French Royalty

When thinking about France I immediately thought of Paris, as would most people. However, when considering what made France such an amazing country it is not just about Paris. The Palace of Versailles is one of the first things that appeared in my search and I knew right away that if I went to France, I would be there for the amazing palaces. Nothing, in my opinion, is more spectacular and breathtaking then spending a few hours wandering around an old palace ground.

Chateau de Chambord

Chateau de Chambord is well recognized by its French Renaissance style architecture. The Chateau features a whopping 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, and 84 staircases! It was originally built as a hunting lodge for King Francis I. After switching hands over the years, in 1930 the estate became state property. Inside the palace are a few different collections. One collection is of 17th-century tapestries. Due to the size of the Chateau, the tapestries have plenty of room to be spread throughout the castle and rotated seasonally so guests can enjoy them. The gardens surrounding the castle need much upkeep that they were failing to receive so they were turned into a yard, however, as of 2013, the castle is now working on recreating the old fashioned formal French gardens so visitors can get the full effect.

https://www.chambord.org/en/

Chateau de Versailles

This palace sits on over 2,000 acres of land and is the 16th largest palace in the world. Built in the 17th century and made into a museum in the 19th, there are many secrets and stories behind these walls. One of the most notable aspects of the palace is the Hall of Mirrors. The hall was built to connect the King and Queens living areas but was poorly designed for when bad weather hit. The room contains 357 mirrors on one side and 17 large windows on the other. The estate has over 1,000 fountains and 2,300 rooms. There are numerous gardens also on the estate giving it a light airy feel. This is one of the most visited places in France and I think visitors could get lost in its history for countless hours.

http://www.chateauversailles.fr/

Little Italy

Italy is one of many places I long to go to. The cities are filled with many notable buildings and pieces of art. There are numerous things to do from site seeing, operas, museums and even gondola rides.

Milan Cathedral

This gothic style cathedral took almost six centuries to complete and is the largest church in Italy. In 1805 Napoleon got the façade of the cathedral started and now has a statue that remains there of himself. The last gate was finished in the cathedral in 1965. Some of the reasoning for the construction taking so long was due to World War II along with it having so many fine details inside and outside of it.

The Grand Canal

The Grand Canal is one of the heaviest traveled waterways in Venice. There is public transportation provided by water taxis and gondolas used more by tourists or for date nights. Because most people travel down the canal instead of across it there has only been 1 bridge to get you across but recently two more have been added. Almost 200 buildings line the sides of the canal. Most buildings don’t even have a sidewalk separating them from the canal but instead have their back up against its edge. The buildings mainly date back from the 13th-18th-century architecture.

 

Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is one of the most iconic in Rome and has been in several movies. It was designed by architect Nicola Salvi and started construction in 1732. It is said that if you throw a coin into the fountain you will return to Italy and have good luck. A euro is supposed to be held in the right hand and thrown over the left shoulder. The Euro’s collected in the fountain are used for a subsidized market for people in need.

The Wonders of Bali, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia is an amazing place to visit if you’re looking for an outdoor, adventure. With many sacred temples to visit and many remarkable waterfalls, Bali is full of beauty and relaxation for everyone.

Tirta Gangga

Tirta Gangga meaning water from the Ganges is an old palace and one of many popular destinations in Bali. The water palace was erected in 1948 and has been a popular tourist and local destination since. Luxurious pools, fountains, and greenery surround you when you enter. There are also multiple carvings and statues making it even more elaborate and peaceful. Unfortunately, in 1963 Mount Agung erupted and nearly destroyed the entire property. Luckily, the property was restored to its seemingly beautiful state once more.

Mount Agung

Mount Agung is one of 2 active volcanoes in Bali. It is also known as the highest point on the mountain standing at 9,944ft. The volcanoes can be climbed and takes about five hours one way to reach its crater. Those who have taken the initiative to climb it say the top is typically covered in clouds. They recommend going at night and arriving at the top in the early morning hours to be able to best see. Its last major eruption was in 1963 where it killed roughly 1,700 people. Although it is still active, it only lets out smoke and ash occasionally.

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Pura Besakih

Pura Besakih is located around 3,200ft up the side of Mount Agung. It is one of the largest and holiest temple complexes in Bali. The complex holds 23 temples that run on parallel ridges of one another. The temples lead up the mountain because it is considered sacred to follow the path upward.

Tirta Empul

This temple is known for its famous bathing pools where you can purify yourself in the holy spring water. The temple at the top is currently being used as a rest house for when important visitors come. The temple contains 2 large baths containing 30 showers.

