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Going to Paris? Sooner or later you may. Once there, steer clear of the typical Parisian landmarks. Follow in the footsteps of Phil, the Senior Editor of a well-known Paris travel guide. Take a peek at out-of-sight places few outsiders know. Amazement guaranteed.

Paris: New Itineraries for a Fresh View - Part I

Paris: New Itineraries for a Fresh View - Part IEvery Paris travel guide seems to have something to add to the already voluminous information available on such well-known spots as the Louvre and Orsay museums, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Eiffel Tower. Yet what about discovering the quaint neighborhoods of the 19th century Paris? Or taking pictures of the inn built for the paupers by Nicholas Flamel in the 15th century (yes, that's the same Nicholas Flamel written about in Harry Potter)?In my reckoning, there's a truly interesting way of discovering Paris, and that's to take the less traveled path. The one I take with my friends when we visit the French capital.So, let's assume you are as eager as we are to learn something new about Paris, and let's take a peek at just two of its less-well-known jewels. The next time you take the trip to Paris, you'll be the one leading the way!The Lutece Arena, a return into timeBefore Paris became Paris, the city was the capital of the territory occupied by the Parisii, the Gallic tribe after which Paris will take its name in the 4th century A.D. There is some controversy about the original Celtic name of the city, but when the Romans invaded it in 52 B.C. under Emperor Julius Caesar, they called it Lutecia (or Lutetia).In the 2nd century A.D., the Romans built in its middle an amphitheater of about 25,000 square feet, which could hold about 16,000 spectators. During the next century, gladiator fights and other less palatable games (e.g. offering early Christians for lunch to beasts of prey) were held for the benefit of the local Roman population.With the fall of the Roman Empire, such games became much less popular, and as Christianity became the State religion, man-eating events ceased to be held altogether. The arena was demolished during the barbarian invasions of 280 A.D., and the site later became a cemetery. In the late 12th century, the ruins were buried under a large rampart built to defend Paris. They remained forgotten until 1869 when they were unearthed to the greatest surprise of all historians.At the time, the City Council decided Paris did not have the funds necessary to excavate and preserve the antique discovery, and the development project which had dug out the ruins was green-lighted. Later on, in 1883, the site was repurchased and rehabilitated under the guidance of French novelist Victor Hugo (author of 'Les Miserables'). A further rehabilitation project began in 1916 which unearthed the site completely. Vicious attempts at taking over the site and destroying it by unashamed, greedy, low-life real-estate developers were thwarted by the local dwellers in 1980.How do you get to see this beautiful place which, to this day, still remains 'stealthy'? Orient yourself on a map, take the subway to the 'Monge' station, and walk to No. 47 Rue Monge. Enter the hallway, walk along the corridor and there you are! Right on the sandy ground of the arena where ghosts of ferocious lions still roam in search for a human prey! A guaranteed, amazing leap in the past, just short of 2,000 years ago! The Botanical Gardens and their Alpine GardenNow on to another amazing curiosity which is sure to tickle the interest of our plant-loving friends.In 1640 A.D., under the reign of King Louis the 14th (the same king who presided over the development of the Versailles Palace), the Royal Garden of Medicinal Herbs opened its doors 'to the general public and students'. The project had been green-lighted in 1626 by King Louis the 13th.The Jardin des Plantes (Botanical Gardens), as it has been called since the French revolution, is actually a collection of individual gardens -- each with a peculiar charm and specific plants. It houses several old structures, including the Botanical School and the Magny Mansion (built in 1650). The Botanical Gardens are a huge site with a total surface area of about 2,600,000 square feet.Each of the individual gardens is unique and deserves your attention for each one is home to specific species of flowers, vegetables, trees, and medicinal plants. On the Botanical School's plot alone some 4,500 plants are grown. The Rose Garden (La Roseraie) counts some 170 species of roses!Amongst these beauties, the Alpine Garden stands out. Between the Otter Basin and the Cuvier alley (Cuvier was a famous French botanist), a 40,000 square foot parcel was delineated in 1931 for the growing of a diversity of mountain plant species. Today, the gardeners of the Alpine Garden tend to the health of plants coming from places as diverse as the United States, China, Japan, the Balkans, Morocco, the Caucasian mountains, Spain, and the Himalaya Mountains! A total of some 2,000 species to look after. Among the hallmarks of the Alpine Garden is its 18th century Pistachio tree. The Botanical Gardens house several historical trees: the oldest one was directly imported from the Eastern United States and planted here in 1636 (an acacia). Among other ancient trees, you can also admire a Lebanese cedar, which was brought back to France in 1734.A visit to the Botanical Gardens and its Alpine Gardens is a whole afternoon affair. Ten minutes into the place and its quietness will make you oblivious of the hustle-bustle of the city. You will come out of your stroll absolutely ravished, marveling at the job the gardeners do to maintain this privileged environment in full bloom.How do you access this temple of Mother Nature? Take the subway to the 'Gare d'Austerlitz' station. Walk to the Austerlitz Bridge (Pont d'Austerlitz) and you will find yourself on a semi-circular plaza (Place Valhubert). The entrance to the Botanical Gardens is here. It is open every day from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.And on Hemingway's words, I leave you until Part II of this series of "Paris: New Itineraries for a Fresh View"." If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." -- Ernest Hemingway

