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Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

Madrid,Spain

November 16, 2010

ARANJUEZ

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ARANJUEZ

At the meeting point of the Tagus and Jarama rivers, this low-lying meadow was a cherished spring escape for Spanish kings and queens for many centuries. The stunning gardens of this UNESCO World Heritage Site blend architecture and nature.  Have lunch at the star-studded Casa Jose restaurant (casajose. es), where sophisticated renderings of traditional Spanish dishes include grilled hake with almond and saffron and roast pork with orange and parsley.


Madrid,Spain

November 9, 2010

ALCALADE HENARES

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ALCALADE HENARES

This World Heritage Site is less than 20 miles from Madrid. One of the most important cities in Spanish history, Cervantes, Tirso de Molina, and Lope de Vega are just a short list of the renowned writers who have called this “city of words” home. Visit the Universidad Complutense, which dates back to 1499, and is an important stopping point on the “Path of the Spanish Language” route celebrating the Spanish language’s history.


Madrid,Spain

November 2, 2010

MONASTERY OF EL ESCORIAL

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MONASTERY OF EL ESCORIAL

This mountain town is nestled in the Sierra de Guadarrama at the foot of Mount Abantos about 30 miles from Madrid.  Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, the Monastery and Real Sitio de San Lorenzo are prime examples of Spain’s imperial glory.  Walk through this scenic outpost which was once the powerful stronghold of Philip II King of Spain, ruler of one of the world’s largest empires.


Madrid,Spain

October 23, 2010

CHINCHON

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CHINCHON

This picturesque medieval city brims with warm character and wonderful restaurants less than 30 miles away. It is far enough away that it feels like an adventure, but close enough to visit in a day. Settle into a cafe off the main square lined by its distinctive changing balconies and order up orange juice for the kids and an aperitif the city’s signature anise liquor for mom and dad.


Spain

Free Guidebook For Lanzarote Tourists

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The Canary Islands are the second most visited region in Spain after Catalonia.  And Lanzarote, the fourth largest of these islands, has long been a hot favourite with British tourists.  With over 820,000 visitors from the UK enjoying a holiday there during the course of 2009.  A figure that is expected to increase even further this year.

Free Guidebook For Every Visitor

 Now all tourists visiting Lanzarote can save money and make the most of their holidays by getting their hands on a comprehensive, 96 page Guidebook to the island – entirely free of charge.  By downloading a copy of the latest edition of Lanzarote Guidebook at www.lanzaroteguidebook.com.

 

Local Knowledge – The Inside Guide

Lanzarote Guidebook is written and published by local residents.  So readers can benefit from their in-depth local knowledge, rather than wasting precious holiday time and money visiting tourist traps and enduring low quality meals in dodgy restaurants.

 

Up To Date Information

It is published every quarter, so the information in Lanzarote Guidebook is always accurate and up to date.  Unlike conventional guidebooks which can often be obsolete in parts by the time they reach the bookshelves.

 

Discounts On Excursions & Restaurants

Lanzarote Guidebook readers can also enjoy discounts at local restaurants and on some of the islands best excursions.  With 10% off the price of a trip on Lanzarote´s popular Yellow Submarine available – along with a 10% discount on all meals at La Cabaña, one of the islands leading restaurants.

 

Why Buy A Guidebook?

Lanzarote Guidebook contains all of the information and high quality pictures that can be found in a conventional Guidebook – but at no cost.  Enabling readers to explore all of Lanzarote´s resorts and attractions, browse maps and plan their holiday before they even arrive on the island.

 

Delivered To The Door

As well as being available as a fast and free download Lanzarote Guidebook can also be delivered direct to any address in the UK at a cost of £3.59, which covers postage and packing.


British Isles,Europe

May 27, 2010

European Train Travel Guide

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European Train Travel

Traversing the Continent by rail is romantic. It’s also practical. After all, who isn’t desperate for an alternative to air travel? Especially one that involves few delays or security lines, stations in the center of the action (forget schlepping to the airport!), affordable ticket prices, and a chance to take in the scenery up close. Riding the rails is also easier on the environment. A trip on the Eurostar from London to Paris produces one-tenth the carbon dioxide per passenger of a plane flying the same route. And as of November 2007, the service is carbon-neutral, thanks to the purchase of offsets. Ready to roll?

Europe By Rail

Rail Europe (888/382-7245; raileurope.com) specializes in selling single tickets, as well as all of the major multitrip passes. BritRail passes (from $259 for four days) are the only option avail­able to North Americans for unlim­ited travel throughout Britain. (Snag these before your trip ­they’re not sold in the U.K.) Eurail passes cover the Continent and include the Global Pass (from $744 for the 15-day first-class option), valid in 20 countries. For less­sweeping itineraries, there’s the Eurail Select Pass, which is good for three to five adjoining coun­tries; 25 regional passes, each encompassing two or more coun­tries; and 17 single-country passes. Whichever you choose, don’t wait until you hit Europe to buy-it’ll be 20 percent more expensive there.