St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

 

About a year and a half ago my family had the opportunity to travel to the island St. Thomas. Years before we had visited St. John so we figured we would go somewhere new but similar this time. We stayed at an exquisite Ritz- Carlton hotel. The hotel was right on the water and has multiple, bars, pools, water sports and other offerings to make it a fantastic trip.

Ocean Festivities

On a few different days when we had the opportunity, we utilized the hotel’s kayaks and catamarans. The part of the island we were on was curved making it seem like its own little inlet. My dad and I decided we were going to kayak from our side of the island to the other side which didn’t look too far away! However, this was a terrible idea! We had to paddle against the waves the entire time and even though they weren’t large they were exhausting if you have no upper body strength! We never did make it to the other side but it was so beautiful and so nice to get out on the ocean we didn’t care. When we were on the catamaran one day we even saw a giant sea turtle swim near us.

Honeymoon Beach

Honeymoon beach was a day trip we decided to go on and is off the neighboring island St. John. It is a secluded little beach on the island where many couples and families go to relax. They also had a few kayaks people could rent out and a snack and drink hut for convenience. When we still trying to find the beach off a walking trail, we came across 14 donkeys! Yes, I’ve seen a donkey before but not wild donkey’s that are just parading around the island like they own it! It was such a small thing to enjoy but it was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Right before we reached the beach there was even a donkey crossing sign! I would highly recommend honeymoon beach to anyone who is staying on either island. It is so beautiful and there weren’t tons of people there with it being secluded.

Mountain Top

Mountain top is exactly what is sounds like it is. My family is big on banana smoothies and daiquiris and were told this was the place to go. After driving up a small road full of hairpin turns with views like you’ve never seen before you spit out at the infamous mountain top. Mountain Top is a huge souvenir shop coupled with a famous banana daiquiri bar and panoramic viewing deck. From the viewing deck, you overlook Maegan’s Bay and can see multiple of the other Virgin and British islands. It’s the best vantage point on the island due to its elevation. Coming back inside we got what was probably the strongest, biggest, banana daiquiris I’ll ever have in my life! It was very good but much sweeter than I was anticipating. If you didn’t leave Mountain Top feeling happy, it’s because you didn’t order one!

 

All aboard for St. Petersburg, Russia

Today I decided to write about Russia. After searching many sites I choose to focus on the charming city, St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg is not only filled with historic landmarks but also lots of exquisite art and architecture.

Things to do:

Faberge Museum

Most people who have been around art or have a small appreciation for it have heard of Carl Faberge. Faberge is famous for his Imperial Easter Eggs. Nine of his famous eggs can be found in the St. Petersburg museum along with other large exhibits depending on the time of year. In 2004 Viktor Vekeselberg purchased the collection along with about 4,000 other items making it one of the best collections in the world. The Easter Eggs were custom made for the last two Russian emperors.

http://fabergemuseum.ru/

Catherine Palace

Originally the Palace was said to be a modest, two-story home of Peter the Great and Catherine I. When their daughter Elizabeth took it over she hired four architects to build it into the amazing structure it is today. The outside of the palace is covered in more than 100kg of gold and the inside is just as exquisite. The Grand Hall measures over 10,000 square feet and opens on both ends to provide as much of a view as humanly possible. One of the most popular rooms, known as the Amber room was covered in decorative canvasses dating back to the 17th and 18th century. When word spread about the German war starting in 1941, the paintings were all shipped to Konigsberg in 36 hours. The works weren’t seen again and the room was recreated in 1982 and finished in 2003. I think this palace would be well worth taking the time to tour when visiting St. Petersburg for not only its history but its elegance and charm.

http://www.saint-petersburg.com/pushkin/catherine-palace/

Dining:

Gogol

This unique restaurant is the flat of writer Nikolai Gogol. He had a passion for literature and for cooking. The restaurant was opened in his honor with a menu catered toward Russian cuisine. Their best dishes are said to be made with venison although they also have fish dishes, chicken, lamb and rabbit too. One dish I would personally try is “Local farmer’s beef cooked a-la stroganoff delicately complemented with mashed potatoes and brined cucumbers”. Once inside the restaurant, you are asked which one of the many rooms suits your mood and that’s the one you will eat in.  I have attached some photos from their website from each of the cozy rooms but you can also click on the link to see more!

http://eng.restaurant-gogol.ru/index.html

 

 

Take Me To Church

For today’s blog post I decided to pick Delhi, India. I’ve always had an odd fascination with India and all the vibrant colors, people, and food. However, this post is about none of that! From my own experiences traveling, I’ve grown an appreciation for churches. To be honest I’m not sure if I believe in god or if I just believe there is a higher power watching over. Nonetheless, I am not a religious person but have nothing against it. My appreciation for them has not come from the religion preached inside but the feeling it gives the people within it. Churches and Temples are some of the places you tour the most when you travel to another country. I’m constantly left in awe by their age, intricate details, and pure size. The thought that people came together all those years ago in some cases to create such a magnificent place of worship astonishes me. In this post, I’ll briefly talk about three places of worship I would visit in India.