A day trip to Cordoba, Spain

A day trip to Cordoba, Spain

Like the Seville region, the province of Cordoba is landlocked, though that should not be a reason for the more adventurous traveller to not visit either for they both are fascinating. The region of Cordoba is split by the mighty Rio Guadalquivir on which lies the ancient city of Cordoba, founded by the Romans, though it flourished under the Moorish occupation and this is evident in the architecture found all over the city. Built on a sharp bend of the river which is crossed by the Roman bridge, the El Puente Romano, the city was once a port. When the Moors were replaced by the Christians, the citys beauty was left untouched and the Christian cathedral was built within the mosque, the Mezquita. The Mezquita dates back to the 12 century and symbolises the power of the Moorish Islamic influence on this region of Andalucia. Built in 785AD by Abd al Rahman, the mosque has been added to over the generations by both Christian and Islamic faiths as they each controlled this area.At the centre of Cordoba is the old Jewish quarter where little has changed in centuries, narrow streets and garden plazas, tapas bars and restaurants, an ideal area to explore and relax in the Spanish way. The bull fighting museum and the cool and refreshing fountains and gardens of the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos are well worth a visit both being open from Tuesday to Sunday.Move outside of the city into the area of Cordoba, and you'll find it quite unoccupied, most of the population live in the city itself while the remainder are spread out in this large unexploited region. Summers here are dry and hot, so the best time of the year to visit is during the cooler spring and autumn months, where you will find villages that still hold on to their Spanish values, something that has almost all but disappeared from the Costas to the south.

Crater Lake National Park - The Gem Of The Pacific Northwest

Crater Lake National Park - The Gem Of The Pacific Northwest

Crater Lake National Park is a gem of the Pacific Northwest. It is located in south central Oregon in a sparsely populated area and it truly is in the middle of nowhere.That's what makes visiting Crater Lake all the more an adventure. You are not going to get to Crater Lake unless you make it your purpose to get here. The closest airports are in Klamath Falls (60 miles from the park) and Medford (80 miles from the park).But getting there is well worth your effort!Few places on earth create such an overwhelming awe from observers, however Crater Lake National Park certainly does. Even in a region that boasts many natural and volcanic vistas, the only description for Crater Lake is incredible.You may have heard about the deep blue color of the lake, but words can never prepare you for the first breathtaking look from the edge of this 6 mile wide crater or caldera which was caused by the eruption and subsequent cave in of Mt. Mazama a few thousand years ago.My most vivid memory of Crater Lake is finding various overlooks along Rim Road that encircles the park. One spot in particular has an incredible overlook that you can walk out on that isn't much wider than 3 or 4 feet. The thing that makes this spot so awesome is that the 3 foot wide path out to the overlook drops off steeply more than 1,200' in some places.Sorry Iwon't tell you where this secret spot is, I'm going to let you find it all on your own. However, you will certainly know it when you get there! Much of the year Crater Lake is snowed in. The area around Crater Lake receives some of the heaviest snowfall in the country, averaging an astonishing 533 inches per year.For a brief time each year, Crater Lake National Park emerges from this winter freeze to bask in the summertime sun. If you visit early in the season you may be surprised by the amount of snow which remains long into months which are considered early to mid-summer in most parts of the nation. Because of these harsh and often unpredictable weather patterns, most park roads are closed even through the late spring.Crater Lake is host to a vast array of activities. While enjoying the natural scenic wonders, park visitors may hike in old growth forests, participate in a variety of interpretive activities, camp out or stay in an historic hotel, or even cross-country ski during the very long eight month winters which are experienced here in the Cascade mountains.If you are planning to visit Crater Lake there are only two campgrounds in the park that have a total of 216 tent sites. Spaces are available on a first come first serve basis as reservations are not taken in the park.If you love the outdoors and are especially fond of our nation's National Parks, you don't want to miss the incredible beauty that awaits you in Crater Lake National Park.

