard pie slice topped with vanilla icing); Lamingtons (pieces of sponge cake coated with chocolate and any other flavoured icing and coconut); and Peach Melba (slices of peach served with whipped cream and sometimes with a scoop of ice cream).

Wonderful resorts at Minorca Island (Mediterranean Sea)

The lesser known but equally famous, Minorca Island is the second largest of the Balearic Islands, the autonomous island group of Spain.

Famous for its many pristine beaches, both of sandy and rocky nature, as well as several sites of prehistoric, monolithic stone monuments, it isn’t require any sense of brilliance as to why this small island (only 15 km wide and 52 km long) is chock-a-block full of visitors all-year round.

With over 60,000 permanent inhabitants, Minorca plays host to a half a million visitors every year. But even with such large numbers, it is not as overrun by them as its nearest neighbours, Ibiza and Majorca are.

Apart from its beaches, there are various sites and monuments for those interested in history, archaeology, music and art. It also has a great nightlife too.

For all those thinking of making a beeline to Minorca, can stay in either one of these hotels:

Hotel Princesa Playa:
Gran Via Son Xoriguer 17, Minorca, Balearic Islands 07760, Spain

Hotel Sant Ignasi:
Carretera Cala Morell, Ciudadela, Minorca, Balearic Islands 07760, Spain

Sol Menorca:
Playa de Santo Tomás, s/n (Re-opens April 27, 2007), Migjorn Gran, Minorca, Balearic Islands 07749, Spain

Blanc Palace Aparthotel:
Urbanización Sa Caleta Menorca, Ciudadela, Minorca, Balearic Islands, Spain

Menorca Sea Club Apartments:
La Mar s/n Cala'N Forcat, Minorca, Balearic Islands 07760, Spain

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gotland (Sweden) – A biking paradise in the Baltic Sea

If anyone ever wishes to cycle along the coast during night-time at 10 pm in the shade of the setting sun, all the while enjoying the solitude of the serene environs, then Gotland Island is just the place to be at.

Often called the ‘Pearl of the Baltic Sea’, Gotland is truly a magical place. It is a natural wonder, with miles long bicycle tracks, limes gravelled road, dramatic coastlines, sandy beaches and flowery meadows.

Part of Sweden the island is about 75 miles long and 35 miles wide at its widest point and it boasts more sunny days in the year than the whole of Scandinavian region.

For those interested in history, would be happy to note that it is rich in historical monuments including magnificent stone churches from the 12 & 13 centuries that bear testament to the islands’ once glory.

According to a local legend, a man named ‘Tjelvar’ discovered the island. At the time of discovery the island was jinxed, such that that it used to sink into the sea at day and rise out the water at night. The man, Tjelvar on discovering it, brought back ‘life’ into the island and it never sank again.

Gotland gained a lot of prominence during the Viking age, when it became a major trading port of the region. There are boulders marking graves in the shape of old Viking Ships visible even today along the roadsides.

Minorca Island: Small in size, but more beautiful

One of the major tourist attractions in the Mediterranean Sea is the island of Minorca.
Part of the greater Balearic Islands group, Minorca belongs to the Spanish nation and lies not far from another of Spain’s island attractions – Majorca.

The name, Minorca comes from the Latin term, Minorca, meaning small or not so significant. The name corresponds with the size of the island, as it is just 15 km wide and 52 km long.

Though, it is the second largest of all the Balearic Islands, Majorca being the larger one, it is the most beautiful of them all. With miles of beaches, it has more beaches, than those of Majorca, Ibiza and Formentera combined. These beaches range from miles-long silver or golden crescents of sand to rocky bays.

The island itself is a set on a rocky bluff, overlooking an ancient port, which was a reason that saw French, Spanish and even British fighting over the island, and hence, for the control of the Mediterranean region (the island lies near the entrance to the Med. Sea).

Minorca Island is famously known for its large collection of megalithic stone monuments, including navetes, taules and talaiots that speak volumes of its early, prehistoric human settlement.

Though, tourism is a major industry at this island, it, unlike its nearby neighbours it not completely dependent on it. It’s other industries include leatherwork, costume jewellery production, dairy farming and gin manufacturing.