Monday, April 11, 2016

Aswan Travel Guide

Aswan formerly spelled Assuan, is a city in the south of Egypt, the capital of the Aswan Governorate.Aswan is a busy market and tourist centre located just north of the Aswan Dams on the east bank of the Nile at the first cataract. The modern city has expanded and includes the formerly separate community on the island of Elephantine.

Aswan is the smallest of the three major tourist cities on the Nile. Being the furthest south of the three, it has a large population of Nubian people, mostly resettled from their homeland in the area flooded by Lake Nasser. Aswan is the home of many granite quarries from which most of the Obelisks seen in Luxor were sourced. Aswan was the ancient Egyptians' gateway to Africa.

Aswan Town and the East Bank
Nubian Museum, (opposite the Basma Hotel, south of the Old Cataract Hotel, at the southern edge of Aswan town on Sharia Abtal al-Tahrir - approximately a half hour walk from the city centre.), . daily 9AM-1PM, 4PM-9PM. Very well organized, features Nubian treasures recovered before the flooding of Nubia. [Egypt is constantly pegging their tourist attractions prices according to the rate of Euro or Dollar, therefore the entrance fee has recently been raised to 60 and 30 LE respectively. For an 8 Euros ticket, which ain't cheap, the museum is staffed by 'guards' who are chatting or listening to music inside the museum. There is not a single guide and nobody to answer you anything. Instead of, they try to put you out at 20:30 even if the museum closes at 21:00. Not a pleasant experience. (April 2015)] Adult: 50LE; Student: 25 0LE.

Unfinished Obelisk, (South of Aswan). The largest known ancient obelisk, carved directly out of bedrock. If finished it would have measured around 42m (120 feet) and would have weighed nearly 1,200 tons. 30LE 15 LE student.

Fatimid Cemetery, (Southern end of Aswan). The faded former glory of the Fatimid empire can be seen on the crumbling graveyard. Across the street from unfinished Obelisk, and across the street from Nubian Museum on the other side. There may be some aggressive children on the cemetery. free.

Ferial Garden, (Southern end of Corniche). When you're in Aswan you'll have to walk along the Kornish Al Nile (Corniche) at least once. It is a pleasant stroll, made even more pleasant by the fact that you can walk right into the Ferial Gardens at its Southern End. They are a park that is as relaxing as it is beautiful. 5LE

Saint Michael Cathedral, Aswan, (Southern end of Corniche in front of Ferial Garden). When you're in Aswan you'll have to walk to see the Coptic Cathedral with a breathtaking painting Coptic art . free.

The River and Islands
Elephantine Island: Nubian Villages & Aswan Museum. Nubian villages of Siou and Koti occupy this island. Also home to the famous Nilometers and the Temples of Sati, Khnum (ancient rams-head god) and Pepinakht-Heqaib. Movenpick resort is on the island. The Aswan Museum (Adult: 25LE, Student 15LE) at the southern end of the island houses items found during excavations on Elephantine Island. Also, be careful of unsolicited tours from locals, which will result in a request for baksheesh. There is regular boat taxi to Elephantine Island run by the locals for only 2LE for one crossing but they will charge more for tourists. Put the money in the box instead of the ticket agent to avoid overpaying.

Aswan Botanical Gardens, (On the entirety of Kitcheners Island to the west of Elephantine Island). Lord Kitchener, who owned the 6.8 hectare island in the 1890's converted it to a botanical garden. Filled with birds and hundreds of plant species and palm trees. Accessible via a Felucca tour.The entrance fee is 10LE.

Seheyl Island, (Just north of the old Aswan Dam). 7AM to 4:00PM. Friendly Nubian villages. Well known for its excellent beaded jewelry. Also the location of the Famine Stela. Cliff with more than 200 inscriptions from the 18th dynasty,

West Bank
Tombs of the Nobles. 8AM to 4:00PM. The northern hills of the west bank are filled with the rock-hewn tombs of princes from the Old Kingdom to the Roman period. The 6th Dynasty tombs, some of which form linked family complexes, contain important biographical texts. Inside, the tombs are decorated with vivid wall paintings showing scenes of everyday life, hieroglyphic biographies and inscriptions telling of the noblemen's journeys into Africa. Most of the tombs are locked or blocked off, probably by staff looking for tips. **Note that some locals will hang around the entrance as you climb the hill, and tell you that it's closed and you need a key. They will show you a key, implying that they can help you gain access...for a small fee. Just tell them, "no thanks....just looking", and they should leave you alone. Adult: 30LE, Student: 10LE.
Tombs of Mekhu & Sabni - Reliefs show invasion of Nubia
Tomb of Sarenput II - One of the most beautiful and preserved tombs
Tomb of Harkhuf - Hieroglyphics
Tomb of Hekaib - Reliefs show fighting and hunting scenes
Tomb of Sarenput II - Six pillars decorated with reliefs
Kubbet al Hawa - Located on the hilltop above the other tombs. Stunning views of the Nile
Kubbet el-Hawa, (on top of the hill above the Tombs of the Nobles). Small shrine / tomb of a local sheikh and holy man. The climb is rewarded with amazing views of Aswan, the Nile river and the surrounding landscape, richly evoked in the translation from the Arabic of the place name, "the dome of the wind".

Mausoleum of Mohammed Shah Aga Khan, (High up in the west bank). Tomb of the 48th iman of the Ismaili sect and his wife. Visible from the outside, although closed to the public.

Monastery of St Simeon. Oct to May: 8AM-4:00PM; Jun-Sep:7:00AM-5:00PM. The history of the monastery of St. Simeon dates back to the 7th century, and survived long as a Christian stronghold of southern Egypt until destroyed by Saladin in 1173. While still in use it housed 300 monks, and could in addition receive up to 100 pilgrims at a time. The monastery was surrounded by a 10 metre high wall, and doubled as a fortress. Apparently, the monastery did not return to its original use after Saladin's destruction. To get here, ride a camel or walk from the Tombs of the Nobles. Adult: 25LE, Student: 15LE.

Around Aswan
The High Dam. Despite being a highly important piece of infrastructure, the Aswan High Dam is (to put it delicately) a bit of a letdown even for dam lovers. This is a typical stop among a 4-hr tour that goes to Philae and the Obelisk, which you can ask for your driver to skip. 30LE.

Philae Temple, (Agilkia Island). Built to honor Isis, this was the last ancient temple built in the the classical Egyptian architectural style. Construction began in approx 690 BC. It was moved from its original location on Philae Island, to its new location on Agilkia Island, after the flooding of Lake Nasser. A major multinational UNESCO team relocated Philae, and a number of other temples that now dot the shores of Lake Nasser. You can see the submerged original island a short distance away, punctuated by the steel columns used in the moving process. Don't miss the Sound and Light show at night, see picture to the right, the least cheesy of the Sound and Light "extravaganzas". On your feet, look out for the extremely creative guards who will do all in their power to get in your photos, or to point out the hieroglpyhs that you can quite clearly see yourself, all for some baksheesh(tip)! Note also the re-use of the temple as a Christian church, with crosses carved into the older hieroglyph reliefs, and images of the Egyptian gods carefully defaced. There are grafitti dating from the 1800s. Entrance fee 50LE. Driver from town 40LE to 50LE with wait and return. 5LE for parking the car. Locals are charged 10LE for the boat ride to the island, but the boatmen will attempt to charge you 50LE per person. A reasonable price should be 40-50LE per person, with wait and return included. The ticket booth is located at the entrance to the pier, which means you will have to buy your non-refundable ticket for the temple and have it torn by the ticket attendant before you can even begin haggling over the price of the boat ride. It may help to wait for other travellers to show up so you can split the boat fee. Bargain hard. The temple is beautiful and very much worth seeing.
Kalabsha Temple. Like Philae, this temple and its surrounding ruins were moved by UNESCO to save them from the floodwaters of Lake Nasser. The main temple was built to the Nubian fertility and sun god Marul during the rule of Emperor Augustus. Don't miss the Kiosk of Qirtasi and the amazing Temple of Beit al-Wali built by Ramesses II.