Mount Snowdon, Wales. Interesting Information For Visitors

Mount Snowdon, Wales. Interesting Information For Visitors

If you plan to visit Snowdon in Wales this summer, here is some interesting information about the mountain that you might like to know.Snowdon, in Welsh, is Yr Wyddfa, which means tomb or monument. Legend has it that it is the tomb of Rhita Gawr, an ogre who would kill kings and make cloaks out of their beards. He supposedly met his end when King Arthur climbed to the top of Mount Snowdon and killed him.No one knows who first conquered Snowdon, but ascents of the mountain became popular when Thomas Pennant published 'Tours' in 1781 and included his visit to the summit.Snowdon, as indeed the surrounding area, has been mined since the Bronze Age, and evidence of copper mining can be seen all over the mountain, from old mine buildings, to old tramways. Care should be taken around these old buildings.Facts and Figures of SnowdonSnowdon stands 1,085 metres (3,560 feet) high. Each year 350,000 people reach the summit, some on foot and some by train. The summit has 200 inches(508 cm) of rain per year, and can reach temperatures of 30 centigrade in high summer, and plummet to - 20 centigrade in the winter. Add to this winds of up to 150 mph and the temperature can feel more like - 50. The summit buildings at the top can by covered by ice and snow between November and April.Snowdon Mountain RailwayBefore the railway, ponies used to take tourists to the summit of Snowdon. Sir Richard Moon and Mr George Assheton Smith were responsible for the idea of the Snowdon Railway - Sir Moon as a way of boosting tourists using his standard gauge lines, and Mr Smith as he realised that tourist cash may compensate him from the loss of income from his declining mines. They imported a fully working 800mm gauge mountain railway from Switzerland. The railway remains the only rack and pinion railway in the UK. It has tooted racks in the centre of the track that engage with cogs under the carriages. The only accident on the railway occurred on the day it opened to the public in 1896. Engine #1, Ladas, derailed and plummeted down a slope. The crew jumped from the engine and survived, and the guard applied the hand brake to the carriages and brought them to a halt. Unfortunately, one of the passengers panicked and jumped from the carriage, falling onto the tracks and under the wheels. He later died from his injuries. The saga wasn't quite over, as just as the carriages stopped, the engine following behind (Enid - still operating today) hit them from behind!The railway was closed. Since it reopened the following year there have been no further accidents! And since that date there has never been another Engine #1 on the Snowdon Railway!The cost of the train trip is not cheap (apart from being a good walk in itself, another reason for trying to make the summit on foot!), but is a great way for those who cannot make the climb to travel to the top. However, good weather cannot be guaranteed, and you may start the trip on a clear day, only to find yourself in cloud as you reach the top. If you choose to take the train up Mount Snowdon, you can walk back down via the Llanberis Path. You can get some wonderful views of the trains puffing their way up and down from the path. Not all trains are steam - there are also diesel engines.If you plan to take the train up to the top of Snowdon beware that the trains get very crowded in the summer, and it is best to arrive early or even more advisable to book in advance by ringing 0870 458 0033 at least the day before. If you don't you may have a long wait. A board by the ticket office will tell you which is the next train with available seats. You can buy a return, or a single to the top. Single tickets for the journey down are sold on standby basis only.Weather permitting the trains run from mid May to the end of October right to the summit, but from mid March, and a little way into November, stop at Clogwyn. Trains start running at 9am and continue until late afternoon. Buildings on Snowdon SummitIn 1820 the first stone shelter was built at the summit by a guide named Lloyd. A copper miner, William Morris, had the idea of selling refreshments from the shelter - an idea which continues to the present day. Having walked up the mountain it is probably as welcome today, as it was to the earlier tourist, to be able to have something to eat and drink before tackling the descent.Two hotels were opened on the summit, one called Roberts Hotel, the other the Cold Club. Both were in fierce competition with each other. There were often more visitors then beds though, and conditions were not the best. By 1898 the Snowdon Mountain Railway and Hotels Company had taken over the hotels, and started to rebuild them - the fierce conditions on the top of Mount Snowdon means that any building had a limited live. By the 1930s it was decided to replace the "summit buildings" with a multipurpose hotel, cafe and station. With little regard to conservation, the builders simply pushed the derelict old huts over the side of the mountain to make way for the new build (imagine the uproar today!). Sir Clough William-Ellis, the architect and designer of nearby Portmerion, designed the new building, complete with huge picture windows so visitors could best enjoy the panoramic views. Unfortunately the windows lasted only six months before they were blown in and had to be replaced with much smaller ones.During the war years the summit buildings were used by the Ministry of Supply for experimental radio work, and subsequently by Air Ministry, Admiralty and Armed forces, and the mountain top was closed to tourists. The hotel did not reopen to tourists after the war. In 2004 it was agreed that the summit buildings would undergo a total refurbishment. Demolition is due to start in the autumn of 2006, with the new centre being ready in 2007. There has been much debate about the form of the new buildings, but one thing is certain - whatever the new buildings look like, they will always be a welcome sight to walkers who have struggled their way to the top of the mountain!

