Ephesus In Turkey: Glimpse Of The Greco-Roman World During A Golden Age

The Library of Celsus in Ephesus, completed between circa 114–117 CE.

The history of Ephesus can be traced back through thousands of years. The city has survived through incredible change, as various civilizations rose and fell through the centuries. The magnificent architecture that remains from the Greco-Roman period and its other archeological wonders, makes it our 9th stop in the series Journeys to Discovery.

Located on the western shores on modern Turkey, Ephesus is located along the Mediterranean trade routes in ancient times. At least over 1.5 million tourists visit the area yearly.

Ephesus is the most complete classical metropolis, yet 80% of the city remains buried.

This proximity to the sea, allowed the city periods of prosperity, that lasted through the Classical era, the Hellenistic period, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire,and finally the Ottoman Empire.

At its height the city may have been home to at least 200,000 residents, making it the fourth largest city in the Roman Empire. This would be after the cities of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. Of course, the actual number living in the city, is still being debated among historians.

The history of the area can be traced back to 6000 BCE (before the common era), as is evidenced by excavations at the nearby mounds known as tells, at both Arvalya and Cukurici.

According to legend, Ephesus was founded by the great female warriors known as the Amazons.

Historically, the city of Ephesus itself would be inhabited from the Bronze Age onwards. Over time, the exact location would change, due to environmental reasons and the impulses of various rulers.

Although the Carians and Lelegians were among the first residents of the city, Ionian migrations began around 1200 BCE. The arrival of these newcomers would soon change the culture to Greek.

The city would be founded a second time, by the Ionian Androclus, son of Codrus.

The entire region would later be ravaged during the Cimmerian invasion, at the beginning of the 7th century BCE. However, under the rule of Lydian kings, Ephesus would soon become one of the wealthiest cities in the Mediterranean world.

Statue of Goddess Artemis of Ephesus

It was said that during the night, the city streets were brightly lit with oil lamps. This was a extravagance that remained unaffordable, for most metropolitan areas in ancient times.

Ephesus also became a center of learning. The city was renowned for being the birthplace of the philosopher Heraclitus. It was also one of the few places for the time, where women were afforded rights equal to men.

Under the famed King Croesus of Lydia, the reconstruction of the Temple of Artemis began in 550 BCE. The first incarnation had been destroyed in a flood in the 7th century BCE.

It would take 10 years to complete, but would later by destroyed by Herostratus in an act of arson in 356 BCE. Supposedly this occurred, the same night that Alexander the Great was born.

Alexander the Great during his conquest of the region, offer to fund the completion of the famous temple.

This model of the Temple of Artemis, at Miniatürk Park, Istanbul, Turkey, attempts to recreate the probable appearance of the first temple in miniature form.

The Ephesians did not take him up on the offer. They instead would finish the project years after his death in 323 BCE. It had taken decades to complete and would become one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

This Temple of Artemis was 450 feet long (137 meters) and 225 feet wide (69 meters). It was 60 feet or 18 meters high, with more than 127 enormous marble columns.

In 268 CE (common era) after 600 years of existence, the temple would be seriously damaged by the Goths.

It was restored again, but would later be destroyed by a Christian mob in 401 CE. Many of the marble stones would be recycled, in the construction of other public buildings.

Three periods of history in Selçuk: Temple of Artemis(front), Isa Bey Mosque built by the Seljuk Turks (middle), the Byzantine castle (far)

A number of the famous columns 60 feet in height, were used in the building of the Hagia Sophia, by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian from 532 to 537 CE.

The site of the temple would be rediscovered in 1869, with most of the remains being removed and put on display in the British Museum in the Ephesus Room.

Today, the site of the temple can be found in Selcuk, which is located about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) northeast of Ephesus. The town is known as the Gateway to Ephesus. What remains is a single column created out of further architectural remnants and several other marble fragments.

King Croesus would later be defeated, by the Persian King Cyrus. The whole of Anatolia (Asia Minor) would then become part of the growing Persian Empire. Ephesus however, remained an important port of trade.

Great Theatre, seating capacity 24,000.

When the Ionian Greek city-states subsequently rose up against Persian rule in the 5th century BCE, Ephesus made the wise decision to remain neutral and thus escaped the devastation, that was levied against so many other neighboring cities.

Ephesus would subsequently remain part of the Persian realm, until being liberated by Alexander the Great in 334 BCE.

Lysimachus a general serving under Alexander, became the ruler of the region surrounding Ephesus following the death of the latter.

He immediately began the restoration and further development of the city. He did end up moving the city about two miles to the southwest, closer to the coast. This later allowed a reemergence of the city, as an important commercial center.

Temple of Hadrian.

In 129 BCE, the Romans would acquire Ephesus through the final testament of King Attalos of Pergamon. He bequeathed his kingdom to Rome,knowing the territory was likely to fall to them regardless.

The city would survive the rebellion of Mithridates and the storming of the city by the Roman army, under the command of Sulla in 88 BCE.

Ephesus would suffer severe damage, in the earthquake that hit the city in 17 CE.

The city would be rebuilt and would once again become an important center of commerce. It was recognized at the time, as being the most important trading center in Asia.

During the time of Augustus, Ephesus became the capital of proconsular Asia (western Asian Minor). According to Strabo the Roman historian, it was the second in importance and size only to Rome. This would mark another golden age for the city of Ephesus.

Facade of the Library of Celsus at night.

Ephesus would remain a leading intellectual center with the famous Celsus Library and the second school of philosophy in this part of the world. The library itself, once held 12,000 scrolls. It was the third largest in the ancient world, after Alexandria on the coast of Egypt and Pergamon.

Remnants of impressive architectural features of many of the buildings built during this time, are still standing.

The city would be repeatedly visited by early Christians, especially St. Paul. According to tradition, Mary the mother of Jesus, spent her later years there. Her house may still be visited today. Tourists can also visit the tomb of St. John.

House of the Virgin Mary

The Book of the Ephesians found in the Christian Bible, was written for the people living in the area.

In later times, Ephesus laid claim to being the site of the Cave of the Seven Sleepers. It is reputed that seven Christian saints were walled up in a cave above the city, as a punishment for their faith. They would sleep for two hundred years,later emerging as proof of the power of the resurrection.

The Gate of Augustus in Ephesus was built to honor the Emperor Augustus and his family.

The city would be seriously damaged by the Goths in the 263 CE attack. This began the decline of the greatness and splendor of the city.

Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, would attempt to rebuild much of the city and did erect new public baths. However, the previous glory of the city, could not be totally recaptured.

Once Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire, the city of Ephesus would begin a further decline. Emperor Theodosius ruling in the late 300’s, had all the pagan temples closed, along with all the schools. The worship of Artemis was now forbidden.

Women would again be reduced to second class status. They would henceforth, be denied work in the arts and learning.

Tomb of John the Apostle at the Basilica of St. John.

The previously lighted streets, adorned with numerous statuary began to decay. Ruins of a number of great buildings, were used as a quarry for far less impressive buildings.

The Byzantine era lasted from 395 CE to 1308 CE for Ephesus. It would remain the most important city in the Byzantine Empire in Asia, after Constantinople the capital, in the 5th and 6th centuries.

The basilica of St. John was built during the reign of Justinian I in the 6th century.

Another earthquake in 614 CE again, destroyed part of the city.

Odeon, indoor theatre once topped with a wooden roof.

The harbor was slowly being silted up the river, despite numerous dredging projects. As the access to the Aegean Sea was blocked, trade patterns changed and the city began to lose the important role, it once had held.

Residents began to migrate to the hills, from the lowlands of the city. Again the ruins of the temples, were used in the building of new structures. Distressingly, marble sculptures would be ground down into paste, to make lime for plaster.

The arrival of the Arabs between 654 CE and 655 CE saw the sacking of the city. This was repeated in 700 CE and then again in 716 CE.

Street scene at the archaeological excavations at Ephesus.

When the Seljuk Turks conquered Ephesus in 1090 CE, it was little more than a village.

When the Byzantines regained control seven years later, they even changed the name to Hagios Theologos. They would finally surrender the entire area, to the Seljuk Turks in 1308 CE.

The warriors of the Second Crusade fought the Seljuks, outside what had been in Ephesus in late 1147 CE. They were surprised at the small size of the community and how it had become cut off from the larger world. In addition, the Temple of Artemis had been long forgotten by the local people.

Stone carving of the goddess Nike

What had been Ephesus surrendered to the Ottoman Turks in the early 14th century. Contrary to an earlier pledge, the Turks pillaged the church of St. John and deported most of the population to Greece. Those that remained, were largely massacred during these turbulent times.

Ephesus would once again know a period a brief prosperity, later in the 1300’s. The Turks would construct the Isa Bey Mosque in the later part of the century, carvansaries and a number of Turkish bathhouses.