Abu Simbel. Most people use Aswan as a base to see this fantastic temple. There is a convoy that departs at 4AM, and is usually arranged by your tour agent. See Abu Simbel article for more detail. Most hotels will arrange group transport for 60 to 70 LE per person  

Aswan International Sculpture Park. Sculptors from around the world exhibit their pieces here every spring for the International Sculpture Symposium. The works are all created in Aswan (on the terrace of the Basma Hotel) and when finished brought to this site and exhibited next to each other within view of the ancient quarry. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Rome Travel Guide

Rome is a city and special comune in Italy. Rome is the capital of Italy and of the Lazio region. With 2.9 million residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's largest and most populated comune and fourth-most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. The Metropolitan City of Rome has a population of 4.3 million residents. The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of Tiber river. The Vatican City is an independent country geographically located within the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Rome's history spans more than two and a half thousand years. While Roman mythology dates the founding of Rome at only around 753 BC, the site has been inhabited for much longer, making it one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe. The city's early population originated from a mix of Latins, Etruscans and Sabines. Eventually, the city successively became the capital of the Roman Kingdom, the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and is regarded as one of the birthplaces of Western civilization and by some as the first ever metropolis. It is referred to as "Roma Aeterna" (The Eternal City)  and "Caput Mundi" (Capital of the World), two central notions in ancient Roman culture.

After the fall of the Western Empire, which marked the beginning of the Middle Ages, Rome slowly fell under the political control of the Papacy, which had settled in the city since the 1st century AD, until in the 8th century it became the capital of the Papal States, which lasted until 1870.

Rome today is one of the most important tourist destinations of the world, due to the incalculable immensity of its archaeological and artistic treasures, as well as for the charm of its unique traditions, the beauty of its panoramic views, and the majesty of its magnificent "villas" (parks). Among the most significant resources are the many museums – Musei Capitolini, the Vatican Museums and the Galleria Borghese and others dedicated to modern and contemporary art – aqueducts, fountains, churches, palaces, historical buildings, the monuments and ruins of the Roman Forum, and the Catacombs. Rome is the third most visited city in the EU, after London and Paris, and receives an average of 7–10 million tourists a year, which sometimes doubles on holy years. The Colosseum (4 million tourists) and the Vatican Museums (4.2 million tourists) are the 39th and 37th (respectively) most visited places in the world, according to a recent study.

Rome is a major archaeological hub, and one of the world's main centres of archaeological research. There are numerous cultural and research institutes located in the city, such as the American Academy in Rome, and The Swedish Institute at Rome. Rome contains numerous ancient sites, including the Forum Romanum, Trajan's Market, Trajan's Forum, the Colosseum, and the Pantheon, to name but a few. The Colosseum, arguably one of Rome's most iconic archaeological sites, is regarded as a wonder of the world.

Rome contains a vast and impressive collection of art, sculpture, fountains, mosaics, frescos, and paintings, from all different periods. Rome first became a major artistic centre during ancient Rome, with forms of important Roman art such as architecture, painting, sculpture and mosaic work. Metal-work, coin die and gem engraving, ivory carvings, figurine glass, pottery, and book illustrations are considered to be 'minor' forms of Roman artwork. Rome later became a major centre of Renaissance art, since the popes spent vast sums of money for the constructions of grandiose basilicas, palaces, piazzas and public buildings in general. Rome became one of Europe's major centres of Renaissance artwork, second only to Florence, and able to compare to other major cities and cultural centres, such as Paris and Venice. The city was affected greatly by the baroque, and Rome became the home of numerous artists and architects, such as Bernini, Caravaggio, Carracci, Borromini and Cortona. In the late 18th century and early 19th century, the city was one of the centres of the Grand Tour, when wealthy, young English and other European aristocrats visited the city to learn about ancient Roman culture, art, philosophy and architecture. Rome hosted a great number of neoclassical and rococo artists, such as Pannini and Bernardo Bellotto. Today, the city is a major artistic centre, with numerous art institutes and museums. 

Vatican City
The territory of Vatican City is part of the Mons Vaticanus (Vatican Hill), and of the adjacent former Vatican Fields, where St. Peter's Basilica, the Apostolic Palace, the Sistine Chapel, and museums were built, along with various other buildings. The area was part of the Roman rione of Borgo until 1929. Being separated from the city on the west bank of the Tiber river, the area was a suburb that was protected by being included within the walls of Leo IV, later expanded by the current fortification walls of Paul III/Pius IV/Urban VIII.

When the Lateran Treaty of 1929 that created the Vatican state was being prepared, the boundaries of the proposed territory were influenced by the fact that much of it was all but enclosed by this loop. For some tracts of the frontier, there was no wall, but the line of certain buildings supplied part of the boundary, and for a small part of the frontier a modern wall was constructed.

The territory includes Saint Peter's Square, separated from the territory of Italy only by a white line along the limit of the square, where it borders Piazza Pio XII. St. Peter's Square is reached through the Via della Conciliazione, which runs from the Tiber River to St. Peter's. This grand approach was designed by architects Piacentini and Spaccarelli, for want of Benito Mussolini and in accordance with the church, after the conclusion of the Lateran Treaty. According to the Lateran Treaty, certain properties of the Holy See located in Italian territory, most notably the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo and the major basilicas, enjoy extraterritorial status similar to that of foreign embassies.

Rome has been a major Christian pilgrimage site since the Middle Ages. People from all over the Christian world visit Vatican City, within the city of Rome, the seat of the papacy. The Pope was the most influential figure during the Middle Ages. The city became a major pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages and the focus of struggles between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire starting with Charlemagne, who was crowned its first emperor in Rome in 800 by Pope Leo III. Apart from brief periods as an independent city during the Middle Ages, Rome kept its status as Papal capital and "holy city" for centuries, even when the Papacy briefly relocated to Avignon (1309–1377). Catholics believe that the Vatican is the last resting place of St. Peter.

Pilgrimages to Rome can involve visits to a large number of sites, both within the Vatican City and in Italian territory. A popular stopping point is the Pilate's stairs: these are, according to the Christian tradition, the steps that led up to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, which Jesus Christ stood on during his Passion on his way to trial. The stairs were, reputedly, brought to Rome by St. Helena in the 4th Century. For centuries, the Scala Santa has attracted Christian pilgrims who wished to honor the Passion of Jesus. Object of pilgrimage are also several catacombs built in the Roman age, in which Christians prayed, buried their dead and performed worship during periods of persecution, and various national churches (among them San Luigi dei francesi and Santa Maria dell'Anima), or churches associated with individual religious orders, such as the Jesuit Churches of Jesus and Sant`Ignazio.

Traditionally, pilgrims in Rome and Roman citizens thanking God for a grace should visit by foot the seven pilgrim churches (Italian: Le sette chiese) in 24 hours. This custom, mandatory for each pilgrim in the Middle Ages, was codified in the 16th century by Saint Philip Neri. The seven churches are the four major Basilicas (St Peter in Vatican, St Paul outside the Walls, St John in Lateran and Santa Maria Maggiore), while the other three are San Lorenzo fuori le mura (a paleochristian Basilica), Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (a church founded by Helena, the mother of Constantine, which hosts fragments of wood attributed to the holy cross) and San Sebastiano fuori le mura (which lies on the Appian Way and is built above Roman catacombs).

