The city of Barcelona, Spain, as all the Iberian Peninsula, has been clearly marked by its long history which dates to the Roman times. But what really left a deep impression and can still be fully appreciated today is what the Arabs left behind. Not only can you awe at the lovely cathedrals, temples and other buildings but you can feel it in the powerful, brave character of the people in Catalunya. The cities of Lleida, Girona, Tarragona and Barcelona make up the region called Catalunya and with it an extensive shore line which starts at the French border and goes mid-way down the Mediterranean until the Community of Valencia.Having so much coast, Barcelona has not only been able to captivate tourism in the summer with excellent beach resorts, hotels and water sports, but also thanks to its cultural and architectural activities. One of the most outstanding sights that everyone wants to see when traveling to Barcelona is the Sacred Family or as many people know it even though they do not speak Spanish is the famous Sagrada Familia at the Placa de la Sagrada Square. Antonio Gaudi, a renowned architect started to build a church for the needy in 1883. He, together with other architects, worked on this project which was supported by donations from those who cared. In 1898 he decided that he wanted his masterpiece to one of the most original known up until then and changed the typical bell towers which were always square to be rounded off. He also added the Swiss cheese appearance to them. By around 1923, the chapel called Saint Joseph, the east facing and the crypt had been completed. It had been worked on vigorously up until Gaudi died in 1926 and therefore buried in the crypt designed by him. Since then all the bell towers and other parts have been completed but it still has not been finished. But all around the city you can find gaudis works: La Pedrera, Mila House, and the park Guell. But The Sagrada Familia is still one of the most impressive pieces of architecture ever seen.A city full of Museums and AttractionsBut if you are looking for more strong emotions, then head over to the Picasso Museum. This museum is shared between five medieval palaces which contain a nice overall view of his different fazes. Therefore, it lets you travel from Malaga which was his home town to Paris, so well reflected in his paintings, to Russia and his captivating detailed ballet paintings and finally to Barcelona where he settled. This is an absolute must and even more interesting is that it costs so little, has long visiting hours to let you roam about, great public transport combinations and is found in the Cuitat Vella Parc. The Ciutat Vella ( the beautiful city ), was once the entire city of Barcelona until the end of the 14th century and was the principal and only surviving zones made up of four areas: The Gothic Neighbourhood, La Ribera, Las Ramblas ( flowered promenade ) and the Raval. It is so easy to find and get there because there are four distinctive landmarks that lead us by the hand as if it were a famous framed picture. Using the Catalunya Square as its left frontier, you go straight down Las Ramblas Street until you see the impressive Christopher Columbus Monument towering over you as soon as you reach the edge of the port. Leisurely strolling towards the north in the direction of the Olympic Port you come across the Cuitadella Park. At this point turn left to feast your eyes on the emotive Arch of Triumph some blocks away. Within this enclosed circle of narrow cobblestone streets and typically set up shops, you are wrapped up in living history.It does not matter if you are an avid Barcelona Football ( Soccer ) fan and know that this team is usually called Barca, or just a visitor who wants to enjoy a good match, do not forget to pass by the Nou Camp football stadium to reserve or buy your tickets. Football season is usually between September and May. This year Fran Rikard has led the Barca to win the Spanish Football League so there will be a lot of celebrations and neat souvenirs to buy. The Costa Brava and Costa Dorada, as this area is referred to, has clean cared for beaches and caters to the tourist both inside the city as well as on the outskirts with a wide selection of accomodations. There chalets, semi-detached homes and apartments for rent or all kinds of hotels starting from a simple youth hostel, passing through a bed and breakfast type lodging to three, four and five star hotels. Whether you are going to be in Barcelona for a romantic honeymoon, just a quick weekend get away, family holidays or a business trip, you can enjoy yourself in one way or another. You will never be bored because the information available on Barcelona can be easily found on the net, through travel agencies, or going directly to a tourist information booth when you arrive at the airport. This information is offered to you in many different languages and is usually free. It provides the traveler with precise information about museums and other monuments ( their prices and hours ), temporary exhibitions, banks, entertainment, restaurants and shopping areas, the sorts of hotels and where they are all located on very simple maps.