FIRST CLASS VS. SECOND First-class tickets cost about 50 percent more than second class. That typically buys a reclining seat, a meal, more space for luggage, and a quiet train car. Second class is absolutely fine if your trip is only a few hours-and your mother­in-law isn’t along for the ride.


Europe

January 28, 2010

Sites for Train and Railroad information in Europe

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BEST SITES FOR TRAIN INFO

IN THE UNITED KINGDOM nationalrail.co.uk National Rail Enquiries operates the official Web site for Britain’s 26 train operators. Find departure and arrival times and ticket prices for all routes in England, Scotland, and Wales.

FOR THE REST OF EUROPE bahn.de Don’t let the name fool you: Germany-based rail operator Deutsche Bahn has one of the most comprehensive search engines fortrain times-and it covers roughly 87,000 stations throughout Europe.

FOR ALL-PURPOSE RAIL RESEARCH raileurope.com

Rail Europe’s Web site lets you find and buy tickets and passes, and features interactive maps illustrating connec­tions. If tickets on your chosen dates are not yet available, you can sign up to get an e-mail alert as soon as they are.


Bordeaux,France

January 24, 2010

Bordeaux, France, Wine Region

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En route to the city of Bordeaux from Bergerac, France, where Belingard is located, is the impeccably preserved medieval town of St. Emilion. Its winding, cobblestone streets are lined with expensive wine shops, all tout­ing “worldwideshipping” in English and Japanese. Here you can descend into the cramped hermitage where the monk, Emilion, received pilgrims in the 8th century. The disciples who followed Emilion herewere the ones who started a wine trade in earnest. 

At Chateau Franc Mayne, a nearby vineyard, it’s possible to tour the former limestone quarries whose pale ochre innards were used to build the town. The quarries beneath this and many other St. Emilion chateaux are now wine caves-happily, they possess the perfect conditions for aging wine in oak barrels. A tour guide points out a skylight punched into the roof of Franc Mayne’s cave. It shows the cross­-section of limestone that gives St. Emilion’s mostly merlot and cabernet franc grapes their character, along with the stories of Roman poets and monks and queens, of course. 

In Bordeaux, the busy Place de la Comedie is the city’s social center. Mayor Alain Juppe launched an ag­gressive clean-up and modernization initiative when he was elected in 1995, and today the city is an obvious “after.” A sleek tram makes it easy to get around, and the bulk of 8th ­century facades have been sandblasted to remove centuries of built-up dust and grime from the porous yellow limestone. The broad avenues gleam, and the tiny squares at the ends of the St. Pierre quarter’s narrow streets are packed with students, young couples and families, caffeinating, kissing and splashing in fountains. 

On the banks of the Garonne River, many plaques adver­tise the offices of negociants, or wine merchants. Negociants have been trading from this port since the mid-r2th century, when Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henryof Plantagenet, the future Henry II of England, which led to many trade exchanges between Bordeaux and England and the golden age of claret. 

That tidbit is imparted duringatwo-day course called “Bordeaux Wine Tasting, from A to Z” at L’Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux, a few blocks from the Regent Grand Hotel. After this crash course in a classroom with white-slab countertops and chrome spit-sinks, it’s practically required to apply the new knowledge downstairs at the posh Le Bar a Vin. More than go wines by the glass are available, and little foldout maps on each table pinpoint where each wine originat­ed. The servers are well equipped to steer people toward clarity when the breadth of choices becomes overwhelming.


Italy,Tuscany

January 1, 2010

Tuscany Wine Region

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At its heart, Tuscany is home to the red sangiovese grape. You might not have heard of it, because like many of Italy’s indigenous vines, this one doesn’t love to travel. But you’ve prob­ably heard of Chianti, which has grown up from its bottle-as-candleholder days into a high-quality offering at prices that range from steal to splurge. As with many Italian wines, the Chianti name refers to the growing district rather than the grape. “Classico” refers to the historic heart of the Chianti zone, and “riserva” means the wine has had extra aging. If you have heard wine geeks refer to so-called “Super Tuscan” wines, these are wines made to push the boundaries of Tuscan tradition by mixing French grapes and, very often, French barrels with the local varieties.  The results are magnifico, so if you feel like splurging, check them out.


France,Paris

December 8, 2009

Saint-Chapelle, The Chapels

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Sainte-Chapelle

A gem of High Gothic architecture

In the centre of the Ile-de-la-Cite

The Palais de la Cite was the residence and seat of royal power from the 10th to the 14th centuries in Paris, and housed the Conciergerie and Sainte Chapelle which are now part of the Palace of justice, the new function of the building. I The Sainte-Chapelle was built between 1242 and 1248, in accordance with the wishes of Louis IX (king from 1226 to 1270 and the future Saint Louis) to house the relics of the Passion of Christ. The most famous of these relics was the Crown of Thorns, acquired in 1239 for a sum that greatly exceeded the cost of building the Chapel itself.    