Renaissance and Baroque
Rome was a major world centre of the Renaissance, second only to Florence, and was profoundly affected by the movement. Among others, a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture in Rome is the Piazza del Campidoglio by Michelangelo. During this period, the great aristocratic families of Rome used to build opulent dwellings as the Palazzo del Quirinale (now seat of the President of the Italian Republic), the Palazzo Venezia, the Palazzo Farnese, the Palazzo Barberini, the Palazzo Chigi (now seat of the Italian Prime Minister), the Palazzo Spada, the Palazzo della Cancelleria, and the Villa Farnesina.

Parks and gardens
Public parks and nature reserves cover a large area in Rome, and the city has one of the largest areas of green space among European capitals. The most notable part of this green space is represented by the large number of villas and landscaped gardens created by the Italian aristocracy. While most of the parks surrounding the villas were destroyed during the building boom of the late 19th century, some of them remain. The most notable of these are Villa Borghese, Villa Ada, and Villa Doria Pamphili. Villa Doria Pamphili is west of the Gianicolo hill comprising some 1.8 square kilometres (0.7 sq mi). Also on the Gianicolo hill there is Villa Sciarra, with playgrounds for children and shaded walking areas. In the nearby area of Trastevere the Orto Botanico (Botanical Garden) is a cool and shady green space. The old Roman hippodrome (Circus Maximus) is another large green space: it has few trees, but is overlooked by the Palatine and the Rose Garden ('roseto comunale'). Nearby is the lush Villa Celimontana, close to the gardens surrounding the Baths of Caracalla. The Villa Borghese garden is the best known large green space in Rome, with famous art galleries among its shaded walks. Overlooking Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps are the gardens of Pincio and Villa Medici. Noteworthy is also the Pine wood of Castelfusano, near Ostia. Rome also has a number of regional parks of much more recent origin including the Pineto Regional Park and the Appian Way Regional Park. There are also nature reserves at Marcigliana and at Tenuta di Castelporziano.

ome is well known for its statues but, in particular, the talking statues of Rome. These are usually ancient statues which have become popular soapboxes for political and social discussion, and places for people to (often satirically) voice their opinions. There are two main talking statues: the Pasquino and the Marforio, yet there are four other noted ones: il Babuino, Madama Lucrezia, il Facchino and Abbot Luigi. Most of these statues are ancient Roman or classical, and most of them also depict mythical gods, ancient people or legendary figures; il Pasquino represents Menelaus, Abbot Luigi is an unknown Roman magistrate, il Babuino is supposed to be Silenus, Marforio represents Oceanus, Madama Lucrezia is a bust of Isis, and il Facchino is the only non-Roman statue, created in 1580, and not representing anyone in particular. They are often, due to their status, covered with placards or graffiti expressing political ideas and points of view. Other statues in the city, which are not related to the talking statues, include those of the Ponte Sant'Angelo, or several monuments scattered across the city, such as that to Giordano Bruno in the Campo de'Fiori.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Melbourne Travel Guide

Melbourne, at the head of Port Phillip Bay, is Australia's second largest city and the capital of the south-eastern state of Victoria.Melbourne is Australia’s cultural capital, with Victorian-era architecture, extensive shopping, museums, galleries, theatres, and large parks and gardens. Its 4-million residents are both multicultural and sports-mad.Reasons to visit Melbourne include major sporting events, using it as a base for exploring surrounding regions such as the Grampians National Park, The Great Ocean Road, and visiting Phillip Island to view the penguin parade. Many UK visitors come to Melbourne for tours of filming locations of the TV soap opera Neighbours.

Melbourne, at the head of Port Phillip Bay, is Australia's second largest city and the capital of the south-eastern state of Victoria.Melbourne is Australia’s cultural capital, with Victorian-era architecture, extensive shopping, museums, galleries, theatres, and large parks and gardens. Its 4-million residents are both multicultural and sports-mad.Reasons to visit Melbourne include major sporting events, using it as a base for exploring surrounding regions such as the Grampians National Park, The Great Ocean Road, and visiting Phillip Island to view the penguin parade. Many UK visitors come to Melbourne for tours of filming locations of the TV soap opera Neighbours.

Central Melbourne
City Centre (Docklands)
Melbourne's Central Business District (CBD) and historical core north of the Yarra River, including the new, cosmopolitan Docklands precinct to the west. Innumerable great restaurants, clubs, pubs. The centre of Melbourne throbs with life, reflecting the resident's pride in the fact that it is regularly voted "the world's most liveable city". Excellent tram, bus and rail system makes getting around this and other areas simple.
Entertainment, (including a superb art and theatre complex, ballet, opera, and more), fine dining, plus some inexpensive cafes and the vast Crown Casino and entertainment complex. River trips depart from Southbank.
St Kilda 
Sunny beaches and a great restaurant, bar and nightlife scene. Very gay friendly, too.
South Melbourne (Port Melbourne, Albert Park)
Includes the old ports of Melbourne, as well as the historic Clarendon Street and town centre.
Inner north (Carlton, Parkville, North Melbourne)
The University district, as well as Lygon Street, world famous for its authentic Italian culture and cuisine.
Inner east (Fitzroy, Richmond, Collingwood)
Working-class and Bohemian quarter, with many trendy boutiques, some of Melbourne's best ethnic cuisine - especially Vietnamese - and an amazing range of inner-city pubs full of character.
Stonnington (Toorak, Prahran, South Yarra)
Expensive, upper-class neighbourhood of Melbourne, with high-end shopping and dining. The place to grab a fashion bargain and to be seen.
Metropolitan Melbourne
Eastern suburbs 
Stretching from almost inner suburbs of Kew, Hawthorn and Camberwell in Booroondara to the outer cities like Maroondah and the Dandenong Ranges.
Northern suburbs 
Covering suburbs like Tullamarine, Broadmeadows, South Morang, Epping, Bundoora and Nillumbik Shire.
Western suburbs 
Includes areas like Altona, Williamstown, Point Cook, Footscray in Maribyrnong, Werribee in Wyndham, Caroline Springs, Sunshine, Melton, Keilor and Sydenham.
South-eastern suburbs 
Spread along the coast of Port Philip Bay and covers areas like Brighton, Elwood, Sandringham and the cities of Frankston and Dandenong. Its main attraction is the beach along the bay.
Notable inner city suburbs
Below are some of the major inner-city suburbs and localities. They are from the old district structure for Melbourne, and will eventually be merged into their respective article above.
City Centre— Melbourne's Central Business District (CBD) and historical core north of the Yarra River, including the Southbank district immediately south of the Yarra and the new Docklands precinct to the west.
Albert Park— A suburb of Port Phillip and Home of Melbourne's F1 Grand Prix circuit.
South Melbourne— Home of the shopping strip known as Clarendon Street, South Melbourne in Port Phillip also has the popular South Melbourne Market, which first opened in 1867 and features food, clothing, footwear and much more.
St Kilda— Suburb of Port Phillip on Port Philip Bay with its famous Sunday art market, and home to many backpacker hostels and cafes.
Brunswick— Inner northern suburb in Moreland. The "new" Fitzroy.
Carlton— In northern Melbourne, the traditional home of Melbourne's Italian community and the University of Melbourne.
Collingwood— Working class suburb of Yarra with funky shopping, pubs and live music on Smith and Johnston Streets.
Fitzroy— The Bohemian quarter of Yarra filled with interesting restaurants and trendy boutiques.
Richmond— Also part of Yarra, North Richmond is Melbourne's Little Vietnam while the southern part of the district, Bridge Road, is famous for low price fashion outlets.
Footscray— Working class suburb of Maribyrnong, cool, multicultural, cheap markets, dozens of Vietnamese and East African shops and restaurants.
Yarraville— Quiet, inner-western suburb of Maribyrnong with well-preserved Victorian architecture and a funky, artsy vibe.
Prahran— Favourite shopping district in Stonnington with Chapel Street as its main attraction.
South Yarra— South of the river in Stonnington, with high-end shopping and dining, it covers South Yarra and Toorak.
Williamstown— Old, maritime-styled suburb of Hobsons Bay with many cafes situated along the foreshore.