Next the area was incorporated as a vassal territory of the Ottoman Empire in 1390 CE. Thereafter, a period of unrest followed. Ephesus would change hands a number of times, with the defeat of the Ottomans by Tamerlane in 1402 CE.

The İsa Bey Mosque constructed in 1374–75, is one of the oldest and most impressive works of architectural art remaining from the Anatolian beyliks

The Ottoman Empire would finally resume control of the region in 1425 CE. By this time, the city of Ephesus had become completely abandoned.

In addition to the aforementioned, another site to be seen today in Ephesus is the famous theater. With a seating capacity of around 24,000, it is believed to be the largest in the ancient world. In Greek times, various plays were constantly reenacted on the stage. In Roman times, these would be replaced with gladiatorial contests.

Tourists can also visit two different ancient agoras. One was used for commercial purposes, the other for official state business.

Aqueduct near Ephesus – Mayer Luigi – 1810

Ephesus is in possession of several major bath complexes, built when the city was under Roman rule.

The city was blessed, with one of the most advanced aqueduct system in the ancient world. There were at least six of them, that supplied the city with water and provided energy for a number of water mills.

The Odeon was a small roofed theater constructed around 150 CE. The ruins give visitors a more than adequate view, of what it once looked like.

The ‘terrace houses’ at Ephesus, showing how the wealthy lived during the Roman period. Eventually the harbor became silted up, and the city lost its natural resources.

The famous Temple of Hadrian can be traced back to the 2nd century, but did undergo extensive repairs in the 4th century. What can be seen today, has been reassembled from the surviving architectural remnants. Original reliefs from the temple, can be seen in the nearby Ephesus Archaeological Museum located in Selcuk.

The Temple of the Sebastoi (Temple of Domitian) was one of the largest buildings in the city. Dedicated to the Roman Flavian Dynasty, the temple and the statue provide the historical connection, to the Emperor Domitian.

There is also the Tomb/Fountain of Pollio erected in 97 CE in honor of C. Sextilius Pollio, who constructed the Marnas aqueduct.

There are numerous other archeological remains to be visited throughout the ancient city as well.

How To Get There

Tourists have a number of options to gain access to Ephesus. They all bring one to the nearby community of Selcuk.

Many visitors arrive by cruise ship, coming through the nearby port of Kusadasi. From there you will need to choose between a tour organized by the cruise operators or plan an independent excursion.

The grand Byzantine fortress of Selçuk on Ayasoluk Hill

You can then arrange to take a taxi to Selcuk, which is nearly 12 miles or 19 kilometers away. It is relatively expensive, as compared to taking a bus from Kusadasi, which is another alternative. These run about every 30 minutes.

Another option is to travel by air to the Izmir Adnan Menderes International Airport. The distance to Selcuk from here, is about 34 miles or 55 kilometers. If your hotel will be in Izmir, shuttles to Selcuk are provided at various times.

Travelers can also take a train from the airport. One can also arrive by bus from the Izmir central station.

From Selcuk one can actually walk the distance to Ephesus, since it is only 2.5 miles or 4 kilometers away. You can also take a taxi, but again it will be more expensive.

If your hotel is in Selcuk you can borrow a bike for the short trip. Most of the businesses that provide accommodation to tourists, will offer some kind of ride to Ephesus, since that is their main business.

The cheapest way to go is by minibus or shared taxi known in Turkish as Dolmus, available every quarter of an hour.

Hours of Operation

The park is open every day of the week from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM local time from mid March to late October. This is the main tourist season.

The rest of the year it will be from 8:00 AM to 5:00 P.M.

Admission And Entrance Fees

General site entry price is Turkish lira (TRY40), the equivalent of $11.35 USD (United States Dollar).

There is an additional charge of TRY15 ($4.26 USD) for the Terrace Houses. These are the former residences of wealthy Romans, who lived there in the 1st century CE.

They are covered with a modern roof. They are a must see, with their exquisite frescoed walls and mosaic floors, all painstakingly excavated and preserved.

To visit the Basilica of St. John will cost TRY10 ($2.83 USD).

A tour of the house of the Virgin Mary  will cost TRY25 ($7.09 USD).

For TRY20 ($5.67 USD) you can rent an audio guide, for a 1 hour commentary on the general site and 20 minutes on the Terrace Houses.

You will need to leave a deposit of TRY100 ($28.37 USD). The money will be returned to you, once you return the equipment. You can also leave your photo identification in place of a deposit.

For visitors aged under 12 admission is free, with the exception of the Terrace Houses which is under 6.

The Archaeological Museum of Ephesus entry fee is TRY10 ($2.83 USD).

Helpful Hints For All Travelers

The upper Magnesia gate is the better side to enter, since it allows one to walk downhill and to exit at the lower harbor gate.

The entire ruins can easily be covered on foot, within two hours.

There are a wide variety of cafes, fast food and small Turkish restaurants at the exit gates.

Restroom facilities are available at the two entry/exit points 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) apart. They are not found anywhere else on the site.

There are an assortment of souvenir shops at the two exit gates. Negotiations on price are possible. One should compare prices. However, it is not a good place to buy carpets or leather goods. These should be purchased in the larger shops in Selcuk.

The post Ephesus In Turkey: Glimpse Of The Greco-Roman World During A Golden Age appeared first on WanderingTrader.

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Things to know before visiting St Lucia

Things to know before visiting St Lucia

Things to know before visiting St Lucia

Traveling to St Lucia Island

Being a small Island in the Caribbean unlike any of its neighbors and unique in its own way, here are several things you need to know before visiting St Lucia.

The origins of the name Saint Lucia are lost in history. The commonly held notion that Columbus sighted the island on Saint Lucy’s Day, 13 December 1498, is unreliable, for there is no good evidence of his “discovery.”

A more plausible explanation attributes the naming to one of various French visitors during the sixteenth century. It appears that the original designation was “Sainte Alousie,” the name used in Father DuTetre’s 1664 volume on the Antilles.
Things to know before visiting saint lucia


Most Saint Lucians are bilingual, especially those under 40 years of age. The language most commonly spoken in village and rural areas is Kwéyo`l,a creole language that is a mixture of French and African languages.

English is the language of instruction in the schools and the language used in business, governmental institutions, and most formal settings.

The People

The local St Lucian people are wonderful  – they are so happy, so friendly and helpful. The service throughout the island was exceptional; from small beachside bars, boutique restaurants to the most gourmet fine dining. We had such a great time meeting locals and really enjoyed their company.

Saint Lucia is a very safe Island compared to many others in the Caribbean. I was told by many locals and guides that theft is not common and I felt safe leaving my beach bag on the sand while I swam in the ocean. We never had a problem with anyone and the local people bring a really warm, friendly vibe to the island.

Be mindful of being over charged by locals if you are hustling in the street for a better rate on tours offered by your hotel or local agencies – this is really the only situation where you might get ‘ripped off’ and something to keep in mind before traveling to St Lucia.

What to know before visiting st lucia

The big smile of a local St. Lucian – always happy

The Food

St Lucian food is a combination of Creole with French and West Indian influences. Most hotels have restaurants, in addition to a wide range of eateries in the major towns serving many different types of food and international dishes.

Fresh seafood is abundant and often caught locally and many of the upmarket restaurants serve locally produced vegetables and fruits. The national dish is Green figs and salt fish: made with unripened bananas and preserved salted fish. Other popular Caribbean dishes are lobster, stewed fish and plantains and Callaloo,  a spinach-like soup made from the leaves of the dasheen plant.

Cocoa & banana plantations are the main agriculture on the island and the biggest exports.

What to know before visiting St Lucia Island

Our favorite sushi and cocktails from the Beachside Bar at Sugar Beach, St. Lucia

Getting around the Island

Most resorts have free shuttle services to and from the nearby towns and beaches and they often run 3-5 times per day. Most tour companies will include hotel pick-up and drop off in the price of your tour.

Getting around on your own will require you rent a car from the main town of Soufriere or arrange prio-transport with the hotel for a private driver service.

Helicopter Transfers are available for several luxury resorts on the island. You will be whisked from the International Airport to your hotel in roughly 6 minutes.

Things to know about traveling to St Lucia

Helicopter transfer from the Airport

Visa & Currency

One of the most important things to know before traveling to St Lucia is whether you need a Visa. The United States, Australian, New Zealand, British and most European Passport holders do not need a visa to visit Saint Lucia for less than 90 days. Some countries do, so it’s best to check here >> “Do I need a Visa for St. Lucia?”

The East Caribbean Dollar [$ECD] is the official currency of the island however $USD is widely used and accepted almost everywhere. During our stay we only used Credit Cards and USD Cash and we never encountered a problem. The conversion rate for January ’17 is $1.00 USD > $2.70 ECD.