Religious and political influence

The Holy Relics had belonged to the emperors of Constantinople since the 4thcentury. In purchasing them, Louis IX added to the prestige of both France and Paris which, in the eyes of medieval Europe, became a “New Jerusalem”, and hence the second capital of Christianity. Throughout the revolutionary period, the Sainte-Chapelle, which was a symbol of royalty by divine right, suffered a great deal of damage, although the stained glass windows remained intact. From 1846 onwards, a huge wave of restoration work was carried out on the building, giving it its current appearance.

The Ile-de-la-Cite

The seat of royal power

In the 1st century BC, the Parisii, a Gallic tribe, settled on an island in the middle of the River Seine, later known as the I1e-de-la-Cite, and founded the town of Lutetia, which in the 5th century took the name of Paris. In the 6th century Clovis, the first French King, made the Palais de la Cite his royal residence. His son Childebert had Paris’s first cathedral built.

At the end of the l Oth century, Nugues Caper, the first Capetian king, established his royal council and government in the palace, which thus became the seat of royal power.

A palace deserted by its kings

In 1248, when Louis IX signed the deed foun­ding the Sainte-Chapelle, the nearby Cathedral of Notre-Dame already had its current facade. In 1358, the advisors to King john II (The Good) were assassinated before the eyes of the Dauphin, the future Charles V, who once he became king decided to move to better protected premises, firstly the Hotel Saint-Pol, one of his Paris residences (no longer standing), then to the Louvre and Vincennes. The royal government, Parliament, Chancery and the Chamber of Accounts remained in the Capetian palace for a while, but as the centuries passed only the law courts and prison stayed on.

Nowadays, the Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie are the only visible remains of the oldest palace of the kings of France.

Two sanctuaries, one on top of the other

From the beginning, the relics were displayed and worshipped in the upper chapel. Only the king, his close friends and family, and the canons leading the services entered it via the outdoor terrace, which at the time was connected to the Palace. The lower chapel was the place of worship for the palace staff.

The basilica-type layout with a semi-circular apse was very simple. It was to be used as a model for other Holy Chapels, including those of Vincennes and Chateaudun.

The lower chapel

Visitors are greeted by a statue of the Virgin Mary, the sanctuary’s patron saint, at the portal. Inside, the polychrome decoration, like the carved decoration in the porch, dates back to the 19th­century restoration work. In the apse on the left, above the door to the former sacristy, is a 13th­century fresco depicting the Annunciation. This is the oldest wall painting in Paris.

The low vault is held up by openwork struts linking the aisle columns to the lateral walls. These walls are decorated with blind trefoil arcatures and 12 medallions featuring the apostles. The vaults’ fleur-de-lvson an azure background are also found on the columns, alternating with the towers on a purple background which were the arms of Queen Blanche of Castile, Louis IX’s mother.

The Upper Chapel

This is a truly monumental and sumptuously decorated reliquary. Sculptures and windows combine harmoniously to glorify the Passion of Christ and create a feeling of entry into the Heavenly jerusalem, bathed in light and colour. The Sainre-Chapelle owes much of even its early fame to its stained glass windows.

The 1,113 scenes depicted in the 15 stained glass windows tell the story of mankind from Genesis through to Christ’s resurrection. Fourteen of the windows, depicting episodes from the bible, should be read from left to right, from the bottom upwards.

I The window telling the story of the relics of the Passion is the only one to he read houstro­phedonicall. In the lower part of the lights, it illustrates the tale of the relics, from their discovery bv Saint Helen in Jerusalem to their arrival in the kingdom of France.

2 The Statue of Saint Peter is the original, as are 5 other apostle statues. He is holding the keys to heaven. The statues of the 12 apostles, the “pillars of the Church” are symbolically arranged in the nave on the ribbed vault’s springing line. Thev typify the harmony and idealised faces of Parisian sculpture in the years between 1240 and 1260.

3 The great shrine containing the 22 relics” of the Passion of Christ, including the fragment of the Holy Cross and the Crown of Thorns, used to be displayed on the gallery but was melted down during the Revolution. The remaining relics are now kept in the treasury of the Cathedral of Notre-Darne de Paris.

4 The western rose illustrates the prophetic Apocalypse of St John, symbolically represented opposite the Passion of Christ in the choir’s central stained glass window. In the centre of the rose, Christ returns in glory at the end of Time to judge the dead and the living.

The 100 foliage-decorated capitals along the lateral walls are all different. The angels on the corner pieces of the arcatures echo the 42 martyr scenes featured in the quatrefoils.