Melbourne Zoo
The Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens, commonly known as the Melbourne Zoo, contains more than 320 animal species from Australia and around the world. The zoo is 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) north of the centre of Melbourne. It is accessible via Royal Park station on the Upfield railway line, and is also accessible via tram routes 55 and 19, as well as by bicycle on the Capital City Trail. Bicycles are not allowed inside the zoo itself.

The Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens is a full institutional member of the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Melbourne Zoo is Australia's oldest zoo and was modeled on London Zoo. The zoo was opened on 6 October 1862 at the Royal Park site of 55-acre (22 ha) on land donated by the City of Melbourne. Before this, animals were housed at the botanical gardens in Melbourne.

Initially the zoo was important for the acclimatisation of domestic animals recovering from their long trip to Australia. It was only with the appointment of Albert Alexander Cochrane Le Souef in 1870 that more exotic animals were procured for public display, and the gardens and picnic areas were developed.

Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park
Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park is a 25-acre (10 ha) biopark within the Pearcedale Conservation Park located at Pearcedale on the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne, Australia. It aims to display the fauna that was found in the Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve prior to European settlement. The park is open all year except on Christmas Day. The sanctuary, as part of Pearcedale Conservation Park, is an institutional member of the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA). It is ECO Certified at the Ecotourism level by Ecotourism Australia.

Moonlit Sanctuary operates evening walks, which are an environmental immersion experience. A guide takes visitors on a walk through natural bushland where the guide spotlights a variety of nocturnal animals, many of them endangered. The guide gives talks about the animals, and answers visitors’ questions. Visitors come into close contact with the animals in their natural habitats and can observe their natural behaviours. This is different visitor experience from a normal zoo visit where visitors view a large number of species for short periods of time and rarely bother reading signs. Moonlit Sanctuary visitors spend longer periods of time with a small number of animals, and receive a lot of information from the accompanying guide

Animals kept at the Sanctuary include spot-tailed quolls, southern bettongs, squirrel gliders, long-nosed potoroo, red-bellied pademelon, spinifex hopping mouse, fat-tailed dunnart, brush-tailed bettong, red-necked wallaby, feathertail glider, sugar glider, Tasmanian masked owl, tawny frogmouth, Cape Barren goose, bush thicknee, Victorian carpet python, blue-tongue lizard, and Gippsland water-dragon. In total over 200 animals representing 60 different species call the sanctuary home.

Melbourne Cricket Ground
The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), also known simply as "The G", is an Australian sports stadium located in Yarra Park, Melbourne, Victoria, and is home to the Melbourne Cricket Club. It is the 10th-largest stadium in the world, the largest in Australia, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, the largest cricket ground by capacity, and has the tallest light towers of any sporting venue. The MCG is within walking distance of the city centre and is served by the Richmond railway station, Richmond, and the Jolimont railway station, East Melbourne. It is part of the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct.

Since it was built in 1853, the MCG has been in a state of almost constant renewal. It served as the centrepiece stadium of the 1956 Summer Olympics, the 2006 Commonwealth Games and two Cricket World Cups: 1992 and 2015. It is also famous for its role in the development of international cricket; it was the venue for both the first Test match and the first One Day International, played between Australia and England in 1877 and 1971 respectively. The annual Boxing Day Test is one of the MCG's most popular events. Referred to as "the spiritual home of Australian rules football", it hosts AFL matches in the winter, with at least one game (though usually more) held there each round. The stadium fills to capacity for the AFL Grand Final.

Home to the National Sports Museum, the MCG has hosted other major sporting events, including International rules football matches between Australia and Ireland, international rugby union matches, State of Origin series (rugby league), FIFA World Cup qualifiers and international friendly matches. Concerts and other cultural events are also held at the venue.

Until the 1970s, more than 120,000 people sometimes crammed into the MCG—the record crowd standing at around 130,000 for a Billy Graham evangelistic crusade in 1959, followed by 121,696 for the 1970 VFL Grand Final. Grandstand redevelopments and occupational health and safety legislation have now limited the maximum seating capacity to approximately 95,000 with an additional 5000 standing room capacity, bringing the total capacity to 100,024.

The MCG is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register and was included on the Australian National Heritage List in 2005. Journalist Greg Baum called it "a shrine, a citadel, a landmark, a totem" that "symbolises Melbourne to the world".

Federation Square
Federation Square is a mixed-use development in the inner city of Melbourne, covering an area of 3.2 hectares and centred on two major public spaces: open squares (St. Paul's Court and The Square) and one covered (The Atrium), built on top of a concrete deck above busy railway lines. It is located at intersection between Flinders Street and Swanston Street/St Kilda Road in Melbourne's Central Business District, adjacent to Melbourne's busiest railway station.

Melbourne's first public square, an initiative of the Melbourne City Council was the City Square which dates back to 1968 was considered by many to be a planning failure. Its redevelopment in the 1990s failed to address serious flaws in its design as a public space and it was during this decade that the first plans for a new square were hatched by the Victorian state government

The site selected was immediately south of the Hoddle Grid and included the Princes Gate Towers of the former Gas and Fuel Corporation, Jolimont Yard and the Princes Bridge railway station (which was itself the former site of a 19th-century morgue). The government sought to remove what were considered to be two of Melbourne's great eyesores, demolishing the 1960s Gas and Fuel Corporation buildings which obstructed a vista of heritage buildings along Flinders Street including St Paul's Cathedral.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

San Francisco Travel Guide

San Francisco, officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the cultural, commercial, and financial center of Northern California and the only consolidated city-county in California. San Francisco encompasses a land area of about 46.9 square miles (121 km2) on the northern end of the San Francisco Peninsula, which makes it the smallest county in the state. It has a density of about 18,187 people per square mile (7,022 people per km2), making it the most densely settled large city (population greater than 200,000) in the state of California and the second-most densely populated major city in the United States after New York City. San Francisco is the fourth-most populous city in California, after Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose, and the 13th-most populous city in the United States—with a Census-estimated 2014 population of 852,469. The city and its surrounding areas are known as the San Francisco Bay Area, and are a part of the larger OMB designated San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland combined statistical area, the fifth most populous in the nation with an estimated population of 8.6 million.

San Francisco (Spanish for Saint Francis) was founded on June 29, 1776, when colonists from Spain established Presidio of San Francisco at the Golden Gate and Mission San Francisco de Asís named for St. Francis of Assisi a few miles away. The California Gold Rush of 1849 brought rapid growth, making it the largest city on the West Coast at the time. San Francisco became a consolidated city-county in 1856. After three-quarters of the city was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco was quickly rebuilt, hosting the Panama-Pacific International Exposition nine years later. In World War II, San Francisco was the port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theater. After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, massive immigration, liberalizing attitudes, along with the rise of the "hippie" counterculture, the Sexual Revolution, the Peace Movement growing from opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War, and other factors led to the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, cementing San Francisco as a center of liberal activism in the United States. Politically, the city votes strongly along liberal Democratic Party lines.

