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Sights to See

Great Britain Travel and The United Kingdom’s Lesser-Known Aspects

See Many World Heritage Sites in Great Britain Travel

Literature that speaks to the tourist about Great Britain travel will go into great depth about the well-known tourist attractions in the country.  This is for good reason, as they are truly remarkable.  But after a very quick synopsis of these places, I would like to share with you what I have found to be some hidden gems in the entire region for the traveler with more than a few days to spend in this wonderful region, there are really some hidden gems.  For more information about vacationing in Europe, visit our website http://bestvacationeurope.com/.

Let''s Go Great Britain with Belfast and Dublin

Let”s Go Great Britain with Belfast and Dublin

Great Britain Travel Begins with It’s 21 World Heritage Sites

Great Britain has 21 World Heritage Sites, plus two more in Ireland.  London alone has four: Westminster Abbey (1987), The Tower of London (1988), Greenwich Maritime (1997), Kew Gardens (2003). All are well worth a visit.

Other sites that should be experienced when in London are St. Paul’s Cathedral, Leicester Square and its surrounding theater district, probably rivaling only New York for number and quality of theaters, Harrods’s Department Store, and Big Ben, or technically the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster.  Big Ben is the great bell that can’t be seen.  One of my favorite places is Covent Garden, just a short walk from Leicester Square and a very festive area with shops large and small.  The ever-present street entertainers give it an atmosphere that is really fun.

Eyewitness Travel Guides Great Britain

Eyewitness Travel Guides Great Britain

Also, you should see Buckingham Palace, even from the outside, but if you are in London in August or September when The Queen is away, a tour of the inside is really a must.  Also, Windsor Castle in the lovely town of Windsor outside of London is great to see, as well.  When purchasing your train ticket at Waterloo Station, ask the ticket vendor about package deals for train and castle tickets, as well as group rates.  I’ve always found them very helpful in securing you the best deal.

Other Places to Go for Great Britain Travel

Outside of London there are a number of sights to see.  Stonehenge is a well-known site worth visiting, and can be done on a day trip from London.  Another place I would highly recommend is the small city of Bath on the Western side of England.  The restored Roman Baths are truly fascinating, and the city has made somewhat of a small industry of day spas.  There you can relax for the whole day or enjoy a short treatment or complementary therapy at one of the day spas.

Trains run about every half hour from Paddington Station in London and take about an hour and one half.  A little further is Cardiff, Wales, which not only has a wonderful landscape but some of the nicest, down-to-earth people you will meet anywhere.  Edinburgh, Scotland is also a place you should attempt to see, and August for them is one long festival.  But book very early, like months before, or you won’t find a place to stay.


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Tuscany Spa- If You Love Natural Spas, Don’t Miss This One

The Little Known Tuscany Spa Springs

Imagine, spa lovers, enjoying an Italian Tuscany spa that is a natural hot spa spring in what has been described as the “eighth wonder of the world”, according to the great composer Giuseppe Verdi.  Grotta Giusti is the home of the largest underground hot water lake in Europe.  Hot spa springs in Italy are now the latest craze gripping Italian tourists.  Hot spring hopping, as yet not fully commercialized, involve driving narrow, often pot-holed roads, seeking out nature’s wild waters and spas, and many of them are free.

How Hot Tuscany Spa Springs Were Found

The underground Tuscany spa area was first discovered in May 1849, when miners working on the Giusti family property accidentally discovered hot steam rising out of the earth.  They enlarged the hole and discovered the area which until then was unknown.  Over the years, people have become fascinated with the shape of the stalagmites and stalactites, and the air maintains a constant temperature in summer and winter, ranging in temperature from 88 F to 93 F, with approximately 100% humidity.

Old Florence And Modern Tuscany

Old Florence And Modern Tuscany

The atmospheric pressure is constant in all parts of the Tuscany spa. Despite the temperature and high humidity, staying in any of the areas is a pleasant one.  There is a constant and efficient exchange of air due to an unexplained mechanism that naturally regulates these conditions. When you take a vacation to the Mediterranean it is definitely a “must see”.

When at the Italian spa, there are numerous choices to make when you are doing your hot spa springs hopping.  The steamy, fizzing pools of busy Bagni di Petriolo, which is free, as is the not so busy Casciano dei Bagni, are places to start.  For the fashionable elite, there is the Bagni di Lucca, and Terme di Saturnia, which has a cascading plumage of waterfalls, is an Italian spa that is also available.  This area is located about 30 miles northeast of Florence.  As stated earlier, many of the roads in this area are not well traveled, so it will take a car and an adventuresome spirit to get to this area that will never cease to amaze you.