There are currency exchange vendors at the International Airport, through your hotel and the ATM’s in the towns of Sourfrei and Castries will give you EC dollars.

I did hear from other travelers that paying for food, taxis and general items  in the local currency gave a better rate than paying in USD. Something to keep in mind.

Visa, MasterCard and AMEX are accepted widely at hotels, restaurants and taxis.

traveling to saint lucia island

Sugar Beach, a great place for relaxing in the ocean, enjoying seaside drinks and delicious sushi!

The Customs

A 10% Tax and Service charge are added to the end of your bill for meals at most hotels and restaurants. Additional tipping is optional but not required as it’s covered by the service charge.

Also keep in mind that many of the luxury hotels will charge a ‘delivery fee’ on anything ordered from room service and brought to your room. We were, well, lets say surprised to find a charge of $17.00USD for ONE Cappuccino we ordered from room service.

Things to know when traveling to St Lucia

The Caribbean colours

Best time of the year to visit the Island

St. Lucia is a beautiful Caribbean oasis with some of the best weather and luxurious vegetation in the world. The climate is hot and tropical, tempered by welcome trade winds during most of the year. The temperatures range from 21℃ (70°F) to 32°C (90°F).

December to May is the driest time of year and rainfall increases during summer months and towards the year’s end. St. Lucia is also prone to hurricanes from June to November.

popular attractions in saint lucia

The famous Pitons of Saint Lucia

Getting there

Saint Lucia has two airports: The George Charles Airport located in the capital city of Castries, and Hewanorra International Airport located in the southern town of Vieux Fort.

U.S. residents looking for direct travel via airport to Saint Lucia will need to fly out of either Miami, Boston, Atlanta, or New York. Delta Airlines, Jet Blue, American Airlines and United Airlines are the companies that offer direct flights.

If flying from Europe, you will be able to find direct flights from London, Manchester, Frankfurt or fly from Paris to Martinique and take a ferry ride over to Saint Lucia.

Top things to know before visiting St Lucia

Flying over the blue waters of the Caribbean Islands

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and if you have any other tips, items or things to know before visiting St Lucia, I look forward to hearing about them in the comments below.

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Letchworth State Park In New York: The Grand Canyon Of The East

Letchworth State Park is to be found in the western part of New York state. Known as the Grand Canyon Of The East, this treasure chest of natural beauty is the 11th stop in the series Off The Beaten Path. Founded in 1906, Letchworth has become a crown jewel of the New York State Park System.

Situated in the two New York state counties of Livingston and Wyoming, the park is located 35 miles (56 kilometers) southwest of Rochester and 60 miles (97 kilometers) southeast of Buffalo. Letchworth comprises 14,427 acres (58.4 km2) of land in upstate New York. The park is just under a 5 hour drive, from New York City at 314.9 miles.

View of the Middle Falls, with mist from the Upper Falls and the Portage Viaduct visible in the background.

Letchworth State Park is roughly 17 miles long. It follows the course of the Genesee River, as it flows north through a deep gorge, that traverses the park. The rock walls on either side of the ravine, rise up to a height of 550 feet (170 meters) and narrow to 400 feet, near the three main waterfalls, providing the basis for the claim of being the Grand Canyon of the East.

The Genesee River movement over the diverse terrain of the gorge, allows for the existence of several notable waterfalls. These are the Upper, Middle and Lower Falls.

The Middle Falls is the highest among them. The Upper Falls, has an active railroad trestle known as the Portage Viaduct, crossing just above it. The latter was built in 1875 and is still in use.

Lower Falls and stone footbridge at Letchworth State Park

There are as many as 50 smaller waterfalls on tributaries, that flow into the Genesee.

The three most viewed falls are all located in Portage Canyon, the southern section of the park.

The park also contains Inspiration Falls, a ribbon waterfall that is located on a tributary creek, a short distance from the Inspiration Point Overlook. It is just 0.4 miles west of the park Visitor Center. The waterfall features, a total drop of an impressive 350 feet. Although popular with tourists, it remains dependent on abundant rainfall. Therefore, based on the time of the year, it can be totally underwhelming.

The history of the park can be traced back to 1859, when the industrialist William Pryor Letchworth began purchasing land, near what is today the Middle Falls (Portage Falls). He simultaneously began construction on his Glen Iris Estate.

William Pryor Letchworth (1823-1910)

From buying an original 109 acres that year, he would spend the ensuing decades, expanding the size of his holdings. These purchases successfully halted the plans to build a hydroelectric dam in the gorge, that would of altered the flow of the river. It would have also lessened flows over the major waterfalls in the future park.

In 1906, Letchworth would bequeath his 1,000 acres landed estate to the state New York. It would be this endowment, that would soon form the core of the newly created Letchworth State Park.

In 2015, Letchworth won USA Today’s Reader’s Choice competition, as the best state park in the United States.

In addition, it has also been named as the best state park in New York for landscape photography.

Park entrances are located near the towns of Castile, Mount Morris, Perry and Portageville. There is a paved two or three-lane road follows the west side of the gorge. This allows travelers to stop and enjoy the many scenic viewpoints, that have been created by various geologic processes.

View of the Genesee River and Gorge in the park.

There are 66 miles of hiking trails and horse-riding courses as well. The only path that crosses the Genesee River in the park, is on the stone bridge that can be found just below the Lower Falls.

The amenities of the park include an assortment of pavilions, picnic tables, playgrounds, two large swimming pools, cabins, campsites for tents, and trailer sites with dumping stations.

Activities within the park include biking, hiking kayaking, geocaching and whitewater rafting.

Hunting of deer and wild turkey, as well as fishing, are also accessible when in season.

Hot air ballooning is available at the park, but it totally weather dependent.

The winter months bring horse-drawn sleigh rides, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snow tubing.

Genesee Scenery, an 1847 oil painting by Thomas Cole.

The entire area was once the homeland of the Seneca people. They were largely forced out, after the American Revolutionary War, since the Seneca had been allies of the British. The original inhabitants called the land in the park Sehgahunda, which roughly translates to mean Vale of the Three Falls.

According to the Seneca, the Middle Falls identified as Ska-ga-dee, were so marvelous, that it made the sun stop at midday.

In the memory of these early inhabitants, travelers can find the ancient Indian Council House of the Senecas, located on the grounds.

It was the beauty of the places surrounding the gorge, that caused Letchworth to hire the famous landscape artist William Webster, to design the numerous winding paths and roadways, throughout the property. He was also commissioned to add rustic bridges, lakes, and a fountain.

The park contains the Glen Iris Inn, Letchworth’s former home, which has been remade for use as a hotel. It is located on the top of the hill, overlooking Middle Falls. Tourists can arrange for overnight accommodations and in-season meals. The facility is also open to the public for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Glen Iris Inn

The Glen Iris Hotel noted for its Greek Revival and Italianate architectural design, was placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

When the American Scenic and Preservation Society of New York took over the management of the Letchworth Estate, a special effort was made to organize and preserve the personal library collection of the now famous industrialist. This accumulation is now kept, in a separate dedicated building.

The park is also the site of the William Pryor Letchworth Museum, which was founded with the extensive collections of the park’s founder. The institution has a focus on both the cultural and natural history of the Genesee Valley. This includes artifacts from the Seneca, early pioneers, the Genesee Valley Canal and Letchworth himself, upon his death in 1910.

In 2016, the Eric Humphrey Nature Center opened. It is operated year round by the state of New York. The 5,000 square foot sustainable building, features a number of classrooms, meeting rooms, a research lab, a butterfly garden and connections to various trails.

Mount Morris Dam

Another interesting feature of the park is the Mount Morris Dam found at the north end of the park. The dam was completed in 1954. The Genesee River became both wider and deeper upstream, due to this construction, but areas below the dam, were henceforth spared yearly flooding.

The Mount Morris Dam is the largest flood control device known as concrete gravity, east of the Mississippi River. The proportions of the dam are impressive, at 1,028 feet in length and 239 feet in height from the riverbed.


Letchworth State Park is located at 1 Letchworth State Park Castile, New York, 14427

The Phone Number is (585) 493-3600  

Upper Falls with a train passing over the Portage Viaduct

Email address is http://www.letchworthpark.com/


Letchworth, as a New York State Park, charges a vehicle use fee to enter. It is typically $10.00 USD (United States Dollar), unless you possess a state park admittance pass. Additional charges apply for the use of outdoor accommodation and facilities.

How To Get There

If coming from the east, Letchworth State Park can best be reached by using either Interstate 80 or Interstate 86, also known as NY Route 17. The park will be found off of 19A.