A popular tourist destination,, San Francisco is known for its cool summers, fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of architecture, and landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, the former Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, Fisherman's Wharf, and its Chinatown district. San Francisco is also the headquarters of five major banking institutions and various other companies such as Levi Strauss & Co., Gap Inc.,, Dropbox, Reddit, Square, Inc., Dolby, Airbnb, Weebly, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Yelp, Pinterest, Twitter, Uber, Mozilla, Wikimedia Foundation, and Craigslist. It has several nicknames, including "The City by the Bay", "Fog City", "San Fran", and "Frisco", as well as older ones like "The City that Knows How", "Baghdad by the Bay", and "The Paris of the West". As of 2015, San Francisco was ranked high on world livability rankings.

Tourism is one of the city's largest private-sector industries, accounting for more than one out of seven jobs in the city. The city's frequent portrayal in music, film, and popular culture has made the city and its landmarks recognizable worldwide. San Francisco attracts the fifth-highest number of foreign tourists of any city in the U.S. and ranks 50th out of the 100 most visited cities worldwide according to Euromonitor International. More than 18 million visitors arrived in San Francisco in 2014, injecting US$10.67 billion into the economy. With a large hotel infrastructure and a world-class convention facility in the Moscone Center, San Francisco is a popular destination for annual conventions and conferences.

The Ferry Building along the Embarcadero
The port currently uses Pier 35 to handle the 60–80 cruise ship calls and 200,000 passengers that come to San Francisco. Itineraries from San Francisco usually include round trip cruises to Alaska and Mexico. The new Terminal Project at Pier 27 is scheduled to open 2014 as a replacement. The existing primary terminal at Pier 35 has neither the sufficient capacity to allow for the increasing size of new cruise ships nor the amenities needed for an international cruise terminal.

The early 1900s marked a heightened interest in conventioneering in San Francisco, resulting in an increase in the hotel industry: "In 1959, the city had fewer than thirty-three hundred first-class hotel rooms; by 1970, the number was nine thousand; and by 1999, there were more than thirty thousand." The establishment of convention centers, such as Yerba Buena, acted as a feeder into the local tourist economies and helped transform San Francisco into a convention-tourist economy, underpinning much of the success of the restaurant and hotel industries. The commodification of the Castro District has contributed to San Francisco’s tourist economy.

Beaches and parks

Several of San Francisco's parks and nearly all of its beaches form part of the regional Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of the most visited units of the National Park system in the United States with over 13 million visitors a year. Among the GGNRA's attractions within the city are Ocean Beach, which runs along the Pacific Ocean shoreline and is frequented by a vibrant surfing community, and Baker Beach, which is located in a cove west of the Golden Gate and part of the Presidio, a former military base. Also within the Presidio is Crissy Field, a former airfield that was restored to its natural salt marsh ecosystem. The GGNRA also administers Fort Funston, Lands End, Fort Mason, and Alcatraz. The National Park Service separately administers the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park – a fleet of historic ships and waterfront property around Aquatic Park.

There are more than 220 parks maintained by the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department. The largest and best-known city park is Golden Gate Park, which stretches from the center of the city west to the Pacific Ocean. Once covered in native grasses and sand dunes, the park was conceived in the 1860s and was created by the extensive planting of thousands of non-native trees and plants. The large park is rich with cultural and natural attractions such as the Conservatory of Flowers, Japanese Tea Garden and San Francisco Botanical Garden. Lake Merced is a fresh-water lake surrounded by parkland and near the San Francisco Zoo, a city-owned park that houses more than 250 animal species, many of which are endangered. The only park managed by the California State Park system located principally in San Francisco, Candlestick Point was the state's first urban recreation area

Each district of San Francisco carries its own unique and distinct culture. This map is predominantly based on the 11 official governmental districts of San Francisco, but it has been adapted to suit the purposes of this travel guide. Some districts of particular interest to travellers have been broken up into popular neighborhood groupings, while others, mainly residential districts, have been merged together.

San Francisco's districts
Golden Gate 
Fashionable and upscale neighborhoods, e.g., the Marina District, Cow Hollow, and Pacific Heights, with extensive views and historical landmarks — Fort Mason, The Presidio, and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

Fisherman's Wharf 
A touristy waterfront neighborhood which encompasses Ghirardelli Square, Pier 39, and the ferry launch to Alcatraz Island, as well as a plethora of seafood restaurants and souvenir stores.

Nob Hill-Russian Hill 
Two ritzy neighborhoods with upscale hotels, cable cars, panoramic views and steep inclines.

Chinatown-North Beach 
Two vibrant immigrant communities; the crowded and largest Chinatown outside of Asia next to the stylish laid back 'Little Italy', as well as Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower.

Union Square-Financial District 
Union Square is the center of shopping, theater and art in the city, next to the many skyscrapers of downtown and Market Street.

Civic Center-Tenderloin 
The neoclassical Civic Center next to the grit of the Tenderloin. The San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Symphony and SFjazz are located there. While the 'Loin' is grittier compared to its ritzier neighbors downtown, there's plenty of interesting architecture and attractions to see here.

SoMa (South of Market) 
A rapidly changing neighborhood of downtown that is the center of a lot of new construction, including new skyscrapers, some of the city's newest museums, and AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.

Western Addition 
A historic neighborhood with many Victorian homes that was once a hotbed of African-American culture. Within the area is also Japantown, once the center of San Francisco's Japanese population, still populated with many Japanese stores and restaurants, and hotels that cater to Japanese travelers.

Famous for being the home of the Hippie movement, this once bohemian area is still an eclectic treasure.

The Avenues 
Includes the foggy Richmond. Sunset and Parkside Districts, separated by scenic Golden Gate Park, bounded on the west by Ocean Beach and on the south by Sloat Blvd. The Richmond District is north of Golden Gate Park and the Sunset is south of the park. Additionally you will often hear locals referring to the inner and outer Richmond and inner and outer Sunset. The demarcation in the Richmond is Park Presidio and in the Sunset 19th Avenue.

Twin Peaks-Lake Merced 
Covering most of southwestern San Francisco, this area is home to many of the taller hills of San Francisco and the large Lake Merced park, which contains the San Francisco Zoo.

Castro-Noe Valley 
Colorful and cohesive, the Castro (Eureka Valley) is historically known for being the cultural center of the city's LGBTQ community. Nearby Noe Valley offers excellent restaurants and shops along pleasantly walkable streets.

Mission-Bernal Heights 
This colorful area is home to a large Hispanic community as well as new urban artisans, and is a center of San Francisco night life. For visitors wishing to get off the beaten tourist paths and catch some local flavor, this is the place to go.

Southeast San Francisco 
A mostly lower income residential area, this district contains several bay-side neighborhoods, and many nice parks.

Perhaps the most recognizable landmark in San Francisco and one of the most famous bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge, spanning the Golden Gate, has been called one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and is the first thing you see of San Francisco if driving in from the north, as it is one of the major road routes into and out of the city. Overlooking the Golden Gate is the Presidio, a former military post with beautiful architecture and a very scenic park setting. Within the Presidio is the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts, built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and reminiscent of Roman and Greek architecture.

