Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest castle in the world that is inhabited. It is one of the many official abodes of Her Majesty the Queen and has almost a millennium worth of history dating back to the time of William the Conqueror. Spanning 26 acres, apart from the Royal Palace, the space holds a chapel as well amongst other things.
Windsor Castle has been used for various purposes by royalty over time: as an official palace, a garrison fortress, their home and sometimes as their prison. During times of peace, the castle was improved with the addition of many grand apartments, while heavy fortification was utilized during times of war.
The State Apartments, magnificent as they are, have on display the very finest works of art straight from the Royal Collection. They include paintings done by some of the most famous painters in the world, ranging from Gainsborough to Rubens to Rembrandt to Canaletto.
A fire in 1992 damaged over one hundred rooms at Windsor Castle, fortunately the ones in the worst shape were empty and thus only a handful of the treasured works of art of the Royal Collection were destroyed in the fire. The restoration work, which was finished in 1997 has been praised highly and was carried out by some of the best in Europe.
The private apartments of King George IV can be viewed between October and March and is one of the best decorated apartments in the castle.
The chapel at the Windsor Castle, St. George’s Chapel, features the best in Gothic architecture in the country and contains the tombs of ten sovereigns, which include Charles I, Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, his third wife.
Greece, located in the south of Europe is a grand fusion of civilizations, cultures and legends. The history is rich and the attractions overwhelming. Here are some of the top spots you should visit:
The Acropolis and the Parthenon – This is one of the must-visit places in Greece. If not, your trip will just not be complete. Acropolis, the extension of a rock has the Parthenon on its peak, which is the sacred temple of Athena. The best time to visit is during the early morning hours or evening – just to ensure that you avoid the rush of the crowd. Do not bother with the sound and light show, it is supposed to be quite corny!
The National Archaeological Museum – Museums are not for everyone, but still risk a visit here. It will be worth it. The displays are endless and all mind-boggling. Walk amongst ancient statues of gods and goddesses, with a red background reminding you that the walls of Greece remained that way regardless of rain or shine.
Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon – Going here might be a bit out of the way, but it is worth it. This temple on a cliff top overlooking the Aegean Sea is above all poetic and breathtaking. A visit in the early morning is beautiful and will also mean that it will be not as crowded as it is during sunset.
The Island of Santorini (Thira, Fira) – Make sure you get here by sea, as the beauty you will see as you slowly approach the island is not one that can be missed out on. The island is rich with legends of Atlantis, a legacy of a living volcano, eerie stories of vampires and great wine. If visiting Akrotiri which is a city ‘once buried’, you should go fairly early in the day, as the heat otherwise is unbearable. Staying at the hotels carved into the cliff is an experience not quite like any other, but if you suffer from vertigo, then this might not be a wise option.
Traditional British Food
It is obvious that London offers several choices to sample traditional British food. Here are the top three restaurants that offer the very best in fresh, local, English grub.
Simpson’s-in-the-Strand -This restaurant belongs to the Savoy Hotel. If you love meat or fish, then this is the place to be. Well known for good old British food since 1828, Simpson’s also gives you that feel of an era past, with its stunning interior.
Porters English Restaurant – One of the most popular restaurants amongst tourists, Porters has on offer everything from cod and chips to pies and fabulous roast beef.
Notting Grill – Meat, meat, meat – that is what Notting Grill is all about. It is owned by Anthony Worrell-Thompson who is a well-known chef and a TV celebrity as well. If you plan to go there, remember, advance bookings are a must.
Do you fancy scones topped with cream and jam, tiny cucumber sandwiches and fairy cakes along with a cup of tea? Britain is all about having afternoon teas – and here are some of the best places to go:
Posh Afternoon Teas in London
If you feel like dressing up and having a posh afternoon tea, then here is where you should go:
The Ritz – It is probably the most famous place to have a swanky afternoon British tea. You must book early as the place is very much in demand.
The Connaught – The Espelette restaurant at the Connaught Hotel is lovely and gives you a wonderful view of Mayfair. The fabulous menu is quite vast serving everything from scones, cakes, sandwiches and pastries.
Cultural Afternoon Teas in London
Another more fulfilling way to have a typical British afternoon tea is to have it while you visit some of the top exhibits in London. Quite a few galleries and museums serve a super afternoon British tea.
British Museum – Overlooking the 19th century Reading Room, the menu for afternoon tea has not only traditional scones, sandwiches and pastries but also Champagne Tea and Viennese Tea with coffee. Yum!
The Orangery at Kensington Palace – Once you have treated yourself to a leisurely stroll through the picturesque Kensington Gardens, the afternoon tea includes fresh strawberries with double cream. And if you thought that was a treat, you will also be served Tregothnan English Tea and a glass of English Pinot Noir.
With 1,200 islands dotting the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is a good place to escape the stress and bustle of your world. The atoll picture postcards are breathtaking with white sandy beaches, and crystal clear water. Here are five more reasons why Maldives should be your first choice for your next holiday:
1. Exclusive accommodation: Banyan Tree Maldives, Madivaru – Here, you will not find the usual water villas and beachfront huts – instead, you will be able to relax and enjoy your stay in a tented pool villa. Each pool villa comes complete with spacious living, eating and bathing tents. Fancy that!
2. Underwater dining: Conrad Maldives, Rangali
Island – Home to the only undersea restaurant in the world, Conrad Maldives sits on two little islands. Ithaa, the undersea restaurant is located 80 meters below sea level – and you can wine and dine while enjoying the sights of marine life. The restaurant seats only 14 per sitting, so booking in advance will work out to your advantage.
3. Spa holiday: One&Only Maldives at Reethi, Rah Island – Complete with vitality pools, crystal steam rooms, ice fountains, signature treatments, you can have it all at the resort’s ESPA spa. Over-water private spa suites are recommended for couples. The spa is run by Susan Harmsworth, well known spa guru while Bastien Gonzalez, renowned podiatrist offers fabulous manicures and chiropody treatments.
4. Family friendly: Island Hideaway, Donakulhi – This fabulous family resort has numerous activities for your kids, including a kids’ club, bicycles and a children’s playground. Speedboat trips, fishing cruises and dolphin safaris are also on offer for families staying at the resort. Water sports include water skiing, windsurfing, wakeboarding, diving, canoeing and snorkeling while the resort has a gym as well as facilities for playing table tennis, tennis, billiards, and beach volleyball too.
5. Private: Soneva Gili – Soneva Gili’s private reserve has five buildings comprising two master suites which feature floor to ceiling windows that provide breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean. A two-person bathtub built over coral gardens and an open-air private bathroom is also part of the deal. It also offers private spa facilities while your personal butler will cater to your every whim and fancy.
New York is a fabulous place to visit. Unlike many other cities in the world, New York has a wide range of attractions and they must all be experienced during your visit. Here is a list of all the ‘must visit’ places in New York:
Ellis Island – New York’s history begins right here. If you get yourself a New York pass, you can visit the Ellis Island for no cost and take a free ferry ride to the Island and the Statue of Liberty as well. Both are just a very short ride from Battery Park.
The Empire State Building – This building has been the icon of New York City since it was constructed in 1931. The building is extremely famous and is featured in numerous movies as well. Go all the way up to the building’s observation deck for some breathtaking views of the city.
New York Skyride – This is a virtual helicopter tour, which you can try out at no cost. Pass every New York cabbie while on this ride, and zoom through the city’s ever-famous traffic.
Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum – Here is your chance to see over 200 celebrities all under one roof; their lifelike wax figures that is.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Considered as one of the best art museums in the world, famed displays include Arts of Africa as well as the 36,000 strong Egyptian Art collections.
American Museum of Natural History – once again, one of the best in the world, the museum features the Rose Centre for Earth and Space.
Coney Island – You can take the subway there. Try out the Astroland Amusement Park, its rollercoaster and the hot dogs.
Central Park – Perfect for history and nature lovers, you can take the free tour of the park or just ‘Amble through the ramble’, a hike through a woodland area measuring around 38 acres.
Brooklyn Bridge – It was the tallest in North America when it was constructed in 1883. You can walk along the pedestrian walkway and see everything from Manhattan to Wall Street and even the Upper East Side.
Grand Central Station – The extraordinary ceiling is of interest to every visitor, while the station is also home to the largest example of Tiffany glass in the world.
Times Square – All the famous Broadway theatres are here and it represents one of the most iconic New York scenes with its neon and LED signs.
Oktoberfest is a 16-day German festival running from the end of September to early October. The two biggest festivals are held in Munich and Stuttgart. Beer, bratwurst and music are all essential parts of an Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest was initially a wedding celebration, where King Ludwig I of Bavaria threw a huge party of food and beer for all his loyal subjects just so that his people could enjoy and share his happiness on being married in October 1810. The party was such an overwhelming success that it soon became an annual event.
The Oktoberfest held in Munich is patronized by as many as six million people annually. At this time, the town is taken over by around three dozen or so tents, some as large as circus-sized tents with a capacity of around 5,000 people. Each tent belongs to a local brewer serving beer only of that particular label, while heaps of food and entertainment are also part of proceedings. Some of the most famous breweries in Munich include Löwenbräu, Spaten, Augustiner, Hofbräu, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr.
A family affair by day, Oktoberfest features a multitude of performances and other entertainment acts for kids as well as numerous rides and activities. By night, the party takes on a more serious ‘party hard’ note and the crowds are huge.
Beer during the Oktoberfest is in two flavors. One of them is called Pils also known as Helles, meaning ‘light’ in German. The darker version of it is called Dunkel – which in German, means ‘dark’. A special brew during Oktoberfest, Wiesnbier is far darker than Dunkel – and is sometimes mixed up with Weissbier, which is a light summer wheat beer usually served with a lemon wedge.
The Louvre, initially a royal palace, was converted into a public museum at the end of the 18th century. The Louvre is located in the first arrondissement, in the heart of Paris and has a magnificent 3,500 artifacts on display.
The museum, spread across three wings of the building, is home to a varied collection, which dates back to ancient times up to the mid 19th century. The collections range from European paintings and sculptures, Roman, Greek, Egyptian and Oriental art and ‘Objects d’Art’ as well, which include furniture, clocks and tapestries.
Venus of Milo, Michelangelo’s Dying Slave, Nike of Samothrace and Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci are some of the most famous artistic pieces housed at the Louvre.
Initially a fortress in the 12th century, it became a royal palace in the 1300s and then the Louvre in the 18th century. The building was built in many phases with one of its extensions fashioned by architect Pierre Lescot.
Louvre museum’s collection was initiated by King Francis I in the 16th century. One of his best purchases included the now famous Mona Lisa painting. Every king thereafter made additions to the collection via purchases and donations owing to its steady growth and in 1793, during the time of the French Revolution; the royal collection was made available for public viewing.
The glass pyramid is the latest addition to the museum and is the main entrance to the Louvre. Constructed in 1989 by American architect I.M. Pei, the ingenuous pyramid lets in sunlight to the floor built underground. Initially though, the glass pyramid was not well received, with many not agreeing to the modernistic addition as it was well in contrast with the building’s classic exterior.
If it is your first visit to Paris, it could get overwhelming. Every bit of the city seems to ooze history, every bit of it looks like it must be explored. To give you a little heads up, here are the top five sights and attractions you must visit in Paris:
1. The Louvre – one of the most magnificent museums, it is a must visit when in Paris. It is home to one of the most diverse and largest collections of paintings, Objects d’Arts and sculptures. The Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and the works of scores of other masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Caravaggio are all housed at the Louvre.
2. Notre Dame Cathedral – this is Gothic architecture at its best. The Notre Dame Cathedral is the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe with its spire, spectacular towers and stained glass that are absolutely breath taking. Climb the North tower of the cathedral to steal a glance of Paris from Quasimodo, the hunchback’s viewpoint.
3. Musée d’Orsay – a short walk across the bridge from the Louvre is the Musée d’Orsay. Here you can look at the world’s most extensive and prized collection of impressionist as well as post-impressionist paintings that include works by Van Gogh, Delacroix and Manet.
4. The Sorbonne and the Latin Quarter – founded in the 13th century for a handful of students of theology, Sorbonne is one of the oldest universities in Europe. René Descartes, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir are some of the famous people to have walked the corridors at here.
5. Eiffel Tower – probably the most famous landmark in the country, the Eiffel Tower, when it was revealed to the public in 1889 by Gustave Eiffel was unpopular at the time. Since then however, the tower has brought in over 220 million visitors.
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