Days and Hours of Operations

Monday – Sunday 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM

Cabins are accessible from April through mid November, with a few ready for occupancy, year round. Both require reservations to guarantee availability.

The Glen Iris Inn remains in operation from the middle of April to the end of October.

For reservations http://www.glenirisinn.com/ 

The museum is open to the public from May 01 to October 31.

Hours of operation are from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily.

To access the museum, a donation of $1.00 USD is requested from adults, $0.50 USD from children or $3.00 USD per family.


Is also available at the Maplewood Lodge, which is inside the park and in nearby communities.

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Architectural Wonders Of The Hearst Castle In San Simeon, California

The Casa Grande is the centerpiece of Hearst Castle.

Located in central California along the Pacific Ocean coast, stands Hearst Castle. This architectural wonder, was the home of the famous American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst from 1919 to 1947. It is the 10th stop in the series Off The Beaten Path.

At one time, christened La Cuesta Encantada or The Enchanted Hill by its famous resident, today it is both a California Historical Landmark and a National Historical Landmark. The later occurring in 1976. It had already joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

The grand design for the site although visioned by Hearst himself, would only become reality, by the devices of architect Julia Morgan. Construction on the property continued from 1919 through 1947.

Ill health would finally force Hearst to leave the property that year. He would later die in 1951.

In 1954, the property would become a California State Park. The site would welcome the first tourists four years later and has remained open since. The Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, operates the estate and maintains the extensive collection of antiques and art work, for public viewing.

Hearst San Simeon State Park

In spite of the isolated location of Hearst Castle, millions of travelers arrive from around the world, on an annual basis.

Despite being referred to as simply the ranch by William Randolph Hearst, the main buildings and grounds, are often identified with the surrounding unincorporated areas known as San Simeon.

The history of Hearst Castle can be traced back to 1865, when George Hearst purchased some 40,000 acres of land, that comprised Rancho Piedra Blanca.

Following the death of his mother Phoebe Hearst in 1919, William Randolph Hearst inherited thousand of acres around San Simeon.

Owner William Randolph Hearst with architect Julia Morgan in 1926. Photograph by Irvin Willat.

The younger Hearst grew rather fond of the place over the years, because of the many family camping trips. As an adult, he would choose the undeveloped coastline hilltop, that would later be the site of the castle.

The ascent was a simple dirt path, accessible only by foot or horseback, for over 5 miles (8 kilometers).

Over time Hearst would buy far more land, until his holdings in the area would encompass near 250,000 acres.

What is not well known, was that estate was left unfinished, when Hearst left in 1947. This was the consequence of his persistent design changes. By this time, it already contained 165 rooms. The total square footage of these buildings, exceeds 90,000 square feet (8,300 m2).

In entirety, there is 123 acres of gardens, pools, terraces and walkways. These were all built to the specifications of Hearst.

Spanish style guest house, designed by Julia Morgan.

The extensive space provided by the immense constructions, allowed Hearst to display an incredible art collection, that had already become legendary.

William Randolph Hearst spent a great deal of time and effort, to bring back the best of European architecture.

The most notable example of this are the ceilings from the churches and monasteries. These would be disassembled in Europe and later be pieced back together again, in California.

Among the American Hollywood and political elite, invitations to the Hearst Castle were highly coveted, during the 1920’s and 1930’s. They would arrive by taking a private Hearst owned train car from Los Angeles, or by availing themselves of the estate’s on site airfield.

Charles Lindbergh
American aviator

Actors would include the famous Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Cary Grant, Bob Hope, Dolores del Rio, the Marx Brothers and James Stewart.

The man who was the first to traverse the Atlantic Ocean by airplane in 1927, Charles Lindbergh was also among the guest list.

Notable politicians would include American presidents Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt and later, even the former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.

Although guests were expected to attend the formal dinners each evening, they were mostly left to their own devices, throughout the day. Many of them would stay in various dwellings, separate from the main residence and would entertain themselves, while Hearst took care of his business empire.

There were always things to do, whether walking through the various gardens and grounds of the estate, or even watching screened films from Hearst’s own movies studio, Cosmopolitan Productions at the on site theater.

Lady Gaga

Commercial filming remains relatively rare at Hearst Castle and most requests made, are simply turned down. Since the estate was donated to the state of California, only two projects have been approved.

One was Lady Gaga’s for the music video G.U.Y. The other one Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus. It was used as the villa, of the historical Roman character Crassus.

Although the main estate is a museum, the Hearst family has continued to use an older Victorian house on the property. The dwelling was the home of George Hearst and was constructed in the late 19th century.

To permit maximum privacy for the family, from the many tourists who arrive on a daily basis, there is a dense stand of eucalyptus. A condition of the donation of the estate, was that the Hearst family would be allowed access and use of the property, whenever they wished.

Patty Hearst

Patty Hearst a granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, who made international news following her abduction in 1974, by a left-wing terrorist group, has recalled fondly of time spent as a child at the estate.

In one story, she tells how she used to hide behind various statues in the Neptune Pool, while tours were being conducted.

Years later in 2001, Patty would host a Travel Channel show on the estate.

Amanda Hearst, another member of the illustrious family, is the great granddaughter of William Randolph. She would model for a fashion shoot at the property for a Hearst Corporation magazine, known as Town and Country in 2006.

Hearst Castle was known to be the inspiration for the Xanadu Mansion, in the 1941 film Citizen Kane. Orson Welles would play the lead character, in a fictionalized version of the career of William Randolph Hearst. Of course, the castle itself, was not actually used as a location, in the now famous movie.

The original Hearst plan for a modest dwelling was soon shelved, as was the initial idea of either a Korean or Japanese theme. Hearst instead settled on Spanish Revival, which was rapidly gaining popularity at the time.

Tower of the Church of Santa María la Mayor, in Ronda, Spain, which served as inspiration for the Hearst Castle towers.

He decided to turn to Iberian peninsula for inspiration. The Baroque and Renaissance styled buildings he found in southern Spain, were more in line with his personal taste.

He developed a strong affinity for a particular church in Ronda and asked his recently hired architect Julia Morgan, to pattern the Main Building towers after it. He did decide however, to go with a stucco exterior in place of masonry, in respect to Californian architectural traditions.

His architect persuaded the magnate to begin with the construction of the guest cottages, because these could be built more quickly. Together these comprise a total of 46 rooms, including the lobbies.

There are a variety of historical architectural styles in the various structures, all based on what Hearst himself had seen during his travels around Europe.

A prolific collector of art and antiques the construction of Hearst Castle, provided the space necessary to display his vast collection of artifacts.

The Main Building is a mix match of décor, based on the Hearst purchases of centuries-old ceilings imported from Europe. The area of the Castle Grande alone, is 60,645 square feet (5,634 m2)

The Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle

The Castle features a total of 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms and 19 sitting rooms. There are indoor and outdoor swimming pools, the most well known being the Neptune Pool. It alone was rebuilt three different times, to finally reach the present state desired by W.R. Hearst.

Located near the edge of the hilltop, Neptune Pool offers an distensible view of the mountains,as well as the nearby ocean and the main house.

Unfortunately, due to ongoing drought conditions and constant leaks, the main pool is now drained of water. It is in the process to be restored and will soon once again hold 345,000 gallons. It is 104 feet long, 58 feet wide and 10 feet deep at the largest area.

Hearst Castle Roman Pool

The adjoining patio features an ancient Roman temple front. It had been transported from Europe and then reconstructed on its present site.

The indoor tiled Roman Pool, is surrounded by eight statues of Roman gods, goddesses and heroes.

It is supposed to be styled after the ancient Roman baths, like the famous Baths of Caracalla, built from 211 to 217 CE (Common Era). It holds a total of 205,000 gallons of water.

The mosaic tiled patterns, are modeled from what can be seen in the 5th century Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna, Italy. The intense colors mainly blue and orange, are fused with gold on the inside. It creates an absolutely spectacular ambiance.

Zebras are a popular attraction on the Hearst ranch. They are descendants from Hearst’s private zoo.

Also to be found on the estate are a wine cellar, tennis courts, and the aforementioned movie theater and airfield.

In addition, travelers can find what was once the world’s largest private zoo. Exotic animals including a collection of zebras, still roam the grounds.

Morgan devised a gravity-based water delivery system, that transports water from artesian wells on the slopes of Pine Mountain.

During the time of Hearst’s occupancy, a private power plant supplied electricity to the estate. This had become necessary, due to the remote location of the Castle.


Hearst Castle is located at 750 Hearst Castle Road, San Simeon, California 93452.

Email address is visitor.info@parks.ca.gov


Adults $25.00 USD (United States Dollar)

Hearst Castle dining room

Children 5 -12 $12.00 USD

Under 5 is free

Evening Tour

Adults $36.00 USD

Children $18.00 USD

How To Get There

Hearst Castle is approximately a four hour drive south of San Francisco and a four hour drive north of Los Angeles. One can take a train from the latter to San Luis Obispo and continue the rest of the way to the Visitor Center by public bus.

Food and drinks are available at the Visitor Center. There is also a Cafe on site, that serves a variety of food made fresh daily.

  • Visitors can reach Hearst Castle from the north, via Highway 101 to Paso Robles

    Egyptian Artifacts – Oldest Pieces In The Collection

  • Travelers coming from the south will arrive via Cambria and Paso Robles.

Days and Hours of Operations

Monday – Sunday 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

The last indoor tour begins at 3:00 PM.

The Bus leaves at 4:00 PM, for the 5 mile trip back to the Visitor Center.

Evening Tours will have extended hours.

Hearst Castle is closed on the major holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day

Check this website for details and reservations: http://reservecalifornia.com/ Appointments for a variety of tours, can be made up to 56 days in advance. Most indoor tours are an hour in length. One will then want to spend additional time on the grounds.

The Grand Tour is the one recommended by this writer, especially for first time visitors.

The evening tour is also available in the spring and autumn, which will take an hour and 40 minutes.

Tourists may also purchase tickets by calling 1-800-444-4445 inside the United States.

Outside the country, travelers will need to call 1-518-218-5078, during extended business hours.


Is available in the nearby community of San Simeon and Ragged Point located four miles away.

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Andalucia: Roadtrip through Southern Spain

Our road trip began in Madrid…

We loaded the Mini with our backpacks, cheese, an old paper map and set off on our adventure through the countryside of Southern Spain.

For more information click here to see the article on the Top Tourist Attractions in Madrid.

Day 1: Merida

We arrived at 3pm after taking our time to stop off at the little towns along the way, and to stock up our cheese and wine supply.

Merida is a historic little town bursting with Spanish colonial charm.

Main attractions include, The Aqueducts, the Roman Ruins in the old Amphitheatre, and the Puente Romano which crosses the guadiana river is the world’s oldest standing bridge from ancient times.

Near the town square and cathedral is a wonderful collection of tasty tapas bars—some of which date back to the early 1800s. It’s a lot of fun getting lost in the super narrow streets while trying to walk back and forth across the neighborhood.

First stop was Merida: stocking up on cheese for road trip snacks!

best things to see in spain

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Spain: Roman  Aqueducts

Day 2: Seville

After exploring Merida we continued onto Seville, a 2hr drive South to the region’s capital city and main ‘hub’ outside of Madrid.

We had heard really good things about Seville and even flirted with the idea of living there for a year, so we were really excited to spend a few days there getting to know the city.

For all its important monuments and fascinating history, Seville is universally famous for being a joyous town. While the people of Seville are known for their happy and friendly natures, the city itself is striking for its vitality and impressive architecture

The sunsets are always prettier seen from the rooftops of old Spanish castles

The main attractions bringing over 5 million visitors per year  to Seville is the Plaza de Espana, Alcazar, Maria Luisa Park and the cathedral.

Although if you ask me, the real treasures are found by walking the cobblestone streets and getting lost in cafes and tapas bars along the bustling streets.  

One thing Seville is particularly good at is food – there is a good selection along the Calle Mateos Gago and along the streets north of the Cathedral with a range of local cured meats and other dishes on the menu.

The charms of Seville lay right around each corner

top attractions in spain

The Plaza de Espana in Seville, Spain

Day 3: Ronda

We were chatting with some friendly locals in Seville and they insisted we add Ronda to our list of the best things to see in Andalucia.

What I love about road trips is that your plans change, so our loose itinerary wasn’t difficult to shuffle around. And so off we went on a detoured, in search of what sounded like the oldest bridge in all of Spain.

The drive through the Sierra Nevada national park is beautiful as you cross over mountain tops and green valleys and through small towns.

After steadily taking our time to stop for picnics and photos through the mountain range, we were in a bit of a panic to make it to Rhonda in time before the sunset!.

top tourist attractions in spain

Driving through the Sierra Nevada Mountain range and stopping to explore the little village towns along the way

Aaaaaand ….we missed it

The sun had disappeared well behind the beautiful mountains that had guided us along the way to Rhonda.

So we decided to splurge on a two story penthouse suite for the night where we sat and ate more cheese and french fries while looking out over the famous bridge.

We stayed at the Parador de Ronda hotel, it wasn’t cheap but we had great views of the bridge at night and the breakfast was excellent!

If you’re on a tighter budget I would recommend staying at the hotel across the street. The Hotel Ronda charges a modest euro rate for a night and has equally impressive views.

Marcello and the Mini, Rhonda

The next day we explored the bridge from the top, sides and underneath! We even hiked the surrounding hillside to get some great drone footage before continuing on our way.

The one day adventure was enough to see the main attractions of Ronda, the bridge was impressive and worth the detour.

visiting spain

The charming little town and the impressive Puente Nuevo bridge in Ronda, Spain

Day 4: Costa del Sol

We decided to travel to Southern Spain in the off season to avoid the tourist floods, the heat and the higher prices throughout Europe. So the coastline didn’t appeal to us too much as it was pretty cold.

We did spend a day driving through the coast and stopping off at little towns along the way….

Wine and more wine: when in Spain….

things to do in spain

Crossing the airport runway to drive around the Rock of Gibraltar in Southern Spain

We were surprised to stumble upon Gibraltar.

This British owned territory is dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar, a 426m-high limestone ridge.

First settled by the Moors in the Middle Ages and later ruled by Spain, the outpost was ceded to the British in 1713 and remains in their possession.

“We were fascinated!”

Literally driving over the International Runway and having our passports stamped by the very proper English men at the border were all unexpected, but we had no troubles getting in.

We drove around the Rock, main square and then headed back out into Spain whilst looking over the sea to Morocco.

If you’re visiting during the warmer months I would suggest you spend more time exploring the gorgeous coastline and hidden beaches of Costa del Sol.

Day 5: Granada

One of the top tourist attractions in Europe is found in Southern Spain’s Andalusia region is Granada, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  

With close proximity to Morocco, there are strong arabian influences and a gypsy vibe in the marketplaces. We spent a day here checking out the top attractions that Granada has to offer. 

Enjoying breakfast at our hotel before spending the day exploring. We stayed at The Alhambra Palace Hotel that stands on the hill overlooking Granada City.

The Alhambra is the most visited monument in Spain and is of indescribable beauty. It is both a palace and a fortress surrounded by walls and was the residence of the Nasrid sultans between the 13th and 15th centuries.

You need to keep in mind that visiting times are divided into two periods: one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

tourist attractions in spain

Alhambra Palace: A tourist attraction in Spain

From the outside the Alhambra is equally impressive, and you can see great views and a stunning sunset from the mirador San Nicolas. There are also stall vendors, drinks and local art performers at the mirador which makes for a fun afternoon as the sun sets.

To anyone visiting Granada the Hammam Al Andalus baths are a must see attraction!  I was so lucky to stumble upon a pamphlet about these beautiful ancient Arabian baths that I had no idea even existed.

Best attractions in spain

The architecture, lighting and environment were exceptional and I truly felt as if I had stepped back in time for a moment.  Highly recommended for a relaxing evening with your partner, or solo.

Upon walking into the reception I was greeted with a hot sweet tea and a relaxed atmosphere before making my way down to the baths.

There are three different pools, one freezing cold, another warm and the third is hot. There are also turkish steam rooms and sweet tea scattered on the poolside for you to drink.

The delicious Sushi at Pinot Noir, Granada

Salmon Tartare and Sourdough at Pinot Noir, Granada

The Food scene in Granada is excellent and a nice change from Tapas. There is a little corner bar called Pinot Noir just off the main street.

After eating nothing much else besides paella, cheese and ham for the last week; we were so happy to find delicious sushi and seafood!

This place is a must for your visit to Spain! In fact it’s so good that as a traveler and sushi lover, this place is one of my worldly favorites.

Day 6: Córdoba 

It was an important Roman city and a major Islamic center in the Middle Ages. It’s best known for La Mezquita, an immense mosque dating from 784 A.D.

What we loved about Cordoba were the valencia trees that line the roadside. They’re everywhere, and they bring a nice touch to the old buildings and walkways.

The streetside colours of Cordoba, Spain

The Roman bridge is beautiful in the afternoon as the sun is going down, however best time to see it without tourist is early morning before the crowds roll in.

The Puerta del Puente is an impressive gateway arch that stands at at one side of the bridge and at the other is the Calahorra Tower.

The historic centre is a great place to walk around and soak up the vibes of a Spanish town; drink coffee, eat and enjoy the views.

traveling to spain

Puerta del Puente: Exploring the history of Cordoba, Spain


A very old Roman bridge and the star of the show for attractions in Cordoba, Spain

Day 7: Jaén 

As genuinely Andalucían as it gets, and outside the tourist track. A land of mountains and olives, of Renaissance architecture and free tapas, the province of Jaén in eastern Andalucía will pleasantly surprise you if you, even if you are just passing through like we were.  

In fact, the province of Jaén accounts for half of Andalucía’s olive oil production, a third of Spain’s, and a tenth of the entire world!

Every square inch of land outside the cities and natural parks is covered in unending, pointillist rows of olive groves. This makes for a really pretty drive when you’re traveling through the countryside on a roadtrip. 

Getting to Jaen is within an hour’s drive north of Granada, 1.5hrs from Córdoba, and 3.5hrs from Madrid. After Jaén we returned to Madrid to spend a week seeing the sights and attractions of the city.

You can find more information about what to do and see in Madrid here >  Best things to do in Madrid


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Best things to see in London: Top 15 Tourist Attractions

best things to see in london

Finding the time to fit in all the best things to see in London is the hardest part of a trip to England, but hopefully this guide will give you somewhere to start.

From all the famous sights that you’ve heard about for years (Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, etc) to the must-do activities like high tea and shopping at Oxford Street, there’s just an overabundance of things to see and do.

If you are planning to visit London, make sure to include these ones and let me know of any other favourites you have in the comments below.

1. Westminster Abbey

Westminster is considered the political hub of London and is home to the Houses of Parliament and the world-famous Big Ben and the Tower Bridge. Big Ben is the name of the bell housed within the iconic clock tower, and it still chimes every hour.

Parliament Square which features statues of important political individuals including Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill.

2. London Eye

Originally constructed for the Millennium year, the london eye has since become a must see tourist attraction.  The Eye is a giant ferris wheel offering gorgeous views across the city.

best things to see in london tourist attractions

Popular Tourist Attractions: The London Eye

3. Camden Town

The cultural neighborhood in North London. Known for its alternative culture, the crowds here are filled with goths, punks, rockabillies and tourists alike. Check out the Camden markets for vintage classics, trinkets and collectables as well as the international street food. Afterwards, walk along the regent’s canal all the way to Kings Cross.

4. Shoreditch

Shoreditch is one of the trendiest areas of London having recently undergone extensive regeneration. It is now one of the hottest nightlife spots in the city and one of the coolest places to stay in London. Packed full of bars and eateries, it’s the perfect place to spend a day and an evening walking around or shopping at local markets.

top tourist attractions in london

The colourful shop fronts of Shoreditch

5. Hyde Park

The park is home to several memorial features, as well as two bodies of water, the most famous being the Serpentine. Here you can go paddle-boating, see a number of swans, and take in a breath of fresh air in the center of the city. A must-visit.

6. Thames river cruise

Cruises run as regularly as every 30 minutes from several key locations. The cruises pass several key sightseeing locations, including Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye. Some cruises run at night so you can see the sights all lit up, whilst others are served with a meal or afternoon tea. This is a lovely and unique way to view the city, traveling along the historic Thames.

popular things to do in london

The Thames river cruise is one of the popular things to do in London

7. The Madame Tussauds wax museum and visit Sherlock Holmes in Baker Street

Afterwards you can escape the crowds of Baker Street by wandering down to the nearby Regent’s Park, or  climb to the top of Primrose Hill for the most spectacular view of the city for your visit to London.

8. Electric Avenue

You will find electric avenue In Brixton. In fact, it was actually the first street in London to be lit by electricity in 1981. Electric Avenue is now home to Brixton Market, a diverse and eclectic food market. Afterwards, check out the rest of the neighborhood. Brixton features a multitude of small businesses selling unique, quirky and handmade items. This is one of the most diverse areas of London and an excellent spot to do some shopping or catch some live music.

tourist attractions london

A local band playing at the Brixton Markets on a Sunday afternoon

9. Picadilly Circuit

The Times Sq of London. Filled with bright lights and big electronic screens. Piccadilly Circus has been a busy London spot since the 17th century when it was a commercial hub. For the world’s weirdest things pay a visit to Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum here in the Circuit.

10. Oxford St

London’s top spot for shopping but is Europe’s busiest shopping street. It has 300 shops and receives over 500,000 visitors every day. Bond street connects with Oxford however Bond is exclusively for high end boutique and designer stores. Doormen stand outside and guide you through most entrances where diamonds shine in the windows of jewelry, clothing and expensive stores.

tourist attractions and sites in london

Oxford street is one of the biggest tourist attractions for visitors coming to London

11. Leicester Square

With Trafalgar Square to the south, Piccadilly Circus to the west, China Town to the north and Covent Garden to the east, Leicester Square is right in the thick of The West End. It is the beating heart of British cinema, with all the major European premieres happening there.

12. Buckingham Palace

During a visit to Buckingham Palace, you can see the 19 magnificent State Rooms which provide the setting for ceremonial occasions and official entertaining. All rooms are furnished with many of the greatest treasures from the Royal Collection. Well worth a visit just to see the guards too, they are great fun!

popular attractions in london

The Royal Buckingham Palace gates: A London Icon

13. Museums

You will find most museums in the South Kensington area, however they are scattered all around the city suburbs. There are many museums and galleries to visit in London however my top 3 favorites are the Natural History Museum (Brompton), British Museum (Bloomsbury) and the Science Museum it in London however my top 3 favorites are the Natural History Museum (Brompton).

14. Art Galleries

The Tate Modern is a contemporary art gallery located in the Southbank area of  London. It is Britain’s national gallery of international modern art and a must see attraction if you like art galleries.

15. Columbia Road Flower markets 

Every Sunday a flower market springs up on Columbia Road in East London. In recent years, as the nearby Brick Lane has gained increasing Sunday flea market stalls, Columbia Road market’s flowers have become a hot tourist attraction.

the most popular attractions in london

Spending a lazy Sunday at the Columbia Flower Markets

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Tikal in Guatemala: One Of The Most Powerful Kingdoms Of The Ancient Maya

Tikal is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Colombian Mayan civilization. It is our 8th stop in the series Journeys to Discovery.

Located in the archaeological region of the Peten Basin in northern Guatemala, this thriving cosmopolitan city, would be rediscovered in the mid 19th century. It had been completely covered by the jungle for centuries.

Tikal is situated in the department of El Peten. Today, the site is part of Guatemala’s Tikal National Park and as of 1979, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The site core seen from the south, with Temple I at center, the North Acropolis to the left and Central Acropolis to the right.

Tikal was the capital city of one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Mayan civilization.

Although there is impressive architectural structures that can be dated as far back as the 4th century BCE, Tikal would reach the height of its power and influence, during the centuries stretching from 200 to 900 CE.

During this era known as the Classical Period, Tikal would come to dominate the region of the Maya. Economically, politically and militarily, Tikal had become the head of a conquest state.

The number of inhabitants would swell to as high as 90,000 by some estimates. If one includes the surrounding hinterland, the population reached well into the hundreds of thousands.

Map of the Maya area within the Mesoamerican region. Both Tikal and Calakmul lie near the center of the area.

The rise in population is quite impressive, considering the area surrounding the city is covered in swamp lands.

Interactions between Tikal and the rest of Mesoamerica became more commonplace, as the power of the Mayan reached its zenith.

Regular contacts were maintained with the valley of Mexico as far north as Teotihuacan. In fact, there is evidence, the latter would actually conquer Tikal in the 4th century CE.

Teotihuacan in the Valley of Mexico appears to have decisively intervened in Tikal politics

After the late Classical Period, no new major monuments would be constructed at Tikal.

Around this epoch, it is likely that a number of the aristocratic palaces and temples would be desecrated and later burned. By this time, the population was already gradually diminishing, with final abandonment taking place by the end of the 10th century.

In the modern era, the city has been completely mapped and it has been determined that it once covered an area of 6.2 square miles (16 square kilometers). Within the main city about 3,000 buildings were constructed, over hundreds of years.

Tikal Temple I rises 47 meters (154 ft) high.

The structures were built on a series of limestone ridges rising above numerous swampy lowlands. These built up areas remained connected, by a series of causeways that spanned over the wetlands.

Major construction at Tikal was already underway, in the Late Pre-classic period during 400-300 BCE. The first leading pyramids and platforms would be built at this time. Although Tikal was still far smaller, than El Mirador and Nakbe. These northern neighbors, would decline in the 1st century CE.

It is interesting to note, that Tikal had no real water supply, other than what was collected from rainwater and then stored in a total of 10 reservoirs.

In the 20th century, archaeologists working in the area, were forced to restore one of the reservoirs for this very reason.

The dynastic line of Tikal, that may have been founded as early as the 1st century CE, lasted for a total of 800 years and included at least 33 different rulers. According to legend, it was founded by Yax Ehb Xook.

Stela 31, with the sculpted image of Siyaj Chan K’awiil II.

There were even a couple of occasions, when the male line was broken and women became queens of the city.

At the beginning of the Early Classical Period, power in the Mayan culture was centered in Tikal and Calakmul. The area was plagued with war, as competition between the city states would be ongoing matter.

Tikal remained often at war with neighboring Mayan states including Calakmul, Caracol, Naranjo and Uaxactun. In fact, by the end of the Early Classical period, Caracol would replace Tikal and take its place, as the leading center in the southern Mayan lowlands.

Today in Tikal, there are many different buildings to visit, with many more still waiting for a full excavation before they can be opened to the public. To date, only about 30% have been fully rehabilitated.

The North Acropolis at Tikal

At the center of Tikal lies the Great Plaza that is bordered by two massive temple pyramids, the North Acropolis and the Central Acropolis.

There are 6 Temples, that most in the tourist industry will agree are the most important constructions at Tikal.

Temple I located in the middle of the Park is known as the Temple of the Great Jaguar. It was built during 682 and 734 CE. It rises some 154 feet (47 meters). It was excavated between the years 1955 and 1964.

Temple II on the main plaza

Ah Cacao (Lord Chocolate) also known as Jasaw Chan K’awiil I, known as one of the greatest rulers of Tikal is associated with this temple. He is buried here.

Temple II known as the Temple of the Masks is one of the best restored in the park. It was also built by Jasaw, in honor of his wife Lady Kalajuun Une’ Mo’. It stands at just over 124 feet (38 meters).

Temple III known as the Temple of the Jaguar Priest was built around 810 CE. It stands about 180 feet or 55 meters. It is most likely the burial place of King Dark Sun.

Temple IV is thought to be the tallest structure erected by the ancient Maya. At over 213 feet (65 meters), a traveler is rewarded with an incredible view of the complex.

The Plaza of the Seven Temples

One used to have to make the ascent, by holding onto various roots and branches on the pyramid’s slippery slopes. Today, new wooden stairs make the ascent more amenable.

Temple V stands at 187 feet (57 meters) and is the second highest edifice in Tikal and in pre-Colombian America. From the top of this pyramid, one can see the other temples over the top of the tree canopy.

The Lost World Pyramid in the Mundo Perdido complex at Tikal.

Temple VI known as the Temple of Inscriptions was discovered as late as 1951.

The top of the structure is visible for just over 39 feet or 12 meters. Further excavation will be needed, for this temple to be fully accessible.

How To Get There

Most tourists to Tikal come from three different starting points. The closet airport is the Guatemalan town of Flores, which is just 90 minutes away by bus.

A similar ride from the capital of Guatemala City, will take at least 8 hours. Tikal is located 333 miles or 536 kilometers north of the city.

The other entry point is Belize City, located 3 hours by bus from Tikal.

Upon arrival in Flores, you can then contact a tour company. The cost will average 100 GTQ, the equivalent of $13.63 USD (United States Dollar). The cost without a guided tour, will be around 70 GTQ ($9.54 USD).

Tour buses arrive late in the morning and leave by mid afternoon. This leaves the most reminiscent time of the day which is early morning and late afternoon/early evening to those tourists who remain.

Hours of Operation

The park is open every day of the week from 6:00 AM to 5:00 PM local time.

It is advised not to go on Sundays. The day permits free admission for Guatemalan citizens and will likely be crowded.

Admission And Entrance Fees

Adult tickets for foreigners cost 150 GTQ ($20.46 USD).

There is no entry fee for children under 12.

If you decide on a sunrise tour and enter the park before 6:00 AM, the price of the ticket will be 250 GTQ ($34.10 USD). The extra cost is well worth it for the marvelous views that you will see, the lower air temperatures and the far fewer visitors, you will encounter throughout the park.

All tickets purchased after 3:00 PM, are valid for the following day.

If a traveler wishes to visit Uaxactun located 12 miles (20 kilometers) to the north, it will cost an additional 50 GTQ ($6.82 USD).

Unfortunately to date, tickets are not available for purchase on line.

Helpful Hints For All Travelers

There are no Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) at Tikal so you will need to bring extra hard currency (cash) with you.

Most tourists from northern climates visit during the dry season. This runs from October to May. The reduced humidity at this time of the year, makes the trip far more pleasant.

Tikal has a tropical climate, similar to that a traveler would experience in Yucatan Mexico. This reality will necessitate an ample supply of sunscreen, that will need to be reapplied throughout the day.

A visitor will also need to bring a generous supply of bottled water. It is important to stay hydrated during your visit of Tikal.

The post Tikal in Guatemala: One Of The Most Powerful Kingdoms Of The Ancient Maya appeared first on WanderingTrader.

Source: http://wanderingtrader.com/travel-blog/tikal-guatemala-one-powerful-kingdoms-ancient-maya/

Airport Tips to Help You Get Through Security Quicker

This article is brought to you by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) to help you avoid delays during the summer travel season.


It’s summer, you’ve been planning your big vacation for a while, and all you can think about is getting to the lake/beach/mountain – it’s understandable! But with your mind’s eye fixed on your destination, it’s easy to forget about the journey, particularly security screening at the airport. The good news is that being prepared can help you breeze through the screening checkpoint, leaving you more time to shop, eat or just relax before your flight.

The first step is doing your homework so you know what goes in your carry-on and what goes in your checked baggage. The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has some handy tools on its website, including a searchable “What can I bring” list that lets you know where to pack your items and what can and can’t fly. It also has a travel checklist generator and tips for all sorts of challenges –  from what to do with large sports equipment and medical supplies to travelling with pets.

According to CATSA, one of the biggest hold-ups at security is having too many liquids, aerosols and gels. Containers over 100 ml and 1-litre bags that are overstuffed with smaller containers (no seal; no deal) will need to be checked. As for that cup of java or water bottle in your hand – if it’s over 100 ml, be prepared to chug.

There are some exceptions, like liquids for kids under two years old and medication. You can check out more here. In all cases, the containers should be taken out of your carry-on bag and ready to present to the screening officer for inspection.

Once you hit the front of the line, it helps to have your boarding pass ready to show to the screening officer. You can also speed things up if you put any loose change, keys and small electronics (smartphones, cameras, tablets) in your carry-on bag so you can just drop it in the bin. If you’re travelling with a laptop or other large electronics (gaming console, DVD player) you’ll need to put them in a separate bin. For more information on what you can put in the bins at the checkpoint, you can find it here.

If you’re still wondering what to do with an item or want more information about security screening, you can always send questions to CATSA on Twitter or Facebook.

Lastly, travel is all about being mobile, so you should definitely download CATSA’s free mobile app. It’s available on Android, iOS and Blackberry, and can help you with all this and more, including wait times for security at most major airports.


Wishing you a great summer of travel!

Source: http://nomadicsamuel.com/travel-tips/airport-tips-help-get-security-quicker

Traveling to Santorini: Top Tourist Attractions

traveling to sanorini best things to do

When traveling to Santorini, the top tourist attraction is just simply being there! Considered as one of the most romantic and serene places in the world, there is no shortage of fun for when you get bored with gazing out at the beautiful surroundings and views of the Caldera.

Listed here you will find the top tourist attractions for when you are visiting Santorini.

Helicopter Tours of Santorini

Unlike the boat tours these do get fully booked, so reserve early. Tours last 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or 1 hour and you get incredible views of the caldera, cliffs, volcano, vineyards, and towns.

traveling to santorini

Explore the island from a different view, great for aerial photos!

Outdoor Cinema in Kamari

Who doesn’t like watching movies outside?! This outdoor cinema in Kamari is awesome and considered as one of the best in all of Europe! Its well worth a visit if you are visiting Santorini through the high seasons of April – August.

Take a break from the beautiful views of the Caldera and get cozy under the stars with some wine, beer, and snacks that are available at the kiosk. Movies are on daily and they usually start around 9:30pm.

best things to do in santorini attractions

Traveling to Santorini: Top Attractions

Take a sunset cruise out to Swim in the Hot Springs

The santorini sunsets are magnificent. What better way to see the sunset hit the white washed houses from out on the ocean with a glass of champagne.

Before the sun sets, you will be taken out to the natural hot springs where you will jump from the boat into the cold water of the caldera then swim towards the warm water of the volcanic springs. It never gets hot but it’s warm enough to never feel the need to get out.

The different options for boat tours include: hike the volcano, swim in the hot springs, visit the area of Thirassia and explore its villages, stop at Red Beach and White Beach to swim and snorkel, eat lunch or dinner on board, and watch the sunset below Oia.

Atlantis is believed to be buried under these waters around Santorini… so take a snorkel with you if you feel like diving for treasures!

traveling to santorini popular attractions

Santorini sunsets are famous all over the world, enjoy the view from a cruise out on the water for a different perspective

The Seafood Restaurants Of Amoudi Bay

Ammoudi Bay is a small picturesque bay just below Oia. This is where you will probably see some of the most crystal clear sea waters in your life!

You can go to Ammoudi by going down the stairs from Oia or by driving through the road and park a few meters before the bay.

It’s surprisingly quiet down here and you can usually get away without a reservation.

top tourist attractions in santorini

If you love seafood this is a great place to stop for lunch and is only a short walk down the the bay from Oia

Spend an afternoon visiting the wineries

Wine production in Santorini dates back to Roman times and it is still one of the main local products of the island. Artisanal wines, lovely terraces, incredible views and amazing Greek Food.

Red Beach & Akrotiri

Santorini’s beautiful beaches are legendary but the unique Red Beach is even more amazing and unique with each famous red and black volcanic pebbles. It’s only a short walk from the ancient site of Akrotiri.

Visiting Akrotiri is like traveling back in time. Walk around the streets and squares of a prehistoric city, admire the elegant mansions and high finesse of the 17th century B.C. If you have time, visit some of the Castles and Fortresses that are around this part of the island too.

santorini tourist attractions

Red Beach, Santorini

Hike the trail between Oia and Fira

This one can easily be the highlight of your trip to Santorini. It’s roughly a 2-3hr hiking trail which can be a bit steep at some points but it’s definitely worth doing as it will reward you with some of the best views of the island.

Make sure you do the hiking early morning or late in the afternoon as in the summer the sun gets very hot so take plenty of water with you, and sun cream.

best things to do in sanorini

Hiking the trail from Thira to Oia, Santorini

Eat Baklava and Gyros

You have to try a baklava and ice cream if you’re in Greece. Lucky’s is a small Gyros stand on the main street of Fira and a 3 minute walk from the bus station. (Ask anyone and they’ll point you in the right direction).

This is the real thing and just as good as anything you’ll find in Athens or mainland Greece.

traveling to santorini attractions

Baklava is a traditional Greek desert of nuts, filo pastry and honey

The post Traveling to Santorini: Top Tourist Attractions appeared first on WanderingTrader.

Source: http://wanderingtrader.com/travel-blog/traveling-santorini-top-tourist-attractions/

Ancient Spanish Monastery Of Florida: The St. Bernard de Clairvaux Church

How a monastery built during the 12th century in Spain, would end up being one of the oldest buildings not only in Florida, but in the Western Hemisphere is an unusual tale.

It provides the Church of St. Bernard de Clairvaux an unusual history, in the path to become the tourist attraction known as the Ancient Spanish Monastery. It provides the story to our 9th stop, in the series Off The Beaten Path.

City of Segovia, Spain

The monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux was begun in 1133 CE in Sacramenia. The area is located in the northern part of Spain, near Segovia.

After eight years of construction, the monastery was dedicated to the Virgin Mary in 1141 CE. The original name was The Monastery of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels.

The monastery was founded by Alfonso VII of Castile and Leon. It was built in the traditional Spanish style, of Cistercian Romanesque architecture. After its completion, he would have it occupied by Cistercian monks who had come from France.

Bernard of Clairvaux
Abbot lifespan 1090-1153 CE

When Bernard of Clairvaux was canonized in 1174 CE, the monastery would be renamed in his honor.

St. Bernard was a Cistercian monk and mystic. He was the founder and later abbot of the Abbey of Clairvaux, Bernard. Over time, he became one of the most influential Roman Catholic church leaders of the early to mid 12th century.

Some parts of the monastery were rebuilt, after being destroyed by fire in 1641.

Cistercian monks would occupy the monastery, for nearly the next 700 years.

The abbey would remain an active monastic community until 1835.

Queen Isabella II of Spain reigned from 1833 – 1868

Due to the social revolution of the 1830’s, the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux along with other cloisters, would be confiscated and sold. It would happen during the reign of Queen Isabella II of Spain.

The historic monastery building, would be converted into a stable and a granary. The Romanesque abbey church, remains one of the monuments of Sacramenia.

In 1925, newspaper magnate and publisher William Randolph Hearst, purchased the Cloisters and the monastery’s outbuildings.

The structures would then be dismantled stone by stone and packed with protective hay. It would take more than 11,000 wooden crates, that were numbered for identification purposes. The entire lot was then shipped to the United States. Some of the crates weighed over 3,000 pounds each.

William Randolph Hearst 1863 – 1951

An outbreak of hoof and mouth disease in Segovia around this time, resulted in the entire shipment being forced into quarantine, upon its arrival in the United States. Some of the information contained in the labeling process, was thus lost.

During the process of quarantine, the crates were opened and the hay filing was burned, as a measure to prevent the possible spread of disease. During the repacking, the items in the crates were not replaced correctly.

By this time William Randolph Hearst was unable to proceed with his plan, to reassemble the monastery, at his San Simeon estate along the California coast. Financial difficulties now made the venture no longer viable.

As a result, most of the collection would be sold at auction. The thousands of crates would then remain in a Brooklyn, New York City warehouse for the next 26 years.

Central courtyard surrounded by the cloisters.

In 1952, the year after the death of Mr. Hearst, the crates would be purchased by Raymond Moss and William Edgemon. Their plan was to reassemble the monastery and create a tourist attraction, on the site of a small plant nursery in northern Miami, Florida.

The crates would be shipped to the Port of Everglades in 1953.

It took 23 men, 90 days just to open all the crates.

It would then take 19 months and would cost $1.5 million USD (United States Dollar), to assemble the pieces for reconstruction. This is the equivalent of nearly $20 million USD in modern day cost, to put the monastery back together again.

Entrance to the cloisters.

Interestingly, some of the original stones would remain unused, in the process of rebuilding.

A 1953 Time Magazine article, would call it the biggest jigsaw puzzle in history.

Edgemon and Moss would take charge of the reconstruction in 1964. They together decided to add other decorative pieces, from different Spanish buildings to the original complex.

One of the most prominent additions, was the large round carved-stone coat of arms, seen in the cloister. This artifact had originally belonged to the House of Albuquerque and came from the monastery of San Francisco de Cuellar, also in the province of Segovia.

Another acquisition for the monastery, was the chapel that had been erected in the 15th century, by Beltran de la Cueva, the 1st Duke of Albuquerque. He has been a favorite of Henry IV of Castile. This also had been sold in the 20th century, after the secularization of the monastery.

Gardens surrounding the building.

Also later in 1964, the property would be purchased by Bishop Henry I. Louttit, for the Episcopal Diocese of South Florida. The geographic area encompassing the one Diocese, would soon be divided into the Central, Southeast and Southwest Florida.

Eventually financial difficulties, would force the three dioceses to sell the monastery.

Colonel Robert Pentland, Jr., who was a multimillionaire banker, philanthropist and a benefactor of many Episcopal churches, purchased the Cloisters. He would then present them to the Bishop of Florida, for the Episcopal parish of St. Bernard de Clairvaux.

Three doors from the monastery would be removed and are now in a private home located in Atlanta, Georgia.

The monastery is listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places.

Today, the parish Church of St. Bernard de Clairvaux is an active and growing congregation. It is located in the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida.

Church services are held regularly on Sundays and weekdays, in both English and Spanish.


The Ancient Spanish Monastery is located at 16711 West Dixie Highway, North Miami Beach, Florida. The Zip-code is 33160. The phone number is (305) 945-1461

The e-mail address is Info@SpanishMonastery.com


Adults $10.00 USD

Students $5.00 USD

Seniors $5.00 USD

How To Get There

  • Take Interstate 1-95 to Exit 14 (State Road 860) marked Miami Gardens Drive.
  • Go East on Miami Gardens Drive. (It is a four lane street)
  • Drive for 1.2 miles.
  • Turn Right (South) onto West Dixie Highway (also marked NE 26th Avenue).
  • Drive 1.2 miles south on Dixie Highway.
  • Monastery will be on your Left (East) side of the street.

Days and Hours of Operations

Monday – Saturday 10:00 am to 4:30 pm

Sunday 11:00 am to 4:30 pm

Visitors should note, the church and gardens do close for special events. Weekends are the most popular time for such occasions.

Check this website for details: http://www.spanishmonastery.com/calendar


Is available in nearby communities, surrounding the monastery and other nearby attractions.

The post Ancient Spanish Monastery Of Florida: The St. Bernard de Clairvaux Church appeared first on WanderingTrader.

Source: http://wanderingtrader.com/travel-blog/united-states/ancient-spanish-monastery-florida-st-bernard-de-clairvaux-church/