Within the center of the city, the famous cable cars run up and down the hills of San Francisco between Market Street and Fisherman's Wharf and offer quite a ride (see above under Get around for more info). Atop one of those hills, Telegraph Hill in North Beach, is Coit Tower, a gleaming white tower dedicated to the San Francisco firefighters. At 275' high, the hill is a healthy hike from the nearby neighborhoods just below. Another prominent tower nearby is the Transamerica Pyramid, the tallest and most recognizable building in the San Francisco skyline, located among the skyscrapers and highrises of the Financial District. Perhaps the most famous view of that skyline is from Alamo Square Park in the Western Addition district, home to the famous Painted Ladies row of Victorian houses, with many other pretty Victorians encircling the lovely park.

Over on Russian Hill is the famous stretch of Lombard Street between Hyde & Leavenworth, the (nearly) crookedest street in America. The city also has a twistier but less scenic stretch of street, Vermont Street on Potrero Hill. Other street oddities in San Francisco include 22nd Street between Vicksburg and Church in Noe Valley and Filbert Street between Leavenworth and Hyde on Russian Hill — At a 31.5% grade, these streets share the honor of the steepest streets in San Francisco.

When the morning is foggy, you may want to spend a few hours in one of the city's many world-class museums. Golden Gate Park is home to the copper-clad M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, which houses an impressive collection of contemporary and indigenous art. The de Young Museum's former Asian collection is now permanently housed in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, located in the Civic Center. Across from the de Young Museum stands the California Academy of Sciences, which holds a huge array of science exhibits, including an aquarium and a natural history museum.
The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is in Lincoln Park in the northwest corner of the Richmond district. In Nob Hill, the Cable Car Museum offers exhibits on the famous moving landmarks of San Francisco. Near the Castro is the Randall Museum, a lovely little children's museum. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Moscone Center, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Zeum, the Cartoon Art Museum, the Museum of the African Diaspora and the Museum of Craft and Folk Art are all located in SoMa, south of Union Square. The Contemporary Jewish Museum, which was designed by Daniel Libeskind and opened in June 2008, is the latest major addition to San Francisco's museum scene.

At the Hyde Street Pier in Fisherman's Wharf you can go on board several historical ships, including the 1886 Balclutha clipper ship, a walking-beam ferry, a steam tug, and a coastal schooner. At Pier 45 just to the east, the World War II submarine USS Pampanito and the World War II Liberty Ship SS Jeremiah O'Brien can be visited. Nearby is the Aquarium of the Bay on Pier 39 and the newly opened Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. The Musee Mecanique on pier 45 contains hundreds of coin operated amusement machines, many from the 19th century. Most can be used for just a quarter.

The newly relocated and bigger and better than ever Exploratorium on Pier 15 is walking distance from Embarcadero and will keep you busy for an entire day with their science and perception exhibits. In the Marina district is Fort Mason, home to a few cultural museums.

Many museums offer free admission on certain days during the first week of every month.

Parks and outdoors
San Francisco has numerous parks, ranging from the tiny to the huge. The most famous of them is Golden Gate Park in The Avenues district, a massive (roughly 1/2 mile-by-four mile) urban oasis with windmills, bison, museums, a carousel and much more hidden among its charms. The park contains the antique palatial greenhouse of the Conservatory of Flowers, the modern and ethnic art focused de Young Museum, the large Japanese Tea Garden, the new California Academy of Sciences building designed by Renzo Piano and the Strybing Arboretum, a collection of plants from across the temperate world. Defining the extreme Northwestern corner of the city is Lincoln Park in Richmond, which provides majestic views of the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate Bridge from the ocean side, and the Pacific Ocean itself. At the extreme western end the well known Cliff House provides both semi-casual and a more formal eating and drinking place. The Legion of Honor museum at the center of the park houses many incredible artworks.

Near the physical center of the city is the Twin Peaks, one of San Francisco's highest points (875' above sea level); providing spectacular views in all directions. Tour buses can get backed up here during the day, but it's a great place to really appreciate the city from above, especially at and after sunset. Temperatures up there can be quite a bit lower than in the rest of the city, so bring a jacket. Nearby in the Lake Merced area is the San Francisco Zoo, a large and well maintained zoo which is a great place to go if you are traveling with children or have a fondness for penguins, primates, lions or llamas.

While not particularly well known for its beaches, San Francisco has a couple of good ones along the Pacific Ocean — but the water is brisk, the winds can be rough, and due to strong rip currents swimming at any of them is not recommended. Ocean Beach along the Sunset district is the largest and most famous beach, with plenty of sand and people enjoying themselves. China Beach in Richmond and Baker Beach in Golden Gate are smaller, rather secluded beaches with lovely views.
On sunny days hipsters flock to Mission Dolores Park, so named due to its location across the street from the Mission Dolores Basilica. The park often comes to resemble a large party, with music, coolers of beer and, er, uh...medical marijuana treatment. Mission Dolores Park is situated on a slight slope in the Noe Valley neighborhood, just a few blocks from the many restaurants and bars in the Mission. The east side of the park is bounded by Dolores Street, a hilly and scenic drive lined with palm trees and Victorians. During the fire of 1906 that destroyed much of the city, one of the few working fire hydrants was located near the Southwest corner of the park. This fire hydrant provided water that helped stop the fire. The fire hydrant is still functioning and is repainted gold once a year on the anniversary of the 1906 earthquake.

In the southern half of the city is the often overlooked but wonderful Bernal Heights Park, a small park on top of a hill overlooking the entire eastern half of the city, with excellent views of the skyscrapers in the Financial District, the Mission District, and the hills in the southeastern corner of the city. A wide trail runs around the base of the park below the peak which can be walked in ten to fifteen minutes. Bernal Heights Park is dog friendly, so much so that a coyote is often observed there.

Harbor tours
One of the best ways to see San Francisco is from the waters of San Francisco Bay. There are many companies offering harbor tours of varying durations and prices but they all provide marvelous views of the bay, the bridges, the island of Alcatraz and the city.

Only specific island tours are allowed to land at Alcatraz, but the typical harbor tour will circle the island at a slow crawl, giving you plenty of opportunity to photograph the now-inactive prison from the water.

Also consider taking a ferry from San Francisco across the bay to Tiburon, Sausalito, or Alameda. Same views for a fraction of the price.

Most tours leave from docks at Fisherman's Wharf near Pier 39. Tickets can be purchased at kiosks along the waterfront walk. Buy tickets a day or two in advance during the summer high season.
Boats usually leave roughly hourly starting around 10am and ending around 5pm. Multi-lingual guides are available on some tours. Prices range from $20-$40, more for sunset, dinner, or whale watching tours.

Even on a sunny day the bay can be chilly, so be sure to bring a sweater as well as sun screen.
Some boats have snack bars on board, but bring your own water and treats to avoid paying high costs or going without. There are now limited refreshments and a souvenirs shop on Alcatraz.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Amsterdam Travel Guide

Amsterdam is the capital city and most populous city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Its status as the Dutch capital is mandated by the Constitution of the Netherlands though it is not the seat of the Dutch government, which is The Hague. Amsterdam has a population of 834,119 within the city proper, 1,329,779 in the urban area and 1,603,531 in the metropolitan area. The city region has an approximate population of 2,431,000. The city is located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country, and is also North Holland's largest city. It comprises much of the northern part of the Randstad, one of the larger conurbations in Europe, with a population of approximately 7 million.

