Sunday, August 21, 2016

Meteor Crater – worth seeing

It is the world’s best preserved meteorite impact site on Earth.  It is located about 40 miles from Flagstaff.  We headed there from the Grand Canyon area and on the way to Sedona.
The Meteor Crater is a result of a collision between an asteroid and the Earth approximately 50,000 years ago.  The asteroid traveled 26,000 miles per hour.   The crater is nearly one mile across, 2.4 miles in circumference and more than 550 feet deep.
Meteor Crater - Arizona USA
Well, it does not say much to most of us, so do not miss opportunity to visit the site and see an impressive hole.  But even there it would be difficult to estimate the real size without binoculars.  There is also a statue of human size located in the very center of the crater.  You cannot see the statue without a zoom or binocular.
Meteor Crater - Arizona USABeing such a unique site it looked deserted with just a few visitors.  Maybe competition of such recognized attractions as Grand Canyon and Sedona is a reason. But do not miss it.
The Meteor Crater visitor center site.

Sunday, June 26, 2016


Lublin Old Town

Lublin, offers everything you need for a perfect short break.  It is a rising star and your next must-visit city break destination.  The city is just 2-hour drive away from Warsaw or two and a half hour flight from major European cities.  But it is still little known.

Lublin - Krakowska GateThe list of monuments includes a few dozen points.  They are scattered around all over the city. The most important and outstanding monuments such as the Cathedral,  St. Stanislaus Church and St. Dominican  Convent, the Old Town Hall and the Court Bastion are located in the Old Town area. The Old Town spreads between to city gates: Krakowska Gate and Grodzka Gate.  The second one leads to the Castle Hill, where we find the Castle, the Tower and the Holy Trinity Chapel.  When you are planning your trip make sure to arrange tickets to see stunning frescoes in the Chapel.  They depict both religious and historic scenes.  And one of the Polish-Lithuanian kings is pictured there.  But it is not the only place where you can see frescos.  The frescos with scenes of everyday life were preserved in Fortuna cellar of Lubomirski Palace.  Today the place serves as a museum where multimedia technology is used to tell the story of the city.
the Trinity Chapel - Lublin

There was a Jewish district between Old Town and Castle Hill before the World War II. The Jewish Community and its culture had made part of the city for almost 500 years.  And it presence was so eminent that Lublin used to be described as the Jerusalem of the Polish Kingdom. But during the II World War the Germans completely destroyed the Jewish Quarter.  And its inhabitants were murdered in the fascist’s death camps of Majdanek, Belzec and Sobibor.  There are just a few places associated with Jewish history in Lublin.  But the memory remains strong.

cultural center - LublinLublin is also strong academic and cultural center.  A special event is the Night of Culture, which this year (2016) had its 10th edition. And there is a new facility for concerts, performances and exhibitions.  It is an example of modern architecture.  But the construction has a long history behind.
Once you are there visit Tourist and Culture Information Centre at 1/3 Jezuicka Street.  They will assist you with support and information.  If you wish to contact them beforehand there is and e-mail address:

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Downtown Los Angeles - worth seeing

Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Universal Studios are the key tourist attractions in Los Angeles.  They visit Kodak Theatre, Rode Drive and stop at one of the beaches and run to see other parts of California.  Nobody bothers to stop downtown Los Angeles and most likely they do not know it exists.
Downtown Los Angeles California

At first sight downtown LA does not seem much different from other American downtowns.  But I think it is worth stopping there for a stroll.  It is definitely a place where history blends with modernity and affluence with poverty.
Let’s start from the beginning - El Pueblo, a place closest to the first settlement. But just a few steps further there is a railway station. Union Station is known as the last of the great railway stations. The building and its interiors have been beautifully restored.  They impress both travelers and visitors.  For full history of the station, visit Amtrak Great American Stations website.

Bradbury Buildking - Los Angeles
Now let’s move to the center.  It had its best times as business, shopping and entertainment center between 1890 and 1930. Today the city is trying to restore the area to its former glory and life is slowly coming back there. Due to the restoration works buildings regain their splendor.  We can admire examples of beautiful architectural decoration of the epoch. For those interested in how interiors looked like stop by Bradbury Building.

Downtown Los AngelesDowntown Los AngelesAlso theaters regain their former function.  They serve as places for performances and movie screenings, instead of warehouses and stores.
If it is just right time for lunch, stop at the Grand Central Market.  The right place for lunch and shopping for fruit and vegetables.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Imperial Dunes - California

The word “desert” always brings an image of impressive sand dunes to my mind.  But the variety of desert landscape is much wider.  And it really amazed me how fascinating it is to watch it while driving in West Coast states.  Just a few pictures do not show the whole beauty of the area.  I can admit I have plenty of them.
California Desert
But now I realized that none of them truly pictures attractiveness of what you can see.  The only option is to “hit the road”.
California Desert

The biggest surprise of the trip was Glamis Dunes / Algodones Dunes / Imperial Sand Dunes. A strip of sand dunes appeared unexpectedly.  It stretches over 45 miles long and it is approximately 6 mile wide. The dunes are the biggest mass sand dunes in California.  It supposed to be result of Colorado River floods and flow diverted over flat area.  I seldom use Wikipedia as a reference but I could not find a better source of information on Imperial Dunes.  It is also recreational area, for sport lovers. More information can be found at the website of the deserts of the United States.
Imperial Dunes - California

Monday, May 16, 2016

Peruvian Cuisine

First time I have heard name 'ceviche' was a culinary shows. Preparation of a starter became a big challenge for the participants of the program.  And what was even worse it was one of the dishes often ordered by guests of the television restaurant. There is an educational side of the situation. I searched more information about the dish.

It turned out it was the most famous Peruvian dish.  It is made of raw white fish marinade in a spicy mixture of lime juice, onion and hot peppers. It sounded great.  Thus when I found out I was going to visit Peru to try ceviche became a must.

Not much to say ceviche is delicious dish. Of course, each place has a slightly different way of marinating fish.  But a set of basic ingredients remains the same. First we tried ceviche at one of the chain restaurants Segundo Muelle.  We were advised not to eat a random place as freshness of fish is vital. But, next time we picked up one of local bars in Barranco.  Both places served exceptional ceviche.  And I do regret that I couldn't try everything on short stay.

Some people say Peruvian Cuisine is one of the best in the world.

For those interested to visit one of chain restaurants Segundo Muelle go to website for more details.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Café Imperial in Prague

Cellars, taverns and bars are the first to think of when you search for eating place in Prague.  Interiors are rather simple, but nice. Long benches and tables make people to get together, make friends and enjoy good company.  Such places usually serve local menus with beer and knedle at the top of the list.

But if you want to experience something different, Café Imperial is a good place.  It makes part of the hotel of the same name. The fact it is a 5-star hotel may scary you a little if you are on a short side. In my opinion stopping there for coffee and unusual interiors will make for the price.

Tiled walls of Cafe Imperial make and incredible impression.  Also have a look at the toilets, where you can find custom decorations.

For more details visit Cafe Imperial website.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Barranco - Lima

Lima, like any other big city, has a nightlife district where the life starts after dark. Yet, it is worth visiting also during a day to see a completely different "face" of the city.
Barranco - Lima
Barranco – the name of the district began to develop in the late nineteenth century. It quickly became a seaside resort where affluent citizens of Lima spent their weekends and holidays.  You can still enjoy relaxed atmosphere where and life at slower pace.  In the early twentieth century artists and writers began to settle in Barranco.  It gave the district a fleur of “bohemian” style.
Barranco - Lima
Today, there are many cafes, restaurants, bars and discos in Barranco.  It is a paradise for both gourmets and entertainment seekers. But there are also the Bridge of Sighs (Puente de los Suspiros), the path leading to the sea (Bajada dos Baños), museums, the library and the beautiful houses.  It is fantastic area for a walk.  Bridge of Sighs is a favorite meeting place for lovers so there are plenty of young people over there.
A visit to the Barranco should be a part of any stay in Lima. The historic center is a must see. But the real charm of the city can be found in a place like Barranco.
If you want to learn more about the district and Lima itself you have found Lima Easy sight - enjoy it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

From São Paulo to Rio

Rio de Janeiro - BrazilRio de Janeiro is a good option for a getaway from huge São Paulo.  The city of beaches and entertainment lures thousands of tourists and it is just a stone throw.

There is an "air bridge" (Ponte area) between the two cities.  The connection is operated by several airlines in about 45-minute intervals each. Aircrafts take off and land at domestic airports Congonhas (São Paulo) and Santos Dumond (Rio de Janeiro).  It makes the trip even easier because both airports are located centrally. Tickets can be purchased at the airport, via Internet, by phone or at a travel agency. If you decide on the latter two then you need an appropriate amount of cash because they will not accept foreign credit cards.  Moreover most of the agencies use a regular online booking service, available to everyone.  It means prices are not much different from what you see on-line.  If you are a holder of a credit card issued outside Brazil the best option may be to buy a ticket at the airport.

It is difficult to predict price, one day it would cost you a penny and the next one it becomes expensive.  And nobody knows what a reason for such a difference is.  And just a few words about luggage.  If you need to take luggage which accesses 20 kg then you’d better have a good excuse or a ticket from Rio onward.  Otherwise you have to pay extra fee.  But they are less strict and somehow negotiable.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

El Angel from Mexico City

Angel de Independencia - Mexico CityEl Ángel is not a-must-see monument of Mexico City sightseeing tour.  Golden angel statue against a blue sky looks fantastic.  You may find it as an illustration in many guidebooks.   Unfortunately it often serves only as a nice photo.  History and information how and where to find it are scarce.

36-meter column topped with a statue of an angel, which measures 6 meters and weighs 70 tons. The official name of the monument is Monumento de la Independencia or Ángel de la Independencia. It was erected in 1910 during presidency of Porfirio Diaz.  The column commemorates of 100-year anniversary of the struggle for independence.

El Ángel is not just a monument it is also an observation deck. The column is a structure made of steel and covered with stone.  You want to admire a panoramic view you need to climb 200 steps which are inside the column.  It is a challenge for those who do practice sport on a daily basis.  Also people who suffer from claustrophobia should consider thoroughly the visit.

The best description I have found was on Wikipedia.  I rarely recommend it as a source of information but it is worth reading.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sao Paulo

A few tips on getting around

São Paulo is a big city.  And the best way to realize how big it is, is to visit an observation deck at the Edifício Italia. Whenever I travel to such a big city for the first time, I am always a little bit worried how to get out of the airport, and how to get aroung in the city.

Sao Paulo - Brazil

Let's start with airport – hotel route, which takes some time.  After leaving a plane everybody rushes to immigration control, where there is always a pretty long queue.  Passengers from Americas find the procedures similar to those back home, and they patiently wait for their turn.  But travelers from Europe are usually surprised with the amount of time they have to spend there. And they are more anxious to get out of the airport after a long flight.  Yet there is also customs clearance procedure which takes a couple more minutes.

If you do not have local currency with you, you need to find currency exchange or Cambio. Remember to have your passport ready to show at the counter.  Next step is to get a taxi.  Certainly there are some taxi drivers waiting and nagging travelers to use their services. But it is better to find a desk of licensed taxi companies outside arrival hall.  They will assist you with information on price and direct you to taxi rank.  You can pay by credit card over there or by cash to the taxi driver.  Staff at the desk may not speak good English, and then it is good to have details of your destination written on a piece of paper.  Keep that information with you and show it again to the taxi driver.  Although the taxi service from Garulhos Airport is pretty expensive I always find reliable.

If you are arriving in São Paulo on Saturday evening, it is good to exchange at the airport more than just for a taxi ride.  On Sundays all banks and exchange offices are closed.  Moreover some hotels do not offer money exchange service. And instead of enjoying your time, you will have to look for an exchange office somewhere else. Of course there are credit cards.  But using them for money withdrawal can be a challenge and not a cheap one.  I have heard stories about ATM problems so I have never dared to try.

Taxis in the city are not so expensive as those from the airport.  You can easily catch them on the street or ordered at the hotel reception. Getting around by taxi is comfortable and quick unless it rains.  Then your journey may take at least twice as much time as usual because the city becomes one huge traffic jam.  It may be very important to take it into account if you go to the airport.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

If not San Gimignano than ...


Volterra is not so well known as San Gimignano. But definitely it is worth a visit.

It is equally interesting but less crowded. The town is located on the top of hill with a wonderful view over central part of Tuscany.  It is a little bit out of the main tourist trail. The town is known for its alabaster and salt, and its history goes back to the Etruscan. You can find the remains of Etruscan epoch such as fortified walls, Porta dell 'Arco, aqueduct and several burial places.  Expositions of the artefacts from that period are held in the Palazzo Tagani and in the Museum Guarnacci.

In recent years, the town became known as a place of the saga about vampires "New Moon" by Stephanie Meyer.  It is the second part of the saga "Twilight". It is said that the town is experiencing an invasion of tourists in love with the characters.  But we did not meet too many of them in the middle of the holiday season.  Maybe they preferred touring the town after dark.
You will find more information at the dedicated website about Volterra.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Roman Bridge in Ponte de Lima


Ponte de Lima is one of many charming towns in the Minho region. What deserves a special attention is the Roman Bridge.  It stretches with its low arches over the river Lima. Definitely the place must have played important role in the past.  Because the name of the village comes from that fact of having a bridge over the Lima river.   Ponte de Lima means literally a bridge of/over (the river) Lima.
Roman Bridge - Ponte de Lima - Portugal
Another interesting monument is Convent of Santo António from the 15th century.  It is not open all day long, so you must be lucky to see the interiors. You can also find information, in some guidebooks, about the market, which is held over the river every Monday. But those who want to find something local over there may be very disappointed.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Dancing House


Dancing House is a famous building designed by Frank Gehry.  It is also often called Ginger and Fred. You can find history of the place and the building in “a view on the cities” blog. So there is no reason to copy it over here.

But I have always been curious how the interior look like. And I found during my recent visit to Prague. There is a gift shop at the ground level.  Actually it looked like it was closed down, but I hope it was just impression. At the top level there is a terrace from which you can admire panorama of Prague. Indeed the view is worth a visit to this place. There were tables so I presume you can have a coffee there.
Dancing House panorama

Downstairs there is a restaurant which also serves as a gallery of modern art. I do not know whether it was an occasional exhibition or the paintings and art works are presented there on regular basis. The austere interior helps to focus on the art because there is no other element which would attract attention.  The food was pretty good but nothing exceptional.
Dancing House Prague

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Garota de Ipanema - Rio de Janeiro

This time about food

If you are looking for a place for lunch or dinner in Rio de Janeiro, it is worth taking a look at the place, which makes parto of the city's history. Most of us have heard the song “Girl from Ipanema” and its characteristic warm rhythms.

Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim enjoyed life and sought inspiration in an ordinary bar called Veloso. It is said that muse and inspiration was Heloisa Pinheiro, who walked by the Veloso bar on the way to the beach. The bar quickly became a popular meeting place for artists.  Thanks to the huge popularity of the song it has gained a new name Garota da Ipanema.

Like many similar sites, now it is one of the tourist attractions and a bar/restaurant. It offers typical Brazilian food and more international options, but most importantly, it is tasty.

Sunday, March 6, 2016


The capital of Colombia is located in the Andes at the  altitude of 2 640 meters above sea level.  The climate is stable.  The  temperature and weather stays the same throughout the year. It seems an ideal option for clothes.
Bogota is another big city in Latin America, where moving around may be a challenge. Public transport has been designed for a much lower number of commuters.  It means full buses are the only option as there is no tube. Another challenge is dense traffic and never-ending traffic jams . Thus, if you want to see anything without rushing, you'd better plan your stay for aat least few days.

Cathedral - Bogota - Columbia
Tourist highlights include la Candelaria, la Catedral with Plaza de Bolivar and the Gold Museum. Of course, the list of museums is much longer.  Among othere there is ,a museum of Fernando Botero – a must-see for art lovers. The historic districts la Candelaria and La Catedral are full of students.  Numerous university buildings are located in there and in neighbouring area.   The city seems to be as many other capitals all over the world.  Yet hotels and taxi drivers warn tourist not to move around by themselves especially at night.  Our taxi driver event told us not to cross the Bolivar square. I do not know whether that was just caution or a real threat.  But we did no check if there was a raeson for such a warning.  We just walked around la Candelaria.

Cerro Monserrate - Bogota - Columbia
The best point to admire panorama of Bogota is Cerro de Monserrate.  The sanctuary is located at the altitude of 3 152 m above sea level.   The top can be reached by cable car, funicular or on foot. The view is indeed impressive, especially in the evening when the city is lit up. Sanctuary itself is a fairly simple building from outside.  And it was already closed when we got there. Cerro de Monserrate is not only the sanctuary but also the recreation area. To find out more about it visit the Monserrate site.

My visit to Bogota was very short, a kind of stop-over en route.  I left with mixed feelings.  On the one hand it offers cycling Sundays, modern residential areas, active lifestyle. On the other hand, we hear about slums without paved roads and infrastructure.  It is perfect example where lack or little knowledge about city works against it. But I will come back one day.

For those who are planning a visit – official city site.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Panorama Sao Paulo

Edifício Itália

The beginning of the 20th century was the time of great development and changes in Sao Paulo.  It was possible due to the booming export of coffee.  It was the time when such landmarks as the Train Station Luz (1901) Teatro Municipal (1911), Edifício Martinelli (1929), Correio Central (1920), and the Mercado Municipal (1933) were constructed. You will find beautiful examples of local art nouveua style

But the real symbol of the city's modernity in 20th century became Edifício Itália.  It is a 42-storey building constructed in 1965. It was the tallest building in South America for many years.

One of the attractions of the building is a restaurant located at the top. The restaurant itself is rather high-end pricewise and food. However the quality of service is rather low.  Or maybe a team had a bad day. But it is a perfect place to compare how much the city panorama gains after dark simply get there before sunset.

Edificio Italia - Sao Paulo - Brazil

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lima - Plaza Mayor

Incas, Machu Picchu, the Lake Titicaca are the best-known highlights of Peru.  Lima - the capital of the country remains somewhere aside.  It is usually a stopover on the route.
The city is located on the edge of the desert, on the Pacific coast, at the mouth of the river Rimac. I would imagine it as another sunny South American city. But due to the phenomenon of thermal inversion it is covered with fog most of the year.   Unpleasant fog disappears in the summer.  But still the blue sky is not very common.
Cathdral - Lima - Peru - PizzaroNo matter what is your next destination in Peru, it is worth staying to see the city.  Lima was the Viceroyalty.  It means it was political, commercial and ecclesiastical center of the Spanish South America for two centuries. The city was founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro.  His grave can be found in the chapel on the right side from the entrance to the Cathedral. It's hard to miss it because the chapel is decorated with frescoes and mosaics depicting Pizzaro as conqueror. It is interesting that the real remains of Pizzaro were moved to that chapel only in 1985.  It was a part of celebration of the city's 450 anniversary.

The Cathedral is one of the most important and interesting monuments to see. Temple, which we visit today is actually the third Cathedral built on the same spot. The first two churches were built in the 16th century. The first was a small chapel consecrated in 1540. The second much larger church was built by Bishop Geronimo de Loayza 1551. The third cathedral was consecrated in 1622. Interior decoration of the cathedral is rich in styles.  You will find good examples of decorative works in 14 chapels.  There is a museum of sacred art in the former treasury and private rooms. You can see some interesting examples of local Christmas cribs and even special beds for the Christ Child.

Cathedral - Lima - Peru
The Cathedral is located at the Plaza Mayor.  The square was formerly known as the Plaza de Armas (the name was changed in 1997). It is historic and administrative center of the city.  You can find here the Palace of the Archbishop (Palacio del Arzobispo) with a stunningly decorated façade, the City Hall (Municipalidad de Lima) with beautifully restored wooden balconies and the Palacio de Gobierno (Presidential Palace).  And there is a fountain with a statue of the Angel of Fame in the center of the square.
Plaza Mayor - Lima  - Peru
The Presidential Palace witnessed political struggles.  It was where the first coup d’état in Latin America took place.  Francisco Pizarro was murdered there in 1541. The present building comes from the 20th century, but the plan of the ground floor has been preserved from the original building. Every day, except Sundays, at noon there is a ceremony of the changing of the guard in the uniforms from the period of struggle for independence. 
Changing of the Guard - Lima - Peru
The square is a good starting point for a walk through the narrow streets of the old town. Well, see you next time.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Teotihuacán - Mexico

About an hour drive from Mexico City you will find a pre-Columbian city of Teotihuacán. The history of the city dates back to the 1st and 2nd century of our era.  Today it is a World class monument listed as a UNESCO heritage site.  It is something you cannot miss while you are in Mexico City.
Teotihuacan - Mexico CityTeotihuacán is one of the most important archeological sites in Mexico.  And there are many articles on the subject available in all languages.  It is not my intention to copy the information but for your reference I included three links at the end of this post.  So what is it about?  There are just a few practical tips how to organize your visit to get the best of it.
Teotihuacan is located in a valley at the altitude of over 2 000 meters above sea level.  The area is barren with little vegetation.  It means temperatures are pretty high, higher than in Mexico City.  Apparently it is always warm there. Moreover on sunny days there is no shade where you could hide. Guidebooks usually recommend taking something to protect yourself from sun.  A bottle of water is a must.  Follow the recommendation – it is hot over there.

Pyramid of the Sun - MexicoIf you are planning to get there by yourself then most likely you will start the tour from the gate 1 – from the beginning. It is where you buy tickets. Coaches and mini-vans, with organized groups, often pull up at a parking lot close to the Pyramid of the Sun.   It means they start the tour from the square in front of the Pyramid of the Moon which is the end Avenida de los Muertos.  In that case you should walk down the Avenue of the Dead (Avenida de los Muertos) to the gate 1.  There is an archaeological museum and a tourist information center over there. Otherwise you will miss important part of the Teotihuacan.
The best know Mexican pyramids are those from Yucatan Peninsula.  The Pyramids of the Sun and of the Moon differ from Yucatan ones in construction and they are less decorated. There are just a few reliefs and paintings preserved in Teotihuacan. Moreover the guides say that only 30% of the construction of the pyramids is the original.  The rest is a reconstruction.  The city was discovered by accident.  One of the pyramids was almost blown up because the expedition thought it was an element of the landscape. You can see how it may look like at the photos placed next to the Pyramid of the Sun.
Pyramid of the Monn -Mexico

Climbing the pyramids may be a challenge, if you do not practice any sport regularly.  The steps are high and your muscles may be soared the next day. But no doubt it is worth climbing the two pyramids.
Find out more about Teotihuacan at Aztec History, Sacred Destinations and Visit Mexico sites.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Sao Paulo for weekend

São Paulo, the symbol of modernity and affluence, is sometimes called New York of South America. The golden age of the city began with the construction of the railway line to the port of Santos.  The main reason for the project was to transport coffee beans from inland to the world.

Sao Paulo - city center - BrazilThere are a few historic buildings, mostly churches in the city center.  It may be difficult to spot them as they are squeezed between modern buildings.  Church of St. Anthony (Igreja de Santo Antônio) and Church of St. Francisco (Igreja de São Francisco de Assis) are good examples.  The oldest part of the city is the Patio de Colégio.  It is where São Paulo de Piratininga was founded by the Jesuits Anchieta and Nóbrega. The small building you find there does not look like historic one.  The square is surrounded by Manhattan style buildings.  

Sao Paulo - Mercado Municipal - Brazil
It is worth visiting the Mercado Municipal (Municipal Market) for lunch break. There are over 10 restaurant-bars that serve among others local food on the mezzanine. It is true that the definition of locality in the case of Sao Paulo is difficult.  Each cuisine is local in Sao Paulo.
We did not know what's what on the menu. So we discreetly looked at the plates on nearby tables. It was not difficult because tables where set the way they formed one long table. Discretion proved to be indiscreet and after a while a couple sitting next to us offered help. They described what other people were eating. Perhaps we could order any food.  A queue of local people waiting for tables was a proof that it was the right place for trying the local cuisine. And it was good.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Venice - Los Angeles

Each country has its own Venice

Venice Los Angeles is known for the famous beach - Venice Beach and Boardwalk. But the history of the district is much more interesting.  The idea was to have its own Venice with canals.

Venice - Los Angeles
The construction of the canal network was launched in 1905 as part of Kinney Abbot's project the Venice of America. Kinney, during his trip to Europe and Italy fell in love with Venice.  When he returned to America he decided to create a similar place with canals, gondolas, pier and other attractions. Unfortunately only a small part of the project survived up to our times.  Some of the canals were flooded.  Other streets like Windward Ave. and Market St. were converted into streets.

Great revitalization project carried out in the 90s of the 20th century helped to restore Venice's charm and prestige.  The district was listed at the National Register of Historic Places. Today Venice is a perfect place for a picturesque stroll along canals and through bridges. The restored houses are good examples of original architecture. The most interesting part is between Strongs Dr. - S Venice Blvd - 28th Ave - Ocean Ave. There are many restaurants, design companies, film studios and other creative enterprises in the area.  Simply it is a place where one would like to live and work.

If you do not want to get stuck in a traffic jam and wade through the crowds it is worth to go there on a week day. On weekend everyone wants to relax over the water.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Bom Jesus do Monte

Bom Jesus do Monte - BragaHistory of Braga dates back to Roman times.  Over the centuries the city acted as the ecclesiastical capital of Portugal. In the early 18th century it lost its religious importance to Lisbon.  But the sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte has remained an important pilgrimage destination.  Today the place serves both religious and tourist purposes.

The picturesque staircases with the church mounted at the top can be found at almost any guidebook or album of Portugal.  Indeed, it is worth climbing the stairs to see beautiful architectural complex situated on the Monte Espinho. A double line staircase was decorated with fountains, chapels and statues of religious themes.  For those less active by choice or necessity there is a funicular.

There is more information in Portuguese at Bom Jesus website and in English EZ Portugal can be a good site.

Galo de Barcelos

Galo de Barcelos
Barcelos looks like many other towns in Portugal. But it is where an unofficial symbol of Portugal – Galo de Barcelos comes from.  Galo de Barcelos in Portuguese means rooster from the town of Barcelos.

As a legend says a pilgrim was accused of murder in Barcelos. He pleaded not to be guilty of what he had been accused, but the court sentenced him to death. The convict was able to get in front of the judge who was just dinning with his friends. The pilgrim pointed to the roasted rooster on the table and said that the bird would crow when he were to be executed. Indeed, when the noose tightened around pilgrim’s neck, the rooster crowed. The judge ran to the gallows although it seemed it was already too late. Luckily it turned out that the pilgrim luckily escaped death.

To commemorate the event the pilgrim funded the statue of St. James and the Virgin Mary which you can still see there.  Figures of galo de Barcelos are very popular in the town and all over Portugal, so it's hard to leave without one. You may buy it just in Barcelos. Other sights of interests are the 15th century fortifications and the 13th century church.

Vila do Conde - Aqueduct

Vial do Conde - Aqueduct
 Vila do Conde is one of the oldest towns in the north of Portugal. The town is situated at the mouth of the river Ave, on the Atlantic coast. 18 km of beaches guarantee enough space for everybody to relax. 

Vila do Conde AqueductFor regular tourist there are some historic buildings to visit. But the most interesting, in my opinion, is an aqueduct. I always thought of aqueducts as part of ancient heritage.  But that structure was constructed in early 18th century (1705-1714).  It was a big surprise to me. It is the second longest aqueduct in Portugal.  It transports water from a spring in Terroso / Povoa de Varzim to a fountain in the monastery of St. Clare.

Portugal's official tourist portal, points out to the tradition of making lace.  You can find more information about it at the Lace Museum.  Somehow we did not make for it, but the aqueduct is worth seeing.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Three Cultures Square - Mexico City

Do we understand such a place?

Places marked by important and dramatic events often make a part of a regular touristic tour.  The question is if a short visit allows us to understand what importance has such a place to local community.

Three Cultures Square - MexicoPlaza de las Tres Culturas is a tourist must-see in Mexico.  We stayed there for about 15 minutes. The guide explained how contemporary Mexican culture was born from the pre-Columbian and colonial cultures.
The symbol of the first culture was supposed to be the remains of the last Aztec fortress Tlatelolco.  The ruins looked more like something built not long time ago.  The colonial culture was embodied in a church of St. Jacobs (Iglesia de Santiago) built in 15th or early 16th century.  The church was controlled by the Franciscan order which established there Colegio de la Santa Cruz. Modern Mexico is represented by a massive housing complex built in 1964.  And definitely it is not the best examples of local or any other architecture.  The whole setting looked to me a bit like a scenography.

In modern times the place witnessed the massacre of students on October the 2nd in 1968. I believe that the dramatic event is much more important for Mexicans visiting Square.  And it is something what a passing-by tourist cannot perceive.
A little bit more about the place you can find at go mexico site.

Mexico City walk

High expectations and ...

Mexico City - Ciudad de Mexico
I visualize Mexico with pyramids, exotic pre-Columbian culture and beaches.  Mexico City, also called the District Federal, is a different world. The metropolitan area of Mexico City accounts for approximately 22 million.  It is a huge city for the European standards.

Ciudad de Mexico - Centro historicoThe city was founded on an island on Lake Texcoco by the Aztecs. As the city grew the lake and swamps were dried and filled up to create space for new constructions.  In result today’s city, and in particular its historic part, is gradually sinking.  It is also a seismic zone which suffers for earthquakes every some time. So don’t be surprised with all those leaning buildings, and the best ones to see and feel it, are the Church of St. Francis, the Cathedral and the Shrine of Guadalupe.

A good starting point of a city walk is the Torre Latinoamericana.  It was first Mexican skyscraper. You can see the whole city, including favelas outside the boarder of the city form the platform on 42-nd floor. The admission ticket includes entrance to an exhibition on the 41st floor.  It is worth to have a look at it and get a gist of the city’s history, including the tragic earthquake in 1985.
Teatro Nacional - Ciudad de Mexico

Palacio - Mexico City - Historic CenterAcross from the Torre Latinoamericana there is the Palacio de Bellas Artes.  The building may remind you of the architecture of Paris. It was an idea of Porfirio Díaz, who wanted to rebuild the capital in Paris style. Opposite Torre there is a building covered with blue tiles, it is the Casa de los Azulejos. Walking down the Francisco Madero Street you can visit the church of Saint Francisco (Iglesia de San Francisco). Here you can see what effects have both sinking and earthquakes on city’s architecture. Right next door you will find the Palacio de Iturbide. Beautifully decorated patio and interiors, of the 18th century palace, serve as an exhibitions hall.
Madero Street ends at the Constitution Square (Plaza de la Constitución), known as Zócalo. Here we find the Cathedral and the Palacio Nacional.  The square itself does not stand out from many others. But, if you are Bond movie lover you may recognize it in "Spectre".   There is an article in Condé Nast Traveler for those who are interested in film production sights.
Plaza Zocalo - Ciudad de Mexico

Metropolitan Cathedral - Mexico City

Catedra Metropolitana - Ciudad Mexico
The most important monument of the historic center is the Metropolitan Cathedral - Catedral Metropolitana. It is the oldest cathedral in Latin America.  Its history goes back to Hermán Cortés who chose the place for the future cathedral in 1524. Today it is impossible to determine if it is true or he just built a regular church at that site. But it is fact that they used stones from demolished Aztec temples, including of the Templo Mayor. The remnants of the Templo Mayor can be seen next to the cathedral.
Construction of the church lasted almost three hundred years.  In the meantime plans, architects and styles kept changing. Actually, it is difficult to say when the construction of the present building started and when it was completed.   There are different sources providing various dates.  Generally speaking work lasted from 16th to 18th century. History lovers, who speak Spanish, can find some relevant texts at the cathedral’s website.

Catedra Metropolitana - ciudad Mexico

Catedra Metropolitana - Ciudad Mexico - altarMetropolitan Cathedral is also the biggest cathedral in Latin America. It is 100 meters long, 46 meters wide with 5 naves impressive. While walking inside we realize and sense that the structure, like the entire city, is sinking.  It is incredible that the structure has not fallen apart. But actually we can visit the cathedral today due to the efforts of city authorities.  They have invested considerable amount of money to preserve the monument. In the year 2000 the cathedral was included in the UNESCO list of the most endangered monuments.
The interior decoration of the cathedral includes elements of various architectural styles, including typical for Mexico churriguera style. Two famous altars, Altar de los Reyes and the Altar del Perdón, are located in the central nave.  There are 14 more chapels with many works of art.

There is a chapel of the Blessed Sacrament next to the Cathedral. The chapel, built in the seventeenth century, is a regular place of worship. But it is worth paying attention to façade ornaments made of white and red stone.