The Lotus Temple

This temple, also known as the Bahai House of Worship, is shaped like a lotus flower and has 27 petals making up its exterior walls with nine entrance doors. The temple was built in 1986 and can hold 2,500 people. It is a modern marvel in today’s architectural standards and is one of the most visited places in India.

http://www.bahaihouseofworship.in/

 Swaminarayan Akshardham

The Swaminarayan Akshardham was built in 2005 with the help of over 8,000 volunteers. The building is made of finely carved sandstone and marble. Not only does the ground have the temple on it but it also features gardens, bodies of water and a light show. It is said that each element is strengthened by non-violence, devotion, and learning. Many visitors favorite part is a 12-minute boat ride where you emerge into the Indian culture. If the boat ride doesn’t quite do it for you, there is also a light show that tells the story from Kena Upanishad.

http://akshardham.com/

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib

This house of worship is predominately of the Sikhism affiliation which is a newer world religion that originated in Punjab, India. Its golden dome can be seen from far away luring in tourists and locals. It was originally a shrine built in 1783 but has been expanded upon in more current times. The building houses a Gurudwara meaning kitchen, a holy pond, a school, and gallery. The kitchen is said to accommodate all people regardless of religion. The only rule is you must take your shoes off and cover your head before eating. Recently the site has been updated to even house travelers in hostel style housing so they have a safe place to stay at night and enjoy a meal.

I hope you enjoyed. Come back next week for a new post about Russia!

A Fresh look at Morocco

While looking into places to travel internationally, Morocco always seems to be somewhere on the list. Today I decided to highlight two destinations, one in Marrakesh and one in Casablanca. Both are the top two most inhabited cities in Morocco!

Things to do:

Jardin Majorelle

The Jardin Majorelle was created by Jacques Majorelle. Majorelle was a French painter who traveled and learned about all sorts of plants and decided to make what started as his workshop into a beautiful, well mapped out garden. The outside of the workshop was painted in a cobalt blue color that is now referred to as a “Majorelle blue”. The garden is filled with palms, willows, agaves, cacti and many other varieties of plants. Today the garden is open for the public to tour and the workshop area houses his works and the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakesh.

http://www.jardinmajorelle.com/

Hassan II Mosque

Whether you are religious or not, the Hassan II Mosque is worth a visit. It is the largest mosque in Morocco and 13th largest in the world. The mosque can hold 105,000 worshippers at a time. The mosque is filled with granite, marble, mosaics, and many other beautiful details. Parts of the floor are glass so when you worship you can look down and see the ocean breaking on the rocks under you. The roof is also retractable so on nice days they can let the sun in. The details and craftsmanship are part of what make this mosque so unique and beautiful. Over 6000 people helped in the creation of the spectacular mosque.

http://www.mosquee-hassan2.com/

Dining:

Nomad

The Nomad restaurant is near the heart of Marrakech Medina. Nomad provides a modern twist on Moroccan classics. Fresh, local produce and well-seasoned dishes are what put Nomad on the list of top restaurants to go to in Marrakech. They have intimate indoor seating as well as a large terrace to eat on and enjoy the views of the city. The menu has a variety of lamb, fish and chicken dishes to suit any palate.

https://nomadmarrakech.com/

I hope you’ve enjoyed, please feel free to share your personal stories of your travels to Morocco! If you have any ideas of where to write about next week I’m open to suggestions!

The Happenings of Istanbul, Turkey

When picking the next location I wanted to write about, I knew I wanted Turkey to be on the list! However, with so many great cities to choose from such as Ankara, Antalya, and Konya, I had a hard time picking. After much research, I decided to go back to the basics and research the most well-known city in Turkey, Istanbul!

