Archive for July, 2007

Historic Holidays in Lisbon

Friday, July 27th, 2007

The capital of Portugal, Lisbon boasts of a 2000 years old history. There is a wonderful peculiarity in this city. It is said that it was constructed over seven hills and hence it has plenty of ups and downs (literally) – it is the only place in the world where an elevator would take you from one road to another.

Historical Attractions in Lisbon

This city, which is by the way the largest in the country, was under Arab occupation until 1147 AD when King Alfonso Henrique liberated it his capital city. The city prospered greatly after the Court was shifted there mid thirteenth century and by the seventeenth century is was a major commercial power of Europe.

Since it is a historic city, there is plenty to see in Lisbon – there are ancient and opulent castles such as the St George’s Castle and Terreiro do Paco, large and impressive cathedrals such as the Lisbon Cathedral, and other historical monuments such as the Belem Tower and Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. The architecture of the city and the perfect blend of past and present offers an unparalleled charm that no one can resist.

You will also find here the world’s longest suspension bridge, the Vasco da Gama Bridge which links the airport on one side with the railway station on the other side. History lovers would revel in visiting the Alfama district which is capable of transporting you back into the 16-17th century with its winding streets and medieval buildings.

LisbonSunset View

Other Major Attractions

Check out the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum and Carmo Archeological Museums which would thrill you with historical facts and exhibits. For art lovers, the National Museum of Contemporary Art is a must see. The Museum of Fado is an exceptional place where music is the main focus – you will find here everything you ever wanted to know about the lilting music of this country. Among the major attractions, you will find here (Almada – on the banks of River Tagus) almost identical replica of the famous statue Cristo Redentor (Rio de Janeiro) called the Cristo Rei.

Shopping in Lisbon

If you love shopping you will need to visit the Amoreiras where you will find a concentration of more than 200 stores, many restaurants offering every type of cuisine you would want or imagine, theater and even a church. So, coming here would be able to take care of all your needs. Do not forget to try out the local and very famous drink called ‘ginjinga’ – this is something you would find only in Portugal.

The other major shopping spot would be the Avenida da Liberdale which is lined with hi-end shops and restaurants as well as theaters. While you are in the vicinity, check out the Eduardo VII park which offers some phenomenal views of the entire city. A must-see and experience is the Elevator de Santa Justa which links two districts, i.e. the Baixa and the Bairo districts.

Canberra – The Stunning Capital City

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Australia’s capital city, Canberra is a phenomenal city to visit. No wonder it is voted as one of the hottest tourist destinations throughout the world.

There are one hundred forty wineries in Canberra – so you need to go around and see some of the famous vineries which would be extremely impressive and educative – not to mention fun. All the 140 wineries are within about half an hour from the city. The wine from Canberra is of high quality and is exported world wide. Surprisingly most of the wine labels come quite affordable – which is another reason why Australian wines are so well accepted and famous across the world. They have the best two ingredients – quality and value for money.

For a stunning view of the capital city of Australia go up the ex-Telstra Tower which is today known as the Black Mountain Tower. This monument standing 200 meters tall offers an astounding view of the city. You can dine at the Alto restaurant up there while learning about the telecommunication history of Australia through the gallery which is set up there on the topic.

Canberra Parliament House

This city has everything you would ever want from exceptional shopping centers to the most stunning natural pockets where you could enjoy any type of nature-lover sports. Check out the Australian National Botanical Gardens which consists of more than 6500 species of trees and plants over a vast expanse of 40 acres of land. The Garden has been organized into climatic regions and each part is simulated in such a manner that it allows the growth of that type region flora. A must see for anyone who is interested to experience and see first hand the different types of plants growing in desserts, mountains, rainforest and so on.