Why You Should Visit The US Botanical Garden This Summer

Located in Washington, D.C. on the Capitol grounds, the United States Botanical Garden has a rich history in addition to its beautiful grounds.Although the idea of a National Garden dates back to the times of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, the U.S. Botanical Garden (USBG) traces its origins to the year 1816, when the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences formally proposed the idea. Congress established the Columbian Institute's garden in 1820, just to the west of the Capitol Grounds, and it operated until the year 1837. The garden proposal revived itself in 1842, after the Wilkes Expedition brought a collection of living plants back to the U.S. from around the world; eight years later, after being housed in temporary greenhouses, the plants were moved to the site of the previous Institute's garden. Finally, in 1933, the USBG moved to its present location. There you can find the Conservatory (along with two acres of exterior grounds), the Frederic August Bartholdi Park, and the Administration Building. The newly developed National Garden is scheduled to open in October 2006, and will add three more acres to the USBG complex.So, what can you expect to see at the USBG? Well, first of all, there's the Plant Collection at the Conservatory, which was recently renovated to the tune of 33 million dollars. The Conservatory maintains a beautiful, fascinating living plant museum with a total of about 26,000 different plants, all used either for exhibition, study and/or exchange with other institutions. There are economic plants, medicinal plants, rare and endangered plants, orchids, cacti and succulents, cycads, and ferns, to mention just a few! The Palm House structure, which was renamed The Jungle, now includes a walkway for visitors at 24 feet above the floor. There are also various rotating exhibits as well as exhibits that come and go, so before you visit - or when you get there - check them out so that you won't miss anything visit the "What's In Bloom" page on the USBG website: www.usbg.gov.Outdoors, you will find the Bartholdi Park. Created in 1932, it was named after the man who built the historic fountain at its center - Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. The geometrically arranged flower beds in the Park are continuously updated to reflect trends in American gardening. The famous Bartholdi Fountain is surprisingly graceful, considering its mammoth size - it weights about 40 tons and is 30 feet high. In addition to being a beautiful place to walk around, the Park also serves as a home landscape demonstration garden, and showcases innovative plant combinations with a variety of styles, designs and themes.As of October, 2006, the USBG will be opening the newly built National Garden. This garden will stretch over three acres, and will include the Rose Garden, the First Ladies Water Garden, the Butterfly Garden and an Environmental Learning Center, to name just a few.There is no admission charge to any area of the USBG. The Conservatory is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, while Bartholdi Park is open daily from dawn to dusk. Handheld still or video cameras can be used at any time; however, if you want to use a tripod or draw with an easel or use art materials containing solvents, you'll need special permission and a permit. Although there are a limited number of metered parking spaces within a short walking distance of the USBG, public transportation is your best bet - both Metrorail and Metro buses have lines that go straight to the USBG. The site offers full accessibility for those with special needs, as well as handicapped parking.The Garden's outstanding collections are arranged in fascinating displays that provide not only an educational experience but an opportunity to relax and absorb the beauty of nature. The USBG features plant exhibitions and flower shows throughout the year. Each show offers visitors a wide range of ideas on innovative garden design, up-to-date gardening tips and botanical information.