Amsterdam's name derives from Amstelredamme, indicative of the city's origin as a dam of the river Amstel. Originating as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age (17th century), a result of its innovative developments in trade. During that time, the city was the leading center for finance and diamonds. In the 19th and 20th centuries the city expanded, and many new neighbourhoods and suburbs were planned and built. The 17th-century canals of Amsterdam and the 19–20th century Defence Line of Amsterdam are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

As the commercial capital of the Netherlands and one of the top financial centres in Europe, Amsterdam is considered an alpha world city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) study group. The city is also the cultural capital of the Netherlands. Many large Dutch institutions have their headquarters there, and seven of the world's 500 largest companies, including Philips and ING, are based in the city. In 2012, Amsterdam was ranked the second best city in which to live by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and 12th globally on quality of living for environment and infrastructure by Mercer .The city was previously ranked 3rd in innovation by 2thinknow in the Innovation Cities Index 2009.

Famous Amsterdam residents included Anne Frank the diarist, the artists Rembrandt van Rijn and Vincent van Gogh and the philosopher Baruch Spinoza.

The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the oldest stock exchange in the world, is located in the city center. Amsterdam's main attractions, including its historic canals, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, Anne Frank House, Amsterdam Museum, its red-light district, and its many cannabis coffee shops draw more than 5 million international visitors annually.

Parks and recreational areas

Amsterdam has many parks, open spaces, and squares throughout the city. Vondelpark, the largest park in the city, is located in the Oud-Zuid borough and is named after the 17th century Amsterdam author, Joost van den Vondel. Yearly, the park has around 10 million visitors. In the park is an open-air theatre, a playground and several horeca facilities. In the Zuid borough, is Beatrixpark, named after Queen Beatrix. Between Amsterdam and Amstelveen is the Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest), the largest recreational area in Amsterdam. Annually, almost 4.5 million people visit the park, which has a size of 1.000 hectares and is approximately three times the size of Central Park.[95] Amstelpark in the Zuid borough houses the Rieker windmill, which dates to 1636. Other parks include Sarphatipark in the De Pijp neighbourhood, Oosterpark in the Oost borough, and Westerpark in the Westerpark neighbourhood. The city has four beaches, the Nemo Beach, Citybeach "Het stenen hoofd" (Silodam), Blijburg, and one in Amsterdam-Noord.

The city has many open squares (plein in Dutch). The namesake of the city as the site of the original dam, Dam Square, is the main town square and has the Royal Palace and National Monument. Museumplein hosts various museums, including the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and Stedelijk Museum. Other squares include Rembrandtplein, Muntplein, Nieuwmarkt, Leidseplein, Spui, and Waterlooplein.

Amsterdam is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, receiving more than 4.63 million international visitors annually, this is excluding the 16 million day trippers visiting the city every year.[102] The number of visitors has been growing steadily over the past decade. This can be attributed to an increasing number of European visitors. Two thirds of the hotels are located in the city's centre. Hotels with 4 or 5 stars contribute 42% of the total beds available and 41% of the overnight stays in Amsterdam. The room occupation rate was 78% in 2006, up from 70% in 2005. The majority of tourists (74%) originate from Europe. The largest group of non-European visitors come from the United States, accounting for 14% of the total.[103] Certain years have a theme in Amsterdam to attract extra tourists. For example, the year 2006 was designated "Rembrandt 400", to celebrate the 400th birthday of Rembrandt van Rijn. Some hotels offer special arrangements or activities during these years. The average number of guests per year staying at the four campsites around the city range from 12,000 to 65,000.

Red light district
De Wallen, also known as Walletjes or Rosse Buurt, is a designated area for legalised prostitution and is Amsterdam's largest and most well known red-light district. This neighborhood has become a famous attraction for tourists. It consists of a network of roads and alleys containing several hundred small, one-room apartments rented by sex workers who offer their services from behind a window or glass door, typically illuminated with red lights.

Shops in Amsterdam range from large high end department stores such as De Bijenkorf founded in 1870 and Maison de Bonneterie a Parisian style store founded in 1889, to small specialty shops. Amsterdam's high-end shops are found in the streets P.C. Hooftstraat and Cornelis Schuytstraat, which are located in the vicinity of the Vondelpark. One of Amsterdam's busiest high streets is the narrow, medieval Kalverstraat in the heart of the city. Other shopping areas include the Negen Straatjes and Haarlemmerdijk and Haarlemmerstraat. Negen Straatjes are nine narrow streets within the Grachtengordel, the concentric canal system of Amsterdam. The Negen Straatjes differ from other shopping districts with the presence of a large diversity of privately owned shops. The Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk were voted best shopping street in the Netherlands in 2011. These streets have as the Negen Straatjes a large diversity of privately owned shops. But as the Negen Straatjes are dominated by fashion stores the Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk offer a very wide variety of all kinds of stores, just to name some specialties: candy and other food related stores, lingerie, sneakers, wedding clothing, interior shops, books, Italian deli's, racing and mountain bikes, skatewear, etc.

The city also features a large number of open-air markets such as the Albert Cuyp Market, Westerstraat-markt, Ten Katemarkt, and Dappermarkt. Some of these markets are held on a daily basis, like the Albert Cuypmarkt and the Dappermarkt. Others, like the Westerstraatmarkt, are held on a weekly basis.

Fashion brands like G-star, Gsus, BlueBlood, PICHICHI, Iris van Herpen, 10 feet and Warmenhoven & Venderbos, and fashion designers like Mart Visser, Viktor & Rolf, Sheila de Vries, Marlies Dekkers and Frans Molenaar are based in Amsterdam. Modelling agencies Elite Models, Touche models and Tony Jones have opened branches in Amsterdam. Fashion models like Yfke Sturm, Doutzen Kroes and Kim Noorda started their careers in Amsterdam. Amsterdam has its garment centre in the World Fashion Center. Buildings which formerly housed brothels in the red light district have been converted to ateliers for young fashion designers, AKA eagle fuel.Fashion photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin were born in Amsterdam(Netherland).

Amsterdam is famous for its vibrant and diverse nightlife. Amsterdam has many cafés (bars). They range from large and modern to small and cozy. The typical Bruine Kroeg (brown café) breathe a more old fashioned atmosphere with dimmed lights, candles, and somewhat older clientele. Most cafés have terraces in summertime. A common sight on the Leidseplein during summer is a square full of terraces packed with people drinking beer or wine. Many restaurants can be found in Amsterdam as well. Since Amsterdam is a multicultural city, a lot of different ethnic restaurants can be found. Restaurants range from being rather luxurious and expensive to being ordinary and affordable. Amsterdam also possesses many discothèques. The two main nightlife areas for tourists are the Leidseplein and the Rembrandtplein. The Paradiso, Melkweg and Sugar Factory are cultural centres, which turn into discothèques on some nights. Examples of discothèques near the Rembrandtplein are the Escape, Air, John Doe and Club Abe. Also noteworthy are Panama, Hotel Arena (East), TrouwAmsterdam and Studio 80. Bimhuis located near the Central Station, with its rich programming hosting the best in the field is considered one of the best jazz clubs in the world. The Reguliersdwarsstraat is the main street for the LGBT community and nightlife.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Kittitian Hill

Kittitian Hill is a 600m USD sustainable resort development on the island of St.Kitts in the West Indies. It is set on the hillside with 400 acres of steep contours and flat coastal plain on the north coast between Mount Liamugia and the Caribbean Sea. It was designed by award winning, Bangkok-based architect Bill Bensley.

Kittitian Hill was founded in 2006 by Val Kempadoo, a Trinidad based entrepreneur and leader in sustainability. It was funded by the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) in 2011.