Since we are on the topic of gardens, there is another exceptional garden in Canberra, i.e. the Cockington Green Garden. There is a stunning display of 19 countries here meticulously build to scale (miniaturized) which will amaze any visitor. An old fashioned steam train would take around the best exhibits, in case you prefer not to walk. There are impeccable lawns and flower gardens in between the exhibits and this space can be used for picnics if you would so prefer.

Children should definitely see the National Scinece and Technology Center and the National Gallery which are made especially to capture and provoke the curiosity of the young visitors. You could also check out the National Zoo and the gigantic shark tank at the Aquarium. The National Museum allows children to touch exhibits and many are interactive designed to leave a lasting impression on the minds of children.

For some awesome shopping experience check out the Canberra Center where you would find everything that defines fashion and beauty. Besides, you would also enjoy shopping-until-you drop in the 200 plus shops that make the supermarket here.

This is one city which can give you the most modern experience side by side with amazing natural beauty.

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Hong Kong – The Chinese British City

Monday, July 16th, 2007

One of the most popular tourist destinations, Hong Kong is part of China yet it maintains free enterprise. History says that Hong Kong was a colony of the Great Britain until 1984 when the British handed over this amazing city to China with a strange stipulation, i.e. that its free market would be sustained as it is for at least 50 years onwards. This is why Hong Kong stands out as a unique city.

Today Hong Kong is the Special Administrative Region of China while it still enjoys free market. It has exceptionally conducive import and export laws with a tax rate that does not exceed 15 percent. This is why Hong Kong’s economy is highly vibrant and business and entrepreneurship is most common.

Hong Kong

Known as the ‘Movie Capital of Asia’, Hong Kong offers non-stop entertainment to its tourists, which is one of the main industries. You will find that the city is predominantly Chinese by tradition and culture, while English is spoken as second main language.

As a tourist you will be amazed by the diversity this city offers. You can experience the loudest and most bustling night life here. At the same time you would be able to enjoy the spiritual quietness of the Buddhist temples.

Paradise for Food Gourmets

Are you in love with food? Hong Kong is the place for you in that case. You will find some mind-blowing local cuisine (Chinese food) that never tasted as good anywhere else – such as chicken lo mein, dim sum, whole trout fried, tofu, soft shell crab meat, the famous Peking duck, the Tong Cho oysters  to name a few. There is no dearth of continental food either – including McDonalds.

Shopping Paradise – When you are in Hong Kong try to save on everything (if you are n a budget) by sleeping in dormitories (which are exceptionally clean and well maintained) and eating great stuff from the road side and use all your money for shopping. Tough expensive, Honk Kong is a real paradise for shopping as it offers you a wide variety of knick knacks and fancy items that you never knew existed. Check out the Golden Mile, Mongkok and Yaumati for some great bargains.

Attractions in Hong Kong

It is said that Hong Kong never sleeps. Check out the Aberdeen and Harbour at night by taking a leisure cruise. This is one of the most popular tourist destinations.

Check out the Repulse Bay which offers one of the most popular beaches in Hong Kong. Though it is a wonderful place to spend time, it tends to be messy because of the excessive littering left over by the visitors over the weekends.

Do not miss the Victoria Park which was built as long ago as 1888 which will lead you to the Victoria peak which is 1350 ft above the sea level. Have a snack here while enjoying the panoramic view of Hong Kong.

Dakar – Hospitality Thy Name Is Dakar

Monday, July 16th, 2007

Dakar is the Capital City of Senegal (Africa) situated on the Cape Verde Peninsula on the Western edge of Africa. Its huge economic and tourist fame has been promoted by its strategic location, i.e. the Western-most city in Africa which is the best departure-arrival point for European and trans-Atlantic trading and travel.

The Major Attractions of Dakar

When you visit Dakar you would be surprised by the cleanliness of the city. This is a modern and cosmopolitan city which is a major tourist attraction. The people here are famous for their exceptional hospitality which leaves all the tourists overawed and overwhelmed. Wherever you go there will be someone ready to help and guide you taking out time from their busy schedule to assist you. This is simply amazing.