Portugal Lisbon, Algarve and Lagos

On the southwestern tip of continental Europe, Portugal is an old school country. In this article, we take a look at Lisbon, Lagos and the Algarve.LisbonLisbon is the biggest city in Portugal and is located on the Atlantic coast in middle of the country. Ive been to Lisbon three times, but only for a few days each time. Every time I come away with the impression of elegance. Arriving by train, your first taste of Lisbon is when you walk out of the train station directly onto the shore of the harbor. As you look to the ocean, the name San Francisco immediately comes to mind. Mountains rise up on both sides of the mouth of the harbor and then there is the bridge. Running across the mouth of bay is a bridge that looks for all intensive purposes like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Ive never had a chance to research it, but there has to be a connection. As you walk into Lisbon, everything is clean and relaxed. There are walking only streets with cafes and garden areas. Bringing to mind San Francisco again, there are cable cars running though the center of the city. I cant tell you why, but Lisbon is a very low stress city on both the mind and the wallet. Yep, it is cheap and a good destination for budget travelers. AlgarveThe Algarve is the southwestern tip of Portugal and borders on both the Atlantic and Mediterranean oceans. This is an interpretation on my part as some feel the area only covers the beaches on the Mediterranean Ocean. Regardless, the Algarve is a collection of beach towns that remind me of Southern California in the 1940s. No I am not that old. I am just relying on family stories and pictures. Jeez, give me some credit! One of the highlights of the Algarve is Lagos.Lagos I grew up in San Diego, California. Its a great place to be a kid and an adult. The only complaint I have is a lot of people seem to feel the same way. The population has exploded beyond belief, freeways are crowded on weekends and housing prices average roughly $500,000 for a deluxe closet without driveway. Its still nice, but Ive begun to think about relocating. If I do, Lagos may be my destination. Lagos is a sleepy beach community with just about anything you could want in paradise. White beaches, private beaches, grottos, wine growing, a lively nightlife, modern conveniences and just about the nicest people you have ever met in your life.You can stay in a hotel while in Lagos, but this is a mistake in my opinion. Instead, go to the train station and reserve a room with a family. Families in cities all over the world do this, but Lagos is different. The family you stay with more or less adopts you as one of their own. They will haul you all over town, introduce you to other locals and generally give you a true taste of Portugal. For veteran travelers, nothing could be better. RatingFor an overall rating, I give Portugal and Lagos the highest rating of bar. I loved it so much, I wanted to stay and almost purchased a bar by blackmailing, bribing and begging a friend in California over the phone. Alas, his wife didnt think it was such a good idea. Hey, how about you? We could probably still get a good deal! No, seriously.

Summary

Going to Paris? Sooner or later you may. Once there, steer clear of the typical Parisian landmarks. Follow in the footsteps of Phil, the Senior Editor of a well-known Paris travel guide. Take a peek at out-of-sight places few outsiders know. Amazement guaranteed.