St Kitts' tower
The SIDF’s purpose is to provide support to the government in its efforts to diversify the national economy of St. Kitts and Nevis and maintain economic stability, and to support, finance or undertake the development of new and existing industries, projects or enterprises.

In July 2013, the SIDF sold its stake to Swiss Entrepreneur Patrick Liotard-Vogt making Kittitian Hill a private company. The mission of the SIDF was successfully fulfilled allowing them to invest just a few month later in Christophe Harbor, a marina project based in the south east peninsula.

Belle Mont Farm
If you care about what’s on your plate as much as the comfort of your room while you visit a faraway destination, try staying at this resort that takes the term “sustainable hotel” to a whole new level. You’ll experience luxury inside rooms modeled after West Indian cottages, complete with wood-shingle walls and wraparound verandas. But you’ll also experience one of the freshest farm-to-table models available, with organic fruits and vegetables that Condé Nast Traveller says are foraged by staff and willing guests – along with seafood harvested fresh from the sea. (The resort earned a spot on the magazine’s “Hot List” in 2015 for some of the best food offerings available.)

The resort sits on a 400-acre organic farm, complete with a golf course and spa. Each morning, you’ll have a crate of fresh produce delivered straight to your room. You’ll also be encouraged to interact with local artisans and farmers native to the area, should you want to learn more about the region.

Room rates can vary between $600 and $5,900 per night, depending on the room and number of guests staying for the trip. You can also elect to participate in a number of specialty offers that submerge you in the sustainability or farm-to-table experience.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Video of Ducks in Manda Zoo Jammu

Duck is the common name for a large number of species in the Anatidae family of waterfowl which also includes swans and geese. The ducks are divided among several subfamilies in the family Anatidae; they do not represent a monophyletic group (the group of all descendants of a single common ancestral species) but a form taxon, since swans and geese are not considered ducks. Ducks are mostly aquatic birds, mostly smaller than the swans and geese, and may be found in both fresh water and sea water.

Nature lovers and wildlife trekkers can enjoy unique diversity of trees like Tinish Tree, Ougeinia oojeinensis (Sannan in Dogri), Tree of Sadness, Nyctanthes arbor tristis (Koori in Dogri), Toothbrush Tree, Acacia modesta (Phulaai), Beaded Pod Tree, Acacia nilotica, Black Cutch Tree, Acacia catechu (Kher in Dogri), Frywood Tree, Albizia lebbeck (Sareen in Dogri), Indian Gooseberry, Emblica officinalis (Aami in Dogri), Wild Krishan Kadamb, Mitragyna parvifolia (Kaim in Dogri), Wild Persimmon Tree (Rajain in Dogri), False Quinine Tree, Hymenodictyon excelsum (Kunaina in Dogri), Parrot Tree, Butea monosperma (Palaah in Dogri), Drumstick Tree, Moringa oleifera (Sohaanjana in Dogri), Buffalo Horn Tree, Oroxylum indicum (Taatra, Marinjan in Dogri), White Teak, Gmelina arborea (Chitti Kanseer in Dogri), Java Plum, Syzygium cuminii (Dhallan in Dogri), Wood Apple Tree, Aegle marmelos (Bill Pattri in Dogri), Monkey Face Tree, Mallotus philippensis (Kamilla in Dogri), Wild Heliotrope Tree, Ehretia laevis (Chamrode in Dogri), Popcorn Tree, Sapium sebiferum (Makhan in Dogri), Garlic Pear Tree, Crataeva adansonii (Baarna in Dogri), Chacolate Twig Tree, Elaeodendron glaucum (Ganger, Gangeda, Marindu in Dogri), Agnimanth Tree, Premna latifolia (Kali Kanseer in Dogri), Nettle Tree, Trema politoria (Dand Koochan in Dogri), Indian Coral Tree, Erythrina indica (Thubb in Dogri), Cluster Fig Tree, Ficus racemosa (Rumbal in Dogri), Red Cedar Tree, Toona ciliata (Tun in Dogri), Indian Ash Tree, Lannea coromandelica (Kaimbal, Gadhambal in Dogri), Silk Cotton Tree, Bombax ceiba (Simbal in Dogri), Curry leaf Tree, Murraya koenigii (Drounkal in Dogri), Golden Shower Tree, Cassia fistula (Karangal, Karoungal in Dogri), Hoop Tree, Pride of India, Melia azedarach (Dhraink in Dogri), Wild Flueggea, Securinega virosa (Raathal in Dogri), Wild Kydia, Kydia calycina (Pullah in Dogri), Easter Tree, Holarrhaena pubescens (Kogad in Dogri) and others.

Manda Zoo has attractive assembelage of butterflies like Peacock Pansy (Mor Phanfadi in Dogri),Blue Pansy (Neeli Phanfadi) ,Grass Yellow, Lime Butterfly (Nimbu Phanfadi in Dogri), Sailor, Plain Tiger, waterfowl including Mallard, Coot (Tikkri), Spotbilled duck, Barheaded geese (Rajhans) , elegant peafowls (Mor, Myura), Cinerous vulture (Gridh), Barn Owls (Ulloo), Eagles, Parakeets, Barking deer (Kakkad), Hog deer (Paada in Dogri), Sambar, Cheetal , Neelgai (Goond in Dogri), Porcupine (Seyh in Dogri) , Himalayan Black Bear (Haput in Kashmiri, Richh in Dogri), Leopard (Chitra, Mirg in Dogri), Pangolin (Sarkhal, Salla in Dogri). Python (Sangani in Dogri), Monitor Lizard (Gho in Dogri), Black Partridge (Kala Teetar), Grey Partridge is also seen in the wildlife sanctuary. Exotic birds like Turkey and Emu are also seen in Manda zoo. Among other attractive birds, Paradise flycatcher (Poon chiri in Dogri, Doodhraj), Scarlet Minivet (Surkholi in Dogri, Rajlal, Bulalchashm in Hindi ), Tailor bird (Darjainu, Darzi), Jungle Babblers (Farol, Sod, Dadder in Dogri), Scarlet sunbird (Lal Angaarta in Dogri), Purple sunbird (Angaarta, Shakarkhora in Urdu), Indian Grey Hornbill (Doaa in Dogri, Dhanesh in Hindi), Green Pigeon (Preu in Dogri, Hariyal in Hindi), Fan flycatcher (Pakhi Phatoonu in Dogri), Barbets (Kudroo in Dogri, Basanta in Hindi), Hawk Cuckoo (Papeeha), Bulbuls (Peenja in Dogri) , Weaver bird (Baregdu in Dogri, Baya in Hindi) with their sweet melodies and artistic nesting behaviour add further thrill and charm to the nature walk in the wilderness around .
Role of Manda zoo and Wildlife sanctuary need to be further diversified under Ecotourism with scope for students of schools and colleges to enjoy nature and visit innovative green stalls having focus on ethnic cusines like Kalaadi kulcha, Alu khameera, Tinbru chutteny, Tarad achaar, Sohanjana achaar, Guaalmada, Katraid sabzi, local folk healers with herbal products like Jyotishmati oil, Kamarkass, Nazposh sherbet, Kachnar halwa, Vidarikand churn, Meda lakkadi, Tinbru datum, Amara, kamarakh fruits, herbal shampoos, cosmetics for sale, wildlife researchers to tell tree tales and conservation strategies, heritage story tellers to talk about historical myths and facts, nature photographers to display nature’s grandeur and artists to present colourful landscapes in Basohli and Kangada paintings, dramatists and musicians to present skits and songs on Dogra /Kashmiri /Ladakhi culture and reflect on manifestations in the wonders of nature.