Dakar, Senegal

The Beaches – there are two major beaches in Dakar, i.e. the Plage Bel-Air and the N’Gor and Yoff. Incidentally, this beach is also famous as the cleanest of all. Two more beaches are worth a visit – the Yenn and the Toubab Dialao. From here you could also enjoy the spectacular view of the red cliffs.

The History – check out the Ille de Goree (Goree Island) which had been the place from where slaves were packed for America. There is a museum called the House of Slaves which is worth seeing.

Sight Seeing – most of the attraction are around Dakar and be warned that it is quiet a harrowing experience to travel outside the city – however, as the saying goes, ‘No pain, no gain” if you want to enjoy some great spots, you need to risk the trip.

The first thing to visit is the old capital of Senegal, the St Louis. Here you would be able to enjoy some great nightlife, excellent natural beauty in the bird sanctuaries and parks, and an exceptional appetizing cuisine.

The other amazing spot that you need to see is the Sine Saloum Delta. The trip within the Delta by pirogue is by itself a great experience. Use a pre-paid guide to show you around so ou could make the most of your trip.

Just an overnight trip away from Dakar is the Casamance where you would find some amazing beaches and the friendliest people in the world (if that can be possible). Your target is the Cap Skirring which is a major tourist attraction.

If you have a religious bent of mind and want to combine your vacation with a little spiritual experience, visit the Touba which is a highly venerated religious center just a day away from Dakar.

Shopping in Dakar – those who love shopping would not be disappointed by Dakar. You have the Islam Couture where you can highly qualitative (and expensive) African embroidered garments. Then you have the flea markets, Marche Sandaga, Marche HLM and Marche Kermel where you can buy absolutely anything under the sky. You will find some wonderfully quaint restaurants and food stall on the top of the three storied Marche Sadanga where you could enjoy both the local cuisine and the panoramic view of the city.

Seychelles – Wild and Enticing Natural Beauty

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

People who visit Seychelles are impressed by its stunning natural beauty. Situated in the Indian Ocean off the Coast of Africa these 115 islands can be easily called paradise on Earth. A vacation in Seychelles is replete with opportunities for water sports such as scuba diving, snorkeling, para sailing, and sailing among others which are thrilling to say the least. All the hotels and resorts offer classes and rent equipment so you need not carry your own.

St Pierre Island, Seychelles

The Seychelles Capital City Victoria

Victoria – the capital of Seychelles – is a definitely must see place. Each of the 115 islands offer something special to see and you can take short excursions from Victoria to all these islands depending upon what you would like to see. The traveling between he islands is usually done by ferry or helicopter. Some people prefer to go by the small taxi airplanes as well.

Whichever way you choose to go, you would find the natural beauty of these islands breathtaking, Every where you turn, you would find nature at its best. The natural beauty you experience in Seychelles is something that would convince you that the concept of paradise exists. Visit the Garden of Eden which showcases some exceptional landscaping and wildlife. 

Victoria will offer you plenty of shopping places where you could buy unusual handicrafts and souvenirs.  It offers some wonderful museums which reflect the French influence of Seychelles and excellent hiking treks for those who want to get in touch with the nature. Many people are thrilled with the occasional sighting of the giant tortoise and the amazing display of exquisite exotic birds.

Take a boat around the island, play a game of golf or simply relax in the luxuriant resorts – anything you choose is great.

The Native Inhabitants

The Seychelles has managed to protect the native population in their original habitat which is amazing for a tourist destination. There are many islands who are yet untouched by modernization and the 21st century civilization. Visiting these islands and interacting with these wonderful  people – the Creoles – can be an amazing experience. These people still eke their livelihood by fishing and cultivation in the most traditional (primitive) ways.

Visiting these islands can expose you to the past primitive civilizations and traditions in a way that cannot be compared with anything else. The natives are friendly and harmless – yet they are totally ensconced into their own culture and traditions despite their close encounters with tourists and the modern civilizations they represent.

When you decide to go to Seychelles, be prepared for some exceptional experiences that you would not find anywhere else in the world – (i) a paradise under water, (ii) a paradise in wildlife, (iii) a paradise for hikers and  (iv) a lost paradise (with natives). Hawaii, move aside there is another contender for the ‘Paradise-On-Earth’ label.

Cairo – Still an Enigma

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

You will find the mystique city Cairo situated along the Nile. This city is known locally as Al Qahirah or the ‘Mother of all Cities” as it connects strategically the trade routes to three major destinations, i.e. Asia, Europe and Africa. This is the largest city in Africa and the Middle East which enjoys a homogenous mix of Jewish, Islamic and Christian population for the last 2000 years.

Cairo

Cairo’s Major Tourist Attractions

1. History Showcased – Just 24 kilometers away from Cairo you will find the Memphis and Saqqara. Memphis is famous as the old Capital of Egypt which was built by King Menes. You will find here the amazing statue of Ramsesses II which stands 13 meters tall and weighs about 120 tons. Another must-see spot in Memphis is the Temple of Embalming he Sacred Apis Bull. Close to it is Saqqara which is basically an ancient Egyptian cementery. Here you will be able to see the majesty of the Step Pyramid (built by Imhotep for King Zoser) and the Pyramids of Unas (5th Dynasty of Pharaohs), Serapheum (Greek Philosopher) among others.

2. Churches – You will have to see the Hanging or Al-Muaallaqah Chuch, the Church of the Virgin (Al-Adra), the Cathedral of St Mark (Al-Qiddis Morcos), the Church of St Sergius (Abu Sergah), the Church of the Virgin in Zaytoun. While you are visiting these amazing churches from the time of Babylon, check out the Coptic Museum which offers the display of some exceptional Christian manuscripts, icons and relics.

3. Mosques – Do look up the Mosque of Amr Ibn Al-Aas, the Blue Mosque and the Alabaster Mosque of Mohammad Ali, the Mosque of Sultan Hassan among others. Check out the Bab Al Khalq Museum where you will find an exceptional array of Islamic art and relics.

4. Parks and Gardens – Cairo has some amazing parks and entertainments areas. You must see the Fish Gardens in Zamalek and the amazingly landscaped International Garden in Nasr city. Another must-see spot here is the Andalusian Gardens which famous all over the world.

5. Shopping Venue – Visit the Khan-Al-Khalili Bazaar which offers you a chain of medium and small shops where you could buy absolutely anything you wanted. Check out the exquisite work in gold and silver ornaments and the intricate embroidery on fabric. You will also find here some very unusual woodwork that is very popular with tourists.

6. Entertainment – Cairo offers all kind of entertainment from the highly cultural Opera House which is a seven storied ultra modern building to all night bars and cafes. The Opera House was built with the collaboration of Japanese architects and the result is stunning. It houses three large theaters, a huge museum and a library. There is a rotating restaurant on the top which can be quite an exhilarating experience.

Everything in Cairo is enigmatic and mystique though it is modern and vibrantly alive. There is something there that makes it extremely intriguing and attractive to the outsiders.

Bucharest – The Paris of the East

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

Designed by French architects and French trained Romanian architects, the city of Bucharest makes a great impact on any tourist. The Capital City of Romania makes for an exceptional treat destination in Europe.

Dracula’s Country

Romania has long been associated with the legendary and fearsome character of the Vampire, Dracula. The story of Dracula is built on the horrible reputation of Vlad Tepes (Tepes meaning stake in Romanian language) who used to impale his prisoners of war on wooden stakes to celebrate his victory. The gory sights of hundreds of people impaled on stakes dead – and the fact that Vlad was wearing a large head of the devil on a long gold chain – gave rise to the belief that he was in league with the Devil. In fact Dracula comes from ‘Dracul’ which in Romanian means The Devil.

Bucharest is also known as the Little Paris or The Paris of the East has blossomed in the last decade owing to the extreme efforts of building the glory of the city post the Ceausescu regime. Ceausescu was one of the worst dictators in Eastern Europe who was ousted and executed along with his wife in a stunning revolt by the people of Romania.

Romanian Athenaeum, Bucharest

Bucharest offers you elegant shopping complexes, large boulevards, and plenty of exceptionally landscaped parks are a delight to any visitor. The city has a cosmopolitan look and feel and makes you feel luxuriously entertained. Bucharest is very expensive – yet has a come-hither charm that blends ethnicity with ultra modernization in the same breath.

Romania is the only Latin country where the Roman Catholics are not the majority (only 5% are Catholics). The religion followed here is Roman Orthodox.

Bucharest is a stone throw away from some of the best tourist attractions in Romania. Since this is a tiny country, you would not spend much time on the road and once you are in Bucharest, you should make it a point to see all the surrounding attractions to enjoy the feel of the real Romania.

A few hours away to the North lies Brasov – a mind-blowing must-see mountain resort. Here you can indulge in skiing, camping, hiking, parachute jumping, mountain climbing, etc. Animal lovers would be thrilled with the sighting of wild animals such as bears, wolves, reindeers, etc roaming freely over the mountains.

Mamaia and Constanta are further South from Bucharest – these are exceptionally beautiful beach resorts – a must-see during summer time. Here you would be able to enjoy typical water sports or just basking in the sun on the wonderful beaches.

Romania, it is said has everything nature could give – sea coast and wonderful beaches, fertile plains and exceptional mountain ranges (the Carpathian Mountains). Your visit to Bucharest would be able to unveil the beauty of this tiny country to you for an out-of-the-world experience.

Ankara – A City Full Of Surprises

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

Turkey is a wonderful place to visit with surprisingly beautiful beaches. If you would like to make a mental picture the beaches of Acapulco and Miami would pale in comparison to the Turkish beaches. However, for unknown reason, these exceptional tourist attractions are somehow underrated locally.

Ankara, the capital of Turkey is also one of the oldest cities of this country. Founded in 2000 BC, this historic city is a tremendous delight to anyone who visits it. Some of the ancient relics that trill the historic tourists are the Tomb of Haci Bayram and the exquisite mosque besides it, the Augustus temple that is standing from the Roman times and the Fortress Kale which stands majestically over the city.

Ankara

A very interesting must-see attraction is the Mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk who is the founder and the first President of Turkey. This is a memorial which contains Kemal Ataturk’s writings, a number of memorabilia and a stunning wax statue of Ataturk. You could also see a great deal of artifacts from Ottoman Era in the Etnography museum.

For those who love the fine arts, there are five theatres and three major symphony orchestras in Ankara which are simply delightful.

The city of Ankara is an excellent blend of modern and ancient architecture. Everywhere you look you would find something that delights you. The food in Ankara is spicy and totally addictive. You should not forget when you are in Turkey to have coffee. Here you will be able to sample some of the most aromatic cups of coffee in the world.

The night life in Ankara is great during the summer with its late night bars, round the clock cafes and clubs with gardens and open courtyards. The center of the town, Kizlay is full of small beer joints which serve some wonderfully spicy food and entertain you with excellent Turkish tunes.

For people who want to sample a real Turkish fare, the best would be to eat at any of the Osmanic style restaurants at Kale. You must taste the kababs and the typical skewered lamb cooked with yoghurt and tomatoes. You will find that grilled meat and fish makes an exceptional snack anytime you want it.

A great place to visit is the Sherlock Holmes pub which offers a typical English setting on the second floor and local extravaganza on the ground floor. If you prefer classier joints, try the Laila Ankara Club on Sogutozu Cd.

As you can see there is a little for everyone in Ankara – and the best part is the surprisingly beautiful natural bounty of the place.