The celebration of Christmas in Cusco begins with the dressing-up of the city with coloured lights and garlands. These can be seen everywhere, from the balconies of the Monumental mountain to the streets around the main square, and donate the city with a warm festive ambiance.On December 24th, hundreds of artisans coming from Cusco and the surrounding towns lay their blankets on the sidewalks -a custom in traditional Andean fairs- and sell carved Nativity handicrafts.Held in Cusco's main square, Santuranticuy (which means "saints for sale") is a temporary market whose origins go back to the days of the Spanish Vice-royalty. Today it's one of the largest arts-and-crafts fairs in the country.The central figure of the Christmas fair is the Nio Manuelito, the Andean version of the newborn Jesus. Besides the baby Manuelito, you'll find the other Nativity figures -all with an Andean touch-, as well as saint's images. Much appreciated are the boxed scenes, known as Retablos, whose small figurines can represent almost every aspect of live, secular or sacred, though for the occasion you'll almost only find Nativity scenes.Although the fair started as a Christmas specific market, over the years it expanded to include other goods like antiques, silverware, and ceramic objects brought from Pucar and Quinua. At night, street vendors sell a traditional hot and sweet rum punch called ponche, to warm up chilly visitors.To facilitate both clients and artisans, the fair has been divided into sectors, each of which aggregates a speciality product. Among these you can find decorative ceramic, wood and bark crafts, miniatures and filigrees, silverware, stone crafts, stone sculptures, paintings from the Escuela Cusquea, and Nios Manuelitos.
Do you like hearty Southern Italian food served in hugh portions? Do you like to eat untill you are stuffed and still have a ton of leftovers to take home? Do you like to eat where everything is delicious, fresh and well prepared? Do you like thick aromatic sauses on your spaghetti and other pastas and meats? Do you like a highly varied menu? Do you like a noisy, brightly lit family style restaurant where it seems like one big constant party? Do you like restaurant employees, servers and supervisors that treat you like a member of the family? Do you want to go where you can dress casual or dressy and not stand out either way? Do you want a restaurant where they love kids and want everyone to enjoy themselves? If the foregoing sounds good, then you will love the Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurant in Old Town, Pasadena, California. By the way, the management are very attentive and if you become unhappy about anything let them know and they will do their best to make things right.
I normally prefer small quiet dimly lit restaurants where I can relax and have a quiet conversation with my wife and or guests, however the food and service are so good at this Buca di Beppo that anytime I crave Southern Italian food, this is the place that I pick. Additionally, my wife and I can invite two to serveral guests, treat and not break the bank. At first glance portion prices seem fairly high, however each portion can feed two to three people with plenty of food left over for our guests to take home. Our biggest problem is deciding which entrees to order. They are all so good. Note: This is an extremely good place to hold a birthday party or office function.
If there are just two of you, you may wish to try eating on their rather small patio and do some people watching, or you may want to eat at their kitchen table which holds up to six people, which of course is in the kitchen. This is a very popular table and it is almost impossible to obtain without a reservation.
This restaurant is located at 80 West Green Street, Pasadena, CA 91105 on the corner of DeLacy and Green streets, kitty corner from the Twin Palms Restaurant and at the edge of the Pasadena Old Town district. There is not much in the way of street parking but there is a large parking garage on Delacy between the Twin Palms and the JJ Steak House Restaurants. Reservations are not required for regular seating but this place is extremely popular and reservations are a good idea. Buca's telephone number is (626) 792-7272.
After eating you might find it a good idea to walk off some of that food by taking a stroll through Old Town. The Old Town district has plenty to see and do. Visit the boutiques and shops, check out an art gallery, take in a movie, go dancing at one of the night spots, watch everyone else or if you manage to walk off some calories have coffee and a pastry at one of the sidewalk restaurants or bakeries.
For a directory of restaurants and restaurant reviews in the city of Pasadena, California see http://pasadena.usacitydirectories.com/restaurants.html, a directory listing Pasadena restaurants alphabetically and by category or type with reviews written by restaurant customers.
I cannot recall the moment I discovered my fear of heights. I can remember falling from the top of a bunk bed once whilst on holiday as my sister slept on the bottom. I don't think that was the defining moment, though I'm sure it played some part in developing my phobia.But one thing was for certain. I knew I couldn't come to Llanberis without a journey on the Snowdon Mountain Railway. "Did you go on the mountain train?" they would ask."Er, no," I would reply rather meekly."Why ever not?" the inquisition would continue."Er, I was scared." I could hear the sniggering even now. The heights are not a problem provided the land slopes gently and there is no dramatic change in gradient. But I had seen the postcards, and boy did some of those drops look spectacular.So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I approached the ticket booth. The advent of internet bookings has left the railway struggling to meet demand, especially during the busy tourist season.Each journey to the top is made by just a single carriage pushed along either by the more romantic steam engine or a modern diesel. The distinctive smell of the steam engines is evident throughout the station and can become a little overbearing at times. But there's no tiring of the traditional sounds of bells and whistles and the whoosh of the engines.Ice at the summit of Mount Snowdon means a reduction in the return fare from 20 down to 14 as the train will only be going three-quarters of the way up. I purchased my ticket and waited anxiously for my carriage.The journey began sedately enough with a gentle climb out of the station before the serious assault on Snowdon. As the ground fell away behind the carriage we began to make slow but steady progress.The steep gradient meant we weren't travelling much faster than the ramblers away to the left who waved at us as they continued their assault on foot. Once we approached the three-quarter point the moment I had feared was upon me.Without warning the ground through the left carriage window fell away, exposing a near 2,000 foot shear drop to the valley floor of Llanberis Pass. Cars were just visible snaking their way through the valley road. The last time I witnessed events from this height was through the window of an airplane.Soon after the train came to a halt and we disembarked for half an hour of sightseeing before the decent back to the station. The views were magnificent but the difference in temperature at this altitude was remarkable. At ground level it was almost t-shirt weather but up here it was time for thermals.
One of the most used departure ports for cruise ships in the Caribbean is San Juan in Puerto Rico. We decided to arrive a day early to San Juan in order to see some sights before our cruise ship departure. San Juan, known as 'La Ciudad Amurallada' (the walled city), was founded in 1521 and is the oldest city under the US flag. During the 16th century, the Spanish used it as a point of departure for expeditions to the New World. Fortifications in the Old San Juan section of the city repulsed numerous attacks from the English and the Dutch during those years. Today, Old San Juan is a charming seven square block commercial and residential area with cobblestone streets.The cruise ship terminal is actually located near the south side of Old San Juan so instead of booking a hotel in the beach resort area of San Juan, we decided to book one right in the old section for close proximity to the terminal as well as the local sights. The $17 US taxi ride from San Juan's airport to Old San Juan was about half an hour. During the ride, I was impressed by how developed the city was compared to many other cities I've visited in the Caribbean. The beach high-rise hotels along the north side of San Juan were visible from the highway. Our stay for the night was at the Hotel Milano which is right on Calle Fortaleza, which is one of the major commercial streets in Old San Juan. The hotel was clean and comfortable but not luxurious which was okay with us as the price was very affordable. Its quality was probably comparable to a Travelodge or Days Inn. A very pleasant surprise was the free continental breakfast at the hotel's rooftop restaurant. It gave a nice view of the neighborhood from the top.We spent the day and evening walking the many cobblestone streets and alleys in the area. There are over 400 restored colonial buildings from the 16th and 17th century here. There were also several plaza squares and parks. One of the nicest services offered in Old San Juan is a free shuttle bus which covers two different routes through the district. There was a bus stop about 1/2 block away from our hotel which was very convenient. Riding on the shuttle buses through both routes gave us a good overview of Old San Juan. We were able to stop off at several points of interest including the huge El Morro fort. After our visits to each attraction, we just had to wait for the next bus to come by to continue our tour. In the evening, we did get lost while walking since many of the streets look very similar. But with our map, we eventually found our way back to the street where the Hotel Milano was. We decided to dine at one of the nearby restaurants for authentic Puerto Rican cuisine and were not disappointed. My lady especially adored the two different plantains we ordered. When it was time to go to the cruise ship terminal, we just took a short five minute ride from our hotel. Our short stay in Old San Juan was definitely worthwhile and hassle free. A stay in Old San Juan is highly recommended for those who will be taking a Caribbean cruise with San Juan as the departure point. The only disappointment I had with San Juan was that I was hoping to do some scuba diving in the area but from the reports I read, the waters off the city are quite murky with limited marine life to see. This is likely the result of San Juan being such a busy port. The decent scuba diving sites are about 2 hours east of San Juan. So perhaps in a return trip to Puerto Rico, I will plan to make a trip to the east part of the island.