Monday, June 6, 2011

Madrid, Spain

Madrid is the capital and the largest city of Spain. The population of Madrid is 3.4 million! The first settlements in Madrid began around the 1000 BC along the rivers of Manzanares and Jarama. During this period, the town was mostly settled by the Iberian and Celtic tribes and as a result of the harsh weather conditions, other tribal groups did not settle here. Thereafter, Romans occupied the place and the city mainly served as a thoroughfare to other Spanish regions. After the decline of the Roman era, the area was primarily taken over by the Visigoth tribes. After the Visgoths left, Madrid came under Muslim rule and throughout the 11th century the Christians made incessant efforts to win back the city. But it was not until 1086, that Madrid was finally captured by Alfonso VI. The growth and prosperity of Madrid began from the 13th century under Alfonso VIII, and in 1561, it gained a royal status as Philip II established his court here. Madrid became the capital of Spain and this resulted in the infiltration of numerous nobles and state officials to the city. It also led to the construction of magnificent palaces and elegant monasteries in various parts of the city. The golden age of Madrid began in the 18th century with the discovery of America. Gold from the 'new world' was principally responsible for the prosperity of the city. It was Charles III who changed the look of the city and was responsible for the historical buildings which adorns the city till date. Madrid during this period not only witnessed the development of architectural marvels but also witnessed significant cultural growth by works of legendary writers like Cervantes and Lope de Vega.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Palermo, Italy

Palermo is the capitol of Sciliy. As well as being the capitol of Sicily, Palermo is also the capitol of Sicily's cultural, economic, and touristic capitol. The city was founded by the Phoenicians, but named by the Ancient Greeks Panormus meaning (Largest)Port of All(Sea). Palermo became part of the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire, and eventually part of the Byzantine Empire, for over a thousand years. From 827 to 1071 it was under Arab rule and it first became a capitol then. Then from 1130 to 1816, Palermo was the capitol of the Kingdom of Sicily. It is a city rich in history, culture, art, music, and, of coarse, food. There are many great architecture sites like Gothic churches, palaces, and buildings. People have been living in Palermo since 8000 BC! There are many cave enscriptions in some of Palermo's ancient caves. Palermo has been a centre for commerce for thousands of years. This is because it is a large port. This city has been passed between many great nations and kingdoms. Not the first time, it is now a part of Italy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mont Saint Michel

Above is Mont Saint Michel.

Perched upon a 264 feet rock formation on the coast where the regions of Normandy and Brittany meet in France, is the World Heritage site of Mont St. Michel. Mont Saint Michel is named after the arch-angel Saint Michael and is known as the Wonder of the Western World. Construction of the original abbey took more than 500 years from 1017 to 1521! The origins of Mont St. Michel can be traced back to a legend that has the archangel Michael appearing in a series of dreams to Aubert, Bishop of Avranches. Saint Michael tells Aubert to build a church on what was then a barren rock called Mont Tombe. The Monks of Mont St. Michel were revered for their copying skills before the printing press was widely in use. The abbey's monastic independence was undermined during the 17th century, when the monks began to flout the strict rules and discipline of their order, drifting into a state of decadence that culminated in their dispersal from the abbey. Mont St. Michel then served as a prison for a period of time. In 1874, the abbey was handed over to the French government with the aim of preserving the abbey for the ages.  Emmanuel Fremiet's famous gilt statute of St. Michael was added to the spire in 1897. Currently, Monks live and work here again, just as in medieval times.


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Friday, May 27, 2011

Saint Malo, France

Above is Saint Malo, France.
Saint-Malo during the Middle Ages was a fortified island at the mouth of the Rance Rover, controlling not only the estuary but the open sea beyond. The promontory fort of Aleth, south of the modern centre in what is now the Saint-Servan district, commanded approaches to the Rance even before the Romans, but modern Saint-Malo traces its origins to a Monastic settlement founded by Saint Aaron and Saint Brendan early in the 6th century. Its name is derived from a man said to have been a follower of Brendan, Saint Malo.Saint-Malo had a tradition of asserting its autonomy in dealings with the French authorities and even with the local Breton authorities. From 1490–1493, Saint-Malo declared itself to be an independent republic, taking the motto "not French, not Breton, but Malouins".Saint-Malo became notorious as the home of the corsairs, French privateers and sometimes pirates.The corsairs of Saint-Malo not only forced English ships passing up the Channel to pay tribute, but also brought wealth from further afield. Jacques Cartier who sailed the Saint Lawrence River and visited the sites of Quebec City and Montral – and is thus credited as the discoverer of Canada, lived in and sailed from Saint-Malo, as did the first colonists to settle the Falklands – hence the islands' French name Îles Malouines, which gave rise to the Spanish name Islas Malvinas.In 1758 the Raid on Saint Malo saw a British expedition land intending to capture the town. However the British made no attempt on St Malo, and instead occupied the nearby town of St Servan where they destroyed 30 privateers before departing.The commune of Saint-Servan was merged, together with parame, and became the commune of Saint-Malo in 1967.Saint Malo was the site of an Anglo-French summit in 1998 which led to a significant agreement regarding European Defense Policy.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mexico City, Mexico

You will need more than one vacation to fully enjoy the many activities available in the worlds largest city.  México City is the cultural center of México and is home to a seemingly endless array of cultural activities.  An entire vacation could be devoted strictly to the more than one hundred museums, and you would probably still not have time to visit them all. The floating gardens of  Xochimilco are an attraction that has been in operation since Aztec times. The Zócalo (main square) and historic center are not to be missed and are a good starting place for deciding your itinerary, as there are plenty of things to do and see in a relatively small area. Chapultepec Park, (the world's largest park within a city) is  home to many attractions and should be on your must do list, especially if you have any youngsters with you.  There is always some sort of free entertainment going on, such as concerts, magic shows and mime troupes. If you can imagine it; it is probably happening somewhere in México City. The nightlife in the capital is second to none and provides an enormous variety of entertainment.  Ballet, opera, folkloric shows and theatres.  Live Cuban music and the tropical salsa clubs always seem to be a big draw, for locals as well as visitors. Mexico city is packed with cutlture and fun activities! Enjoy Mexico City, Mexico! This post is linked to Cooking Classics and you can visit that blog to learn about rice and beans, a traditional Mexican dish! You can get to cooking classics by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherelands! The Anne Frank House is a museum with a story. It's situated in the center of Amsterdam and holds the hiding place where Anne Frank wrote her famous diary during World War II.
Anne Frank was a normal girl in exceptional circumstances. For more than two years she described the events of her daily life in hiding in her diary. Amsterdam has many museums as well. The RMO is Holland’s national archaeological museum, and is a great experience for young and old! Not only are the exhibitions in the museum a sight for sore eyes, the building itself is well worth a visit. The museum is located in an old mansion and almshouse, a monumental building on stately Rapenburg in Leiden.
The museum was founded by King William I in 1818, and manages collections of archaeological artefacts from cultures that have been pivotal for today’s civilization. The museum has Dutch archaeological items from prehistoric times until the late Middle Ages. The RMO is the place to go if you want to learn more about the history of Holland. If you visit with children, they can enjoy the special search through the museum. Amsterdam has many other attractions as well. Enjoy Amsterdam, Netherlands!