Things to do:

Dolmabahce Palace:

This amazing wonder was built between 1843 and 1856 for the 31st Sultan. At one point, six sultans lived in the palace but it is now managed by Milli Saraylar Daire Başkanlığ. The palace has 285 rooms, 44 halls, 68 toilets and 6 baths. If the 285 rooms didn’t impress you, in the ceremonial hall there is a 4.5-ton crystal chandelier. It holds 750 bulbs and was a gift from Queen Victoria of England. The palace also has over 100 handmade silk carpets and 202 oil paintings! Fun fact: Down one large hallway is a private entrance to what is referred to as the Harem. The Harem was guarded and not accessible by any men accept the Sultan, inside lived his wives, children, and mother. Space was used as sleeping and educational quarters. With one Turkish Lira being $.28 in the US, a tour of this beautiful palace is only $11!

http://www.dolmabahcepalace.com/listingview.php?listingID=3

The Grand Bazaar:

The Grand Bazaar is unlike any other shopping experience for most! The Bazaar sprawls over sixty streets with thousands of shops to choose from. While at the bazaar you can find carpets and other antiques, paintings, jewelry and much much more! The bazaar is a huge attraction in Istanbul bringing in anywhere from 250,000 to 400,000 people a day! Due to its vast variety of items and salespeople, there are many worthwhile things to purchase along with shops that are naturally way overpriced. The best part about the Bazaar is that the merchants know not to expect to get full price for their goods so it is completely normal to bargain with the seller on the price.

http://kapalicarsi.com.tr/tr/?page_id=16

Places to eat:

Babylonia Garden Terrace:

The Babylonia Garden Terrace was built in 2003 and is operated by a family that has been working in the tourism industry for decades. The family wanted to please not only locals but tourists as well by providing Turkish, international and seafood selections. The environment of the restaurant is said to be cozy and warm featuring not only outdoor seating for pretty summer days but a magnificent fireplace used during the winter. At the restaurant, you would start your meal with a traditional Turkish, licorice liqueur or a cocktail and then choose from one of the many decadent main dishes. If I were to eat here I would personally want to try the Anatolion Chicken which is a “Fileto chicken breast roll filled with spinach, onion cream cheese topped with creamy sauce and served with grill tomato, green pepper and rice. “ or I would try the Stuffed Zucchini which is a “south easternanatolian favorite is made of zucchini fillet with sliced steak, onion, garlic, roasted chickpea and tomato topped with garlic yogurt sauce.”

http://babyloniagardenterrace.com/index.html

I hope you enjoyed! Feel free to comment about your favorite things to do in Istanbul! I also provided some URLs this week for the places I mentioned. If you want to learn even- more, go on their websites! Check out my next blog post next week when I talk about Morocco!

Walk like an Egyptian through Cairo

Welcome to Cairo, the largest city in Egypt. Cairo is a bustling city with over 6 million people inside its center and another 10 million surrounding it. Cairo attracts many tourists every year to see its magnificent landmarks and Islamic presence.

Thing to do

The Hanging Church

The hanging church is one of the most iconic in Cairo. It was built in the 7th century and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Back in the day, the church was called the staircase church because of the 29 steps to enter it. The church can be seen from far away due to its twin bell towers and biblical decor that enhances its outward appearance. On the inside, there are many iconic murals, geometric tiles on the walls and an 11th-century marble pulpit. Also inside are 13 marble columns that represent Jesus and the 12 disciples.

Muhammed Ali Mosque

In the early part of the 19th century, the Muhammed Ali Mosque was one of the biggest to be built in the citadel of Cairo. The mosque portrays its Ottoman architecture through its use of twin minarets, dome shape, and limestone siding. Sadly, even with many small updates and repairs, the mosque is hard to upkeep due to the time period it was constructed in. The interior of the many domes makes it not only appear more spacious inside but also offer a variety of artwork to look at.

Cusine

Abou El Sid

Abou El Sid is similar to a chain restaurant in that they have nine locations in Egypt. Unlike a chain restaurant in America, Abou El Sid’s food is anything from ordinary, offering Egyptian style dishes including pigeon and rabbit. Before Abou El Sid became so popular, he was a poor boy who was a very talented chef, word traveled to the Sultan’s Palace even about how exquisite his dishes were. The Sultan hired him to be his personal chef but the man no longer was happy and tried to leave many times. The Sultan said he could leave if he gave him all his prized recipes. When Abou El Sid denied to and escaped he wrote them down and put them in a secret place. Years later his book was found and turned into what is now a 4-star restaurant! Check out more about Abou El Sid on their website!          http://www.abouelsid.com/Home

 

 

Join me next week as I talk about things to do while in Turkey!

A trip to Cape Town, South Africa

If you’re looking for somewhere to immerse yourself in delectable food, views and culture, Cape Town, South Africa is the place for you! During the day you can hike and bike around many beautiful surrounding areas and enjoy the upbeat nightlife at the end of the day!

Things to do:

Table Mountain

Table Mountain received its name from its flