Archive by Category "Travel Guide & Blog"

QUIRKY NEW YEAR CUSTOMS AROUND THE WORLD

from the States to Latin America; from Europe to Asia…

RUSSIA: Spice Up Your Champagne. Write a wish down on a piece of paper, burn it, and add the ashes on your Champagne. Cheers!

GREECE: Hang an onion on the front door of homes as a symbol of rebirth in the New Year.

GERMANY & AUSTRIA: Offer lucky charms to bring good fortune e.g. pigs, mushrooms, clovers, chimney sweeps. They could be bought at a Christmas market or edible made out of marzipan.

BELGIUM: Walloon and Flemish farmers rise early on January 1st to wish a “Happy New Year” to all the cows, horses, pigs, chickens and other farm animals. That way, they’ll have a good farming year.

SPAIN: Eat 12 grapes – one at each stroke of the clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Each grape represents good luck for one (1) month of the coming year. Madrid and Barcelona, people gather in main squares to eat their grapes together and pass around bottles of cava.

DENMARK: Throw old plates and glasses against the doors to banish bad spirits. Also, stand on chairs and jump off at midnight to “leap” into January in hopes of good luck.

FINLAND: Cast molten tin into a container of water thus interpreting the shape of the metal after it hardens. E.g. heart/ring is wedding; ship is travel; pig is food.

IRELAND: Christmas bread banging to chase bad spirits out of the house.

SCOTLAND: New Year’s Eve celebration of Hogmanay, … Scots also hold bonfire ceremonies where people parade while swinging giant fireballs on poles, symbolizing the sun to purify the coming year.

USA: Singing “Auld Lang Syne” to greet the New Year, and eating black-eyed peas for good luck. (Song: www.youtube.com/watch?v=acxnmaVTlZA)

BRAZIL: In Brazil, everyone wears white for good luck and peace. In Latin America (e.g. Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela): wear special underwear on New Year’s Eve. i.e. red color for love; yellow for money.

PANAMA: Burn effigies (muñecos) of well-known people such as television characters and political figures in Panama.

CUBA: toss buckets of water out the door to signify renewal.

PUERTO RICO: Dump a bucket of water out the window drives away evil spirits; and sprinkle sugar outside houses to invite the good luck in.

COLOMBIA: In hopes of a travel-filled new year, residents of Colombia carry empty suitcases around the block.

TURKEY: pomegranates are symbols of abundance. Smash it on your doorstep e.g. the more pieces there are and farther they spread, the more prosperous you will be. And for a little extra luck, sprinkle salt to bring peace.

PHILIPPINES: Round Shapes like coins to symbolize prosperity in the coming year. Many also wear Polka Dots for luck.

SINGAPORE: decorates its Singapore River with the wishing spheres containing the hopes and dreams of new year revellers.

JAPAN: It’s traditional to eat “Toshikoshi Soba,” a dish with long, buckwheat noodles which symbolize longevity and resilience.

Other Traditions:

MAKE A RESOLUTION: This tradition dates back 4,000 years ago. Historians believe Babylonians — one of the first cultures to celebrate the changing of the year — made promises to pay debts or return borrowed objects.

MAKE A FISH DISH: Fish is considered another good New Year’s entrée, since fish only swim in one direction — forward, like the movement of time.

OPEN THE DOORS AND WINDOWS to let the old year out, and the new year in unimpeded.

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Egypt: Grand opening for Luxor’s “Avenue of the Sphinxes”

Egypt officially opened a road lined with hundreds of 3,000-year-old sphinx statues in an evening ceremony at Karnak Temple featuring Pharaonic chariots and hundreds of performers in Luxor on November 25, 2021.

The nearly 3km (1.86 miles) ancient road, which took decades to excavate, will help improve access between the temples of Karnak and Luxor.It’s taken decades to excavate ancient walkway, which is nearly 3km long and connects two of the city’s greatest temples.The ceremony incorporated elements of the ancient festival which travelled the route each year. It also included music inspired by stories written on the walls of the temples in hieroglyphics. Egypt hopes the event will boost its ailing tourism sector, battered by political turmoil and the pandemic.

Link: https://www.nbcnews.com/video/ancient-egypt-s-avenue-of-sphinxes-reopens-in-luxor-with-spectacular-celebrations-127190085881?fbclid=IwAR1Iv1F_FOcwSi-4pvajqbDktHnB86OQDBHUzRow21rRuQzc5Igoo2TXn_E

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DUBAI

Dubai Sites to See, Things to Do

Burj KhalifaSki Dubai
Burj Al ArabAquarium & Underwater Zoo
Dubai MallAqua Venture Water Park
Dubai FrameThe Lost Chambers Aquarium
Dubai FountainLegoland Dubai
Water CanalDubai Dolphinarium
World IslandDubai Safari Park
Palm IslandWild Wadi Water Park
Ain DubaiAl Fahidi Historical District
Garden ShowBollywood Parks
Butterfly GardenDubai Parks & Resorts
Miracle GardenThe Green Planet
Montiongate DubaiSkydive Dubai
IMG World of AdventureZLine Dubai Marina
Madinat JumeirahKite Beach
Dubai CreekJBR Beach
Museum of the FutureJumeirah Beach
Heritage VillageJumeirah Mosque
OperaLaguna Water Park

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DUBAI FACTS

Dubai’s fascinating transformation from quaint fishing village surrounded by vast desert planes to a thriving cultural melting pot is one that many residents – and visitors – are well versed in. Dubai, a city of wonders, continues to stand out with its record-breaking engineering marvels. One could call it the world’s most “superlative-filled” town, boasting the world’s tallest building, the world’s fastest rollercoaster, the world’s longest zipline, along with many others.

Dubai is Larger Than Life

Dubai’s goal seems to be to constantly have the biggest and best of everything. Its hotels try to be the most luxurious on earth, including what’s said to be the best hotel in the world: The Burj Al-Arab. And on top of that, the city has one of the largest indoor malls in the world, one of the biggest aquariums, the biggest automated fountain, the tallest hotel, and one of the largest indoor ski slopes…

  1. The Burj Khalifa, can be seen from 95 km away and is 163 stories high, is the tallest building in the world. With a total height of 830 m the Burj Khalifa has been the tallest structure and building in the world since its inception in 2009. It has as well, one of the fastest elevators in the world. It boasts more than 160 stories and seven world records. People living on the higher levels have to wait approximately two minutes longer for the sun to set before they can break fast during Ramadan.
  2. The Burj Al Arab hotel uses enough gold to cover the Mona Lisa Painting 46,265 Times. The interior of the Burj Al Arab is decorated with around 1,790 square meters of 24-carat gold leaf; that’s equivalent to seven (7) full-sized tennis courts! Dubbed the world’s first seven-star hotel, the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab is located on its own private island, accessed via a private bridge.
  3. Dubai is developing a new skyscraper named ‘The Tower’ that’s inspired by the mythical hanging gardens of Babylon and will be taller than the current tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa.
  4. Standing at an impressive 75 floors, the 4-star Gevora Hotel is the world’s tallest hotel; at a 356 metres tall i.e.  50 metres taller than The Shard in London, and 56 metres taller than Paris’ Eiffel Tower. JW Marriott Marquis is the world’s tallest five star hotel at 355 metres.
  5. Dubai’s Artificial Palm Islands use enough sand to fill 2.5 Empire State Buildings. Its construction required 94 million cubic meters of sand; whilst the Empire State Building only 37 million cubic meters. In fact, the amount of rock and sand used here could form a 2-meter wide wall that would circle the globe three times! Man-made Palm Jumeirah spans 600 hectares of land and is made from all-natural materials. The Palm Jumeirah can be seen from space.
  6. The Dubai Fountain is the world’s largest choreographed fountain system; choreographed by the masterminds behind The Bellagio’s dancing water show in Las Vegas.
  7. Dubai Is Building the World’s Largest Retail and Entertainment Destination. The Dubai Square, will be equivalent to the size of 100 football fields! It is inspired by the world’s best shopping destinations such as London’s Oxford Street and Los Angeles’ Beverly Hills. Link: https://youtu.be/5lDlM8vqHaw.
  8. Dubai deepest swimming pool on the planet, complete with a “sunken city” for divers to explore. Deep Dive Dubai prides itself as the only diving facility in the world where you can go down 60 meters, 15 meters deeper than any other pool, as confirmed to Agence France-Presse (AFP) by Guinness World Records. The pool contains 14.6 million liters (3.8 million gallons) of fresh water, a volume equivalent to six Olympic-size swimming pools.
  9. The United Arab Emirates is considering proposals for an artificial mountain that could help increase the country’s rainfall. Researchers are exploring different approaches to creating more rain in the country, according to reports. One option is to construct an artificial mountain, which would increase cloud production and make it possible to create rain on demand. The UAE government spent a reported $558,000 (£400,000) on cloud seeding. The experiments are believed to have played a part in record rainfall, which was also accompanied by thunderstorms and strong winds.
  10. Dubai attracts a wealth of Michelin-star and celebrity chefs.
  11. 25% of All Cranes in the World Were Once Located in Dubai.
  12. Dubai Loves Gold: There are ATMs in Dubai that dispense gold bars! More than 25% of the world’s physical gold passed through Dubai. Dubai’s holds a world record for making the longest gold chain that measures 5,522 meters!
  13. Dubai is the fourth (4th) most visited city in the world after London, Paris and Bangkok.
  14. The Police Force in Dubai uses Super Cars, such as the Ferrari FF (US$ 500,000), Lamborghini Aventador (US$ 397,000) and an Aston Martin One-77 (US$ 1.79 million). And they hold a world record for the fastest police car; a Bugatti Veyron which they purchased for US$ 1.6 million!
  15. Roughly 85 Percent of Dubai’s Population Is Foreign.
  16. In Dubai Robots are replacing illegal child labor in Camel Racing. They cost anywhere from $300 to $10,000.
  17. The Lost Chambers Aquarium – located in Atlantis, The Palm – is home to more than 65,000 marine animals and offers a host of interactive experiences.
  18. Dubai is always at the forefront of innovation, and that is further emphasized with the city’s new 3D Printing Strategy. The city aims to exploit 3D technology and says that by 2030, 25% of its buildings will be 3D printed.
  19. Dubai Water Canal is a 3.2km long waterway which winds its way from the creek through Business Bay. A top romantic spot, the canal includes a mechanical waterfall as well as five pedestrian bridges that offer great vantage points.
  20. Talking of breaking records, once completed, the Ain Dubai observation wheel is set to become the largest and highest in the world, taking Las Vegas’ high roller’s crown.
  21. Dubai Metro was the longest automated rail network in the world, but currently was demoted to third place.
  22. Dubai has been awarded more than 130 Guinness World Records. These include 3 for Dubai Miracle Garden; and no less than 11 for the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Weirder and wonderful achievements include fastest police car in service, most people to parachute from a balloon simultaneously and longest underwater live radio broadcast.
  23. It wasn’t until 2015 that Dubai started assigning so-called Makani numbers – a unique 10-digit code – to all buildings to help identify them.
  24. You Pay No Income Tax in Dubai.
  25. Tourists can now apply for a licence to fly their drones around landmarks in Dubai. After registering online, tourists will receive a certificate that is subject to an in-house validation of their skills.
  26. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has a dedicated Minister for Happiness, who’s in charge of (unsurprisingly) promoting happiness among residents in Dubai and the other six emirates that make up the UAE. Her Excellency Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi has held the position since it was introduced in 2016.
  27. In 1991, Dubai World Trade Centre was the only skyscraper in Dubai. Three decades later, there are 215 skyscrapers across the city.
  28. Fuel is only slightly more expensive than water.
  29. Dubai’s land area has increased. Dubai covered an area of 3,900 square kilometres, but due to land reclamation and the construction of man-made islands, the emirate has increased to a size of 4,114 square kilometres.
  30. There are no permanent rivers in Dubai.
  31. In 1968, Only 13 cars were registered in Dubai.
  32. Only non-Muslims are allowed to buy and consume alcohol and pork.
  33. Kissing or holding hands in public is illegal and can result in fines or deportation.
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Armenia Facts

DID YOU KNOW? Some of the 18 amazing things you probably didn’t know about Armenia

  1. It’s home to the world’s oldest winery
  2. It was the first nation to adopt Christianity
  3. It is called the “land of churches”
  4. Chess is part of the curriculum
  5. It lost 1.5 million people in the Armenian Genocide
  6. More Armenians live abroad than in Armenia
  7. It has celebrity connections (Aznavour, Cher, Agassi, Kardashian..)
  8. Armenians think they know where Noah’s Ark is
  9. It has one of the world’s oldest capitals
  10. It is known as the “Pink City”
  11. Churchill had a taste for Armenian cognac
  12. In fact Armenian cognac oiled the wheels of Yalta
  13. It has a record-breaking cable car (Tatev Aerial Tramway, which clocks in at 5,752 m long)
  14. You can go skiing there (27km of slopes)
  15. It’s big on birds (home to 345 of Europe’s estimated 530 bird species. Highlights include falcons, swans and eagles)
  16. Its bread Lavash is Unesco-listed
  17. It boasts the largest lake in the Caucasus (Lake Sevan covers 1/6 of Armenia territory)
  18. It has three (3) Unesco World Heritage Sites (monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin; the cathedral and churches of Echmiatsin and the archaeological site of Zvartnots; and the monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley)

Armenia is a land of mysticism that will at once capture your imagination evoking past centuries, while awakening your senses to the present.

Armenia is a country with ancient history and rich culture. It is one of the oldest countries in the world. Scientific research, numerous archaeological findings and old manuscripts prove that the Armenian Highlands are the very Cradle of Civilization. In fact, the world’s oldest leather shoe (5,500 years old), sky observatory (7,500 years old), depictions of agriculture (7,500 years old) and wine-making facility (6,100 years old), were all found in the territory of Armenia.

The current Republic of Armenia makes up only a small part of what the historical lands used to hold. Armenians are native to the land of the Armenian Highlands which covers over 400,000 km2.

Since prehistoric times, the territory of Armenia has been populated by different tribes. The first evidence of human settlement in Armenia dates back to 90,000 BC. Further findings in caves and stone inscriptions are a proof of human settlement in Armenia through Paleolithic period.

Yerevan is a delightful capital. Its wide, leafy boulevards are lined with cafés and wine bars where Armenians like to sit chatting late into the night.

Look up to the horizon and there, towering over everything, is the magnificent, awe-inspiring snow-capped peak of Mount Ararat, 5,165m high.

Did you know? Armenians produce what they say is the best brandy in the world, Ararat brandy.

Armenia is home to 345 of Europe’s estimated 530 bird species.

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THE FAVORITE MONUMENT OF THE FRENCH 2021

People in France are being asked to vote for their favorite French monument to be revealed in the fourth series of French TV show Le Monument Préféré des Français (The Nation’s Favourite Monument). Presented by Stéphane Bern, the show was aired on France 3 to coincide with the 38th celebration of the European Heritage Days on September 18 and 19.

Forty-two (42) places of exceptional cultural, historical and architectural interest in France were whittled down to 14 in voting which took place between May 25 and June 11. Vying for the position of nation’s favorite monument, the 14 monuments in the grand final are:

  1. The Rotonde Ferroviaire in Chambéry – Savoie (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes)
  2. The Hôtel-Dieu Museum – Côte-d’Or (Bourgogne-Franche-Comte)
  3. The ramparts of Saint-Malo – Ile-et-Vilaine (Brittany)
  4. The Briare Aqueduct – Loiret (Centre-Val de Loire)
  5. The Citadel of Bonifacio and the King Aragon Steps – Corse-du-Sud (Corsica)
  6. Place Stanislas in Nancy – Meurthe-et-Moselle (Grand Est)
  7. Chateau de Pierrefonds – Oise (Hauts-de-France)
  8. The Caillebotte Property – Yerres – Essonne (Ile-de-France)
  9. The Balata Gardens – Fort-de-France – Martinique
  10. Chateau de Falaise – Calvados (Normandy)
  11. The towers of La Rochelle – Charente-Maritime (Nouvelle-Aquitaine)
  12. The Pont du Gard Aqueduct – Gard (Occitanie)
  13. Passage Pommeraye in Nantes – Loire-Atlantique (Pays de la Loire)
  14. The Roman Theatre of Orange – Vaucluse (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur)

Previous winners of Le Monument Préféré des Français have included the Royal Monastery of Brou (Rhône-Alpes), the Belfry of Arras (Nord-Pas-de-Calais), and Belfort Citadel and the Lion of Belfort (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté) in 2014, 2015 and 2020, respectively.


For more details, please click on the links:

https://www.connexionfrance.com/French-news/Join-TV-voters-in-crowning-your-top-French-monument-of-2021-from-final-shortlist-of-14

https://www.france.fr/en/places-to-go

http://www.atout-france.fr/content/journal-destination-france-1

file:///D:/RoxaneN/Downloads/df_55.pdf


TOURISME ET PATRIMOINES

Avec plus de 170 milliards d’euros de consommation touristique en France, le tourisme est un facteur clé de l’économie de la France…. D’où la nécessité de réfléchir à la possibilité d’améliorer les méthodes de travail, l’accueil, l’offre et la promotion touristiques des patrimoines :

  • 45 Biens inscrits sur la liste du patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO
  • 17 Eléments inscrits sur la liste représentative du patrimoine culturel immatériel de l’UNESCO
  • 5 Biens labellisés Patrimoine européen
  • 27 Itinéraires culturels du Conseil de l’Europe traversent le territoire
  • 23 Centres culturels de rencontres
  • 45,684 Monuments historiques (classés et inscrits)
  • 300,000 Objets mobiliers protégés au titre des Monuments historiques (classés et inscrits)
  • 810 Sites patrimoniaux remarquables
  • 2,920 Sites classés
  • 4,500 Sites inscrits
  • 8,000 Musées
  • 202 Villes et Pays d’art et d’histoire
  • 245 Edi­fices label­lisés Maisons des illustres
  • 2,900 Edifices labellisés Patrimoine du XXème siècle
  • 433 Jardins remarquables
  • 100 Monuments nationaux
  • 51 Parcs naturels régionaux
  • 10 Parcs nationaux
  • 48 grands sites de France, dont 25 en cours de candidature
  • 89 Communes et territoires labellisés Ville et Métiers d’Art
  • 71 Sites remarquables du goût
  • 191 Petites Cités de Caractère
  • 159 Plus beaux villages de France
  • 107 Plus beaux détours de France
  • 367 Maisons d’écrivains et des patrimoines littéraires
  • 1,400 Entreprises du Patrimoine Vivant

https://whc.unesco.org/fr/etatsparties/fr


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Taste of Paris Sep. 2021

ASTE OF PARIS 2021.50 Chefs, Various Culinary Creations at Max. 12 Euro.A four day festival where you can sample some of the most delicious food in Paris in taster sized portions, served by the chefs themselves at their pop-up restaurants. Whether Michelin-starred, trend setters or future young talents, Taste of Paris warmly welcomes today’s most sought-after chefs to bring you a gourmet experience to remember.

Link: https://paris.tastefestivals.com/en/https://youtu.be/QQlnz56TnAI

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MADRID FACTS: A Captivating Capital

Madrid, Spain’s central capital, is a city of elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks such as the Buen Retiro. It’s renowned for its rich repositories of European art, including the Prado Museum’s works by Goya, Velázquez and other Spanish masters. The heart of old Hapsburg Madrid is the portico-lined Plaza Mayor, and nearby is the baroque Royal Palace and Armory, displaying historic weaponry… Spain’s dazzling capital is filled with intriguing stories and hidden secrets. These interesting facts about Madrid will definitely surprise you!

  1. Madrid is thought to be over 2000 years old. The Umayyad emir Muhammad I built an impressive fortress designed to protect the lands south of the river from incursions from the northern kingdoms of León and Castile in the 9th century. This later developed into a flourishing town. One of the most interesting facts about Madrid is that the old walls of the Muslim fortress can still be seen today.
  2. The name ‘Madrid’ might be over 2,200 years old…. There are more plausible theories that Madrid’s name actually has Roman ancestry. This is based on the fact that there had indeed been a Roman settlement called ‘Matrice’ right at the Manzanares River over 2,200 years ago!
  3. Madrid was founded around the year 860 A.C. A ruler that was known as Muhammed I chose to start a city in the region. Advantages being its good location and proximity to the Manzanares river, and its elevated position. This settlement turned into a fortress and then eventually became Madrid as it is known in the present day.
  4. The Moors were responsible for the initial development of Madrid. The Moors ruled Madrid through the 11th century. They left a complex irrigation system that allowed the agricultural industry to flourish. Perhaps you have read the famous poem, “Ay de mi Alhama”, which depicts the fall of Granada. This ultimately successful attempt of the Christian army to claim back the land marked the end of Moorish rule in Spain. It was the year 1086 when Alfonso VI captured back the area.
  5. Madrid’s name means ‘place of abundant water’. The etymology of Madrid’s name is shrouded in myth. According to legend, the original name of the city was ‘Ursaria’, a reference to the large number of bears that once inhabited the region. Some scholars believe it comes from a Roman settlement, ‘Matrice’, established on the Manzanares River. However, the earliest recorded name of the town is ‘Magerit’, from the Arabic meaning ‘place of water’, and this is the most likely explanation for how the city got its name.
  6. Madrid became the capital of Spain in the 16th century. Because of the central geographical position of Madrid and the abundance of water and game in its surroundings.
  7. Much of Madrid was built by the Habsburgs. This historical influence can be seen in many of the modern sites of Madrid, like Plaza Mayor. This center forms part of El Madrid de los Austrias, the old quarter of Madrid, which extends between the metro stops Sol and Opera. But the name isn’t random. For a brief history lesson, the Habsburgs was the royal dynasty that ruled the Holy Roman Empire, and the Spanish Empire was an ally of the Habsurgs. During the Siglo de Oro, or Golden Age, Spain experienced substantial economic growth.
  8. Madrid is not only a city, but a ‘state’. The southwest city, Toledo, was the original capital of Spain until the 1500s when Madrid earned the title. Spain had its regions separated into different categories. The Madrid region is one of the most successful parts of Spain and is seen as a crucial area for the entire European Union as well.
  9. It’s home to some of the best museums in the world. Madrid is an art-lovers paradise, and many visitors flock to the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’: the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemiszia Museum and the Museo Reina Sofia. Madrid was – and is – a European Cultural Capital. he city might first win you over with its overwhelming museums like the world-famous Prado, museum of 12th-19th century European and Spanish art, or the Reina Sofía Museum of Modern Art.
  10. The Coat of Arms of Madrid – a Bear and a Tree, standing broad and clear in the middle of Puerta del Sol. The coat of arms of Madrid is one of the most unique and strange emblems in the world, consisting of a bear reaching up to a strawberry tree, surrounded by the seven stars of the constellation ‘great bear’ (Ursa Mayor). The image of the bear had been linked to Madrid since the medieval period, when knights from the city rode into battle at Las Navas de Tolosa carrying a banner that depicted a bear. It is not known when or why the strawberry tree came to be associated with Madrid, although its Spanish name, madroño, bears some resemblance to madrileño, the name for Madrid’s inhabitants. Whatever the reason, this cute image is intertwined with Madrid’s history and identity, and you can see a statue of the bear and the tree today in Puerta del Sol!
  1. The Spanish King does not reside in the Royal Palace in Madrid. Even though the Palacio Real is still the official royal residence, the members of the royal family have been living and receiving guests in the petite Palace of Zarzuela since 1962. Situated at the outskirts of the city, all ceremonial events and official meetings with the current King, Felipe VI, have taken place in this rather modest royal mansion.
  2. Cibeles Fountain: you might be surprised to hear that the fountain has been designed to flood the Bank of Spain’s chamber of gold if anyone breaks in!
  3. The old Atocha train station is now a lush garden: the botanical garden is housed inside an abandoned section of Atocha train station. Filled with lush tropical flowers and rare trees and plants, a trip here is one of the best things to do in Madrid for a moment of serenity during a busy commute!
  4. Madrid is home to an ancient Egyptian temple. Temple of Debod, close to the Plaza de España. This enigmatic monument stood for thousands of years in Egypt’s Nile Valley before travelling to Madrid in 1968 as a thank-you gift for Spain’s assistance in saving historic Egyptian monuments during the flooding of the Aswan Dam.
  5. Madrid is the third (3rd) biggest city in the European Union in terms of peaking population numbers …. Right after the spectacular demographics of London (home to around 8.5 million people), Berlin (around 3.6 million inhabitants).
  6. It’s one of the highest capitals in Europe. Madrid lies at around 700 meters of altitude. There might be palm trees in Madrid, but fact is that the voluptuous city of Madrid lies at an astounding 667 meters above sea-level.
  7. It’s one of the greenest cities in the world: 300,000 trees and 6400 hectares of green space, it’s the second most sustainable city after Tokyo. It’s also home to more trees and green space per inhabitant than any other European city.
  8. It’s one of the sunniest cities in Europe. Madrid averages over 300 days of sunshine per year.
  9. Madrid is a city of students. Various of its many universities and business schools are counted as being some of the oldest and most prestigious learning facilities worldwide. For example, the economical Masters program of the University Charles III, is ranked on the list of the ‘Global top-50’; the founding of the Universidad Complutense dates back as early as the year 1293; the University of Salamanca, which is the oldest university in Spain and the fourth (4th) oldest in Europe, was founded back in 1218.
  1. It’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Over 6 million visitors visit Madrid each year, to take advantage of the fantastic nightlife, world-class art galleries and museums, and stellar shopping.
  2. Madrid is one of the 4 richest cities in Europe. With an estimated GDP of 133 billion euros, sectors like government and technology are the most profitable for this local economy, and service jobs are the most prominent in Madrid.
  3. Madrid is the Financial Center of Spain.
  4. Madrid has the only monument of the devil in the world – located in the lush Retiro Park. Known as the ‘Fountain of the Fallen Angel’, and sculpted by Ricardo Bellver for the World’s Fair in Paris in 1878, it depicts the moment of Lucifer’s fall from heaven. The statue is known for the realism and anguish depicted on the angel’s face and it’s the only monument in the world to depict the devil in this way.
  1. The city is home to one of the best football clubs in the world. Football is a pretty much a national religion for madrileños and the city is home to one of the most successful clubs in the world: Real Madrid. It takes its name from the royal (‘real’) blessings bestowed on the club multiple times over the course of the 20th century (which may also explain its incredible success!)
  2. Madrid is home to the oldest restaurant in the world: Restaurante Botin, founded in 1725, is officially the oldest restaurant in continuous operation in the world! It’s known for fantastic local delicacies such as suckling pig, a dish that Ernest Hemmingway wrote about in glowing terms when he visited back in the 1920s.
  3. Spanish roads start in Madrid. You might have heard ‘all roads lead to Rome’, but it seems in Spain all roads lead from Madrid. If you visit the Puerta del Sol you’ll see a small sign in the square showing Kilometer 0 with the 6 main roads branching off from Madrid.
  4. Madrid’s metro system is one of the largest in Europe. Public transportation in Madrid is known for being one of the largest and most efficient metropolitan networks.
  5. The city is home to the biggest seafood market in Europe, and the second (2nd) largest in the world (Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo takes that prize!). Unfortunately MercaMadrid isn’t open to the general public. Considering how far Madrid is from the coast, it’s surprising to have such an epicentre for seafood in the heart of the country!
  6. Madrid Has a Large Bullfighting Arena. It can seat as many as 25,000 people and is quite a sight to behold.
  7. Madrid holds an annual Flamenco Festival. Since 2005, Suma Flamenca is an important festival that showcases many dancers, singers, and guitar players. The event is based out of Teatros del Canal and spreads out into more of the city as well. The event takes place in June and is one of Spain’s finest flamenco events.
  8. Madrileños take their siestas seriously. The Spanish prefer to sleep for a few hours after lunch before returning to work. This means that stores may be closed from about 2 to 5pm. But, they usually open again until around 8 or 9pm.
  9. Madrileños are known as ‘cats’ (Gatos) because they stay out all night. Madrid is known throughout Europe for its buzzy nightlife.
  10. You Can Find Churros at Any Time in Madrid. Churros dipped in chocolate are one of those popular snacks commonly found in Spain.
  11. You can see the skeleton of one of the tallest Spaniards of all time. Born in 1849 in Puebla de Alcocer in Extremadura, Augustín Luengo Capilla grew to a height of 7 feet and 8 inches (roughly 2m.33), making him one of the tallest Spaniards on record. His skeleton was given to the head of the National Museum of Anthropology (with Augustín’s prior consent), and it remains on display in the museum today, alongside countless other fascinating human artefacts.
  12. The Golden Mile of Shopping is located in Salamanca, Madrid.
  13. Madrid is the birthplace of multiple celebrities. (Actress and Oscar winner Penelope Cruz and the pop singer Enrique Iglesias). 
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TURKEY Facts

Istanbul, a masterpiece of Cultural and Archaeological Treasures: Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi, Bosphorus and other unique historical inheritances….. Explore Byzantine wonders, Binge on Shopping, spin with the Whirling Dervishes….

  1. Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles two continents: Asia and Europe. The historic center is located in the European side of the city (3% of Turkey). 77% of the country is on the Asian side. The Bosphorus divides the city and links the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea. Cross the 2 continents through the Galata bridge.
  2. Istanbul is home to 3113 mosques.
  3. Istanbul, being the ancient capital of many empires (from Rome to the Ottoman era), is not the modern capital. Ankara is. Ankara declared the republic’s capital by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1923.
  4. Istanbul, named as Constantinople by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, is built on seven hills like Rome.
  5. Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city with more than 13 million people – 99% are Muslim.
  6. Recent evidence suggests that people have lived here for 8500 years.
  7. Turkey’s gift to the world: Tulips. Tulips, the symbol of Holland, originated in Istanbul and were sent from Istanbul to Netherlands. The first tulips bulbs were sent from the Ottoman Empire to Vienna in 1554; later sent to Augsburg and Amsterdam. It was the Dutch ambassador, at the times of Süleyman’s court, who returned to Amsterdam with a clutch of tulip bulbs. In April there is a week-long festival in Istanbul to honour the national flower; concerts, arts events…
  8. The Grand Bazaar is the biggest old covered bazaar in the world, with over 3.000 shops, covering 61 streets.
  9. British author Agatha Christie wrote her famous novel “Murder on the Orient Express” at Pera Palas Hotel in Istanbul.
  10. Originally named the Tower of Christ, the Galata Tower was built in 1348 at the apex of fortified walls and was used to house prisoners of war. Later it became an observatory that offers a 360-degree view of the city
  11. Istanbul was the inspiration of several authors, like Paul Theroux, Ernest Hemingway, other.
  12. The 4 bronze horses of the San Marco Cathedral in Venice, were taken by the crusaders from Constantinople in the 13th century.
  13. Istanbul has the 3rd oldest subway in the world, built in 1875. 573-meter long and located in Beyoglu district. There is a tunnel under the Bosphorous connecting Marmaray rail system between Asia and Europe.
  14. Hagia Sophia was the largest church in the world. It lost its status for about 900 years until the Seville Cathedral was built in 1520. Hagia Sophia collapsed and was rebuilt three times since the 4th century AD.
  15. The Whirling Dervishes is thought to be a path to reunion with God.Leonardo da Vinci envisioned a bridge over the Bosphorus, 471 years before the first one was built.
  16. A 19th century French poet and traveller, Alphonse de Lamartine once said, “If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul”.
  17. The first ever Christian church was located in Antioch, Turkey. St Peter’s Grotto, located outside Antioch, known now as Antakya, is believed to have been created by Jesus’ disciple Simon Peter. This makes it the oldest place of Christian worship in the world. If you’re looking for more churches in Turkey, head to the southeast of the country. Diyarbakır and its surrounding area are peppered with some fine religious monuments such as St. Mary Church.
  18. Santa Claus was born in Patara, Turkey. St Nicholas – the historical figure behind the man we know as Santa Claus – was born in Patara, Turkey in around 300 AD. People believe he performed miracles, saving sailors from sinking ships, a Holy man. Not only did tales of his generosity become the basis for Santa Claus, but St Nicholas also became one of the patron saints of sailors.
  19. Topkapi Palace in Istanbul is home to Ottoman sultans and their court til the middle of the 19th century.
  • Turkey is the birthplace of Aesop, Herodotus and St. Paul the Apostle. Paul the Apostle (known as Saul) was born in Tarsus. Aesop, the famed Greek storyteller grew up in Thrace on the Black Sea (now Nesebar). The Greek historian Herodotus, was born in what is now Bodrum.

Turkey is responsible for 75% of the world’s hazelnut exports.

  • There are over 30 languages spoken in Turkey including Kurmanji (Northern Kurdish), Mesopotamian Arabic and Zazaki.
  • It’s officially illegal to wear a Fez in Turkey.
  • Turkey’s Black Sea coastline stretches for 1,175 km. (equivalent to the driving distance between London and Venice). Trabzon, a romantic city with medieval landmarks is a Must-visit. Sinop is one the most beautiful parts of the Black Sea coastline.
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PARIS, Things to Do

Paris’s streets are lined with so much, it’s hard to plan an itinerary. Here’s our list of what you can’t miss, whether you’re an art lover, a history buff, or a serious shopper.

JARDIN DU LUXEMBOURG

Located in the heart of the 6th Arrondissement, the famous Jardin du Luxembourg is an inviting green oasis. Have romantic strolls, picnics, jog, play pétanque or admire the mash-up of English, Italian, and French landscaping influences.


MUSÉE DU LOUVRE

The most-visited museum in the world. The former royal palace is now the magnificent home of some of the world’s most iconic artworks. It houses around 38,000 artefacts including Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo.


PALAIS GARNIER

The pinnacle of Napoleon III architecture, the resplendent Palais Garnier opera house is opulent from every angle. The facade is covered with ornamentation and busts. L’Harmonie and La Poésie, the two gilded copper statues flank the entrance. Admire the iconic lobby’s Grand Staircase, a triumph of decadent Parisian design. Admission costs about 14 euros, but worth every penny.

PALAIS-ROYAL

The Palais-Royal complex is in some ways Paris in a nutshell: shops, cafés, art, history, architecture, bureaucracy, and spectacular gardens. Located across the street from the Louvre. Don’t miss the Insta-famous Colonnes de Buren art installation in the inner courtyard.


JARDIN DES TUILERIES

This sprawling, spectacular park is the beating heart of Paris’ public spaces. It stands proudly between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde, and along the Seine’s Right Bank in the 1st Arrondissement. Tuileries Garden (“Jardin des Tuileries”) has a long impressive history: from its inception as an aristocratic playground (16th century), to becoming a public space (17th century), to serving as the site of numerous French Revolution combats (18th century). With more than 55 acres (0.22km), the park offers plenty of room to stroll and lots of photo ops. Keep an eye out for Auguste Rodin’s iconic “Le Baiser” (“The Kiss”) on the West Terrace.


ARC DE TRIOMPHE

The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to celebrate his victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. Climb the nearly 300 steps to the top for some of the best views of Paris, with clear vistas straight down the Champs-Élysées all the way to the Louvre.


PANTHÉON

Panthéon, the gorgeous neoclassical architecture is designed by Jacques-Germain Soufflot in 1757. It began as a replacement to the original Church of Sainte-Geneviève. Visit the final resting places of Victor Hugo and Marie Curie. Marvel at Foucault’s Pendulum, tracing the path of the Earth. The vibe in the crowd is a mix of awe, reverence, and curiosity.


GRAND PALAIS

There’s a reason Chanel holds its runway shows in the nave of this stately Beaux Arts museum-exhibition space, which is all done up in glass, stone, and steel. An emblem of French grandeur and architectural prowess. Originally built as an exhibition hall for the World’s Fair of 1900, today the Grand Palais hosts legendary fashion shows, theatrical performances, sporting events like the Saut Hermes, food and literary festivals, and temporary artistic exhibitions. With its glass dome, visible from far across the river, the Grand Palais is a must-visit cultural destination in Paris.


PALAIS DE TOKYO

The Palais de Tokyo is the largest center for contemporary art in Europe. Opened in 2002, its mission is to celebrate living artists across multiple disciplines. As part of the renovation of the building, the 1937 structure was stripped back to the original concrete… Visitors should start their exploration in the subterranean levels, where large-scale graffiti works are on display, and end with a drink at Les Grands Verres.


MUSÉE D’ORSAY

Musée d’Orsay is the second-most-visited museum in Paris. … wander among masterworks of Degas, Cézanne, Manet, Renoir, and Monet.


PHILHARMONIE DE PARIS

The Philharmonie de Paris is a striking contemporary building, designed by Jean Nouvel and opened in 2015. It is located within the Cité de la Musique complex in the Parc de la Villette. The building breaks with all the design conventions of traditional symphony halls, favoring pod-like boxes inside the theater, a stage in the round, and an undulating metal façade.


FONDATION LOUIS VUITTON

Opened to the public in 2014, the Fondation Louis Vuitton is a newbie in Paris’s cultural scene—but it arrived with a bang. Star American architect Frank Gehry designed the building, which looks like a magical sailboat afloat on a man-made lake in the Bois de Boulogne. Thanks to the spectacular architecture and blockbuster exhibitions, the museum is bustling at all times, despite its location in the far-western 16th Arrondissement.


MUSÉE PICASSO PARIS

The Hôtel Salé alone is reason to visit, but of course the real draw is Picasso’s oeuvre….The museum is centrally located in the bustling Marais, so it’s easy to work the Musée Picasso into a day out shopping and dining.


MUSÉE DU QUAI BRANLY-JACQUES CHIRAC

The Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac is perhaps best known for its unusual design by Jean Nouvel. The exterior of the building almost seems alive with plant walls and wild gardens. The modern structure stands in sharp contrast with the treasures housed inside: ancient art and artifacts and relics of bygone civilizations.


CENTRE POMPIDOU

When the Centre Pompidou opened in 1977, it was a radical (and controversial) design for a museum—all industrial pipes and open glass views of Paris. Forty-plus years later it’s the undisputed grande dame of Paris’s contemporary art world. Within the massive 100,000-piece collection that stretches back to 1905, you’ll find everything from Picassos to video installations.


BASILIQUE DU SACRÉ-COEUR DE MONTMARTRE

Sacré-Coeur is a Catholic basilica that sits on the highest hill in Paris, in the Montmartre neighborhood. Its height is topped only by the Eiffel Tower. The basilica’s distinct white travertine façade gives the Romano-Byzantine structure a unique look among Parisian monuments.


MUSÉE RODIN

Auguste Rodin lived in the Hôtel Biron in the later stage of his life, where the gardens inspired some of his work. The former home opened as a museum to the public in 1919, almost 200 years after it was built for a wealthy financier. … the large gardens showcase his most famous bronze sculptures, like “The Gates of Hell” and “The Thinker.”


INSTITUT DU MONDE ARABE

The Institut du Monde Arabe is an iconic building, designed by Jean Nouvel. The light dances in and around the building, which hosts a rotating selection of art, exhibits, performances, workshops, and cultural events.


EIFFEL TOWER

Gustave Eiffel’s controversial fashioned-iron mesh tower has been polarizing Parisians since its inception in 1889 for the World’s Fair. The structure anchors one end of the expansive Champ de Mars. Jules Verne, the second-floor restaurant, is a Michelin-starred (and pricey) institution, as is the tiny Champagne bar at the top.


https://www.cntraveler.com/contributor/melissa-liebling-goldberg

Other LINKS

https://www.intertravel-agency.com/2019/08/20/best-restaurants-in-paris/

https://www.intertravel-agency.com/2021/03/25/france-french-towns-villages/

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