A Tuscany Spa Trip is a Great Stress Reducer

If you need further enticing to explore this hidden gem, the hot spa springs baths which, when taken for a full 50 minutes, are said to eliminate all traces of stress, along with all body toxins.  Natural hot spa springs in Italy are said to help relieve degenerative arthritis, chronic rheumatism, gout, bronchitis and inflammatory diseases of the upper and lower respiratory tract.  This is even if caused by allergy, and also diseases of the skin.

For those that do not have those afflictions, this is still a unique treatment for the restoration of the body and mind, as the detoxification process caused by high heat and humidity, together with the immediate sense of well-being provide an environment certain to chase away all stress.

So if you want an unfamiliar insight into Italy, which is more than just the wine, food, architecture, and culture, get in on the latest trend hot spa springs being enjoyed by locals, as well as tourists who are in the know and look for experiences that are more avant garde.  Coupled with a trip to Florence, which in itself is a great place vacation, this would be an experience that would include Italy’s Renaissance culture with its immense natural beauty.

 

 

 


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European Architecture

Architecture Forms You to See When in Europe

When you take excursions in European cities with professional tour guides, history will probably be the topic the guide will discuss the most.  But something you will be told quite a lot of is their historical European architecture.  Unfortunately, a great deal of it had been ruined by war, in particular during the bombings during World War II.  Many of the city centers became literally destroyed, and with a few exceptions (Paris which is one), consequently you will observe these architectural wonders alongside a block of sixty year old buildings that had been obviously thrown up in a hurry.

But whenever you do observe one of those architectural marvels, your trip guide might say it is “early Gothic” or “Baroque”, as if you ought to recognize what that is.  Therefore here we are going to attempt to offer a very quick overview of a few of the architecture styles you may see, and what eras they were from.

European Architecture to see Begins with the Romanesque Period

1.    Romanesque (500-1200 AD).     You will see this type of architecture in France, and to a less significant amount in Germany and other places.  Meaning “descended from Roman”, it reflects simplicity in contrast with the following wave of Gothic.  This had been a period of great castle-building, but the design is observed more frequently in the churches of the era.

An Example of Gothic

2.    Gothic Architecture (1100-1450 AD).  Started in France and originally referred to as the French Style, the design had been possible as new methods of construction allowed them to build pointed arches, ribbed vaulting supported with columns, flying buttresses, stained glass windows and really elaborate sculptures.  As styles changed and the French Style fell out of favor, it became to be derisively referred to as “Gothic” after the Germanic (Goth) barbarians, which certainly wasn’t true.

3.    Renaissance Architecture (1400-1600 AD).  Renaissance in French means born anew, and as contrasting to the asymmetrical Gothic, this had been a send back to the symmetrical and proportioned buildings that are Classical Greece and Rome.  Look for classical arches and columns, with domes in addition to niches designed to contain sculptures.

4.    Baroque (1600-1830).  In Italian barocco equates to “bizarre”, and this style is marked with extravagance.  Europe in this point was becoming a lot more affluent, and it reveals in this architecture, highlighted by huge domes, huge spiraled columns, marble of multiple colors, and enormous murals.  There are going to be variations for this in Great Britain, Italy, France and Spain.

5.    Rococo (1650-1790).  This came on as being a variation from the Baroque Era, with some exceptions.  Adopted as a softer version of Baroque, it will have colors that are more pale and more soft curves.  You will perhaps more likely see this in central and eastern Europe in places such as Germany, Austria and Russia, just to name a few.

6.    Georgian Architecture (1720-1800).  Originating in Great Britain along with Ireland, this is characterized by its square, balanced shape influenced by Greek Classical architecture.  This style is found in large, stately homes at a time as greater wealth was being accumulated among the upper classes.  In America, this design became the rage within the American colonies.

7.    Victorian Architecture (1840-1900).  Seen in the British Isles and it isn’t surprising that the dominant architecture of this era would come from one of the world trade centers, and also of great wealth.  Due to the Industrial Revolution, they were in a position to use innovative materials and technologies to create an eclectic blend of architectures that are still prominent in Great Britain and America.

This is obviously just a quick review of a very broad, but fascinating subject.  There is a lot more to learn about this subject matter, but hopefully you may have a little to relate to when your excursion guide points up the architectural type of a structure they point out.

 

 


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Buckingham Palace- A Must-See when you Visit London

Interesting Facts About Buckingham Palace

One of the interesting facts about Buckingham Palace is that it has been the official London residence of Britain’s sovereigns since 1837, which means it is steeped in British history, with room after room set in wealth and luxury. Buckingham Palace is the official residence of Her Majesty, The Queen, and is used not only as a home, but is also the administrative headquarters of the monarchy. It is truly one of the London attractions that are imperative to experience.

There are so many interesting facts about Buckingham Palace, but on my visit the one that caught my attention was that it suffered nine direct bomb hits during the Second World War. On several occasions King George VI (the subject of the movie “The King’s Speech”) and Queen Elizabeth were in the Palace and narrowly escaped being killed.

Buckingham Palace Is Only Open in Late Summer

Buckingham Palace

It receives 50,000 tourists every day it is open, but please note that the public can only tour in August and September when the Queen is not in residence. Positioned in St. James Park in the Westminster district just west and within walking distance of some of the main London tourist attractions, such as Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, it is also a five minute walk to two London tube stations.

Another interesting fact about Buckingham Palace is its sheer size: with 775 rooms, including 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms, it is a massive structure to behold. The Queen’s regular audiences with the British Prime Minister traditionally take place in The Queen’s Audience Room. During the war, King George VI’s audiences with Winston Churchill were less formal – the two helped themselves to food from a buffet before sitting down to talk in privacy. Near the end of the tour, in the White Drawing Room, can you spot the venue for great Royal ceremonies and State visits. It is 108 meters long, 120 meters deep and 24 meters high.

A flag always flies above Buckingham Palace. When The Queen is in residence, the Royal Standard flies, and when the Sovereign is not present, the Union Flag flies instead. A flag sergeant has the role of raising and lowering the right flag as The Queen arrives at or departs from the Palace. A little known interesting fact about Buckingham Palace is that it is not the private property of the Queen as an individual, to dispose of as she wishes. Like Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyrood Palace, which is The Queen’s summer residence in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, Scotland, Buckingham Palace is held by The Queen as Sovereign.

These are just a few of the interesting facts about Buckingham Palace, and one of the trips that you should try to take in. As stated earlier, public tours only take place in August and September, but if you can plan your trip to London in that time period, do it by all means. London is absolutely lovely that time of year, and one of the great cities when your making your plans for  a European trip .

 

 

 


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the Alhambra in Spain

Visit the Alhambra for True Serenity

When you vacation in Spain, a spot you must try to see, particularly when you’re in the southern region of the country, is Granada.  Situated in the south about an hour’s drive from the Mediterranean Sea, the city of Granada of approximately a quarter million inhabitants is home to one of the most magnificent sites that I have seen anywhere is located, the Alhambra in Spain.

The Alhambra in Spain a Classic Moorish Palace on a Hill

The Alhambra is a classic Moorish palace and citadel that is one of the most visited vacationer spots in Spain.  It started as a fortification located on a huge high spot at the southeastern section in the city.  A natural location to construct a fortress complex, building began in 889 AD at a period when that area in the Iberian Peninsula had been controlled by Muslims.   In 1333 the Sultan of Granada added a royal palace within the complex, and from that time until the Reconquista in 1492 by Spanish Christians marked the peak in construction with the Alhambra.

Since there was never a grand plan for the complex’s entire site, the layout will seem somewhat rambling and unorganized.  The majority of the construction came before the landmark 1492 year, and as a result nearly all of the structures suggest the style of Moorish structures in Spain in the last century of Muslim reign within Granada.  On account of their commercial and political connection with regional Christian kingdoms and isolation with the rest of Islam, it has a look which is quite distinctive.

Following the Reconquista in 1492, Christians who inhabited the complex added their impact.  The palace of Charles V is a Renaissance building built in 1527, but in time the entire Alhambra site became abandoned and fell into poor condition.  It was rediscovered by travelers and scholars, and then the American writer Washington Irving is given much of the credit for bringing interest to the Alhambra with his work “Tales of the Alhambra”.  With that restoration began, and continues to this time.  Even with its centuries of neglect and a lot of ill-judged renovation, this really is one of the best examples of Muslim art in the concluding stages in Europe.

The Generalife Is a Section not to be Missed

An outlying structure and area of gardens connecting to the Alhambra is the Generalife, a truly breathtaking area that shouldn’t be missed.  It was built in the start of the 14th century, and restored quite a few times.   The final was initiated in 1931 and finished in 1951, and gives it the design visitors can appreciate at present.  The Water-Garden Courtyard is a long pool framed by flowerbeds, colonnades and pavilions, plus gorgeous fountains.

My impressions of the Alhambra are the breathtaking architecture and undulating topography, giving it the sensation of a huge section of verandas and palaces.  But is what really sets it separately is the use of water.  The builders laid about five miles of conduit from the River Darro at a monastery higher than Granada to the development.  This feeds the many fountains and pools, and the sounds from the cascading water gives the Alhambra a sense of peacefulness and beauty that is hard to equal anywhere.

The Alhambra from Luciano Bosticco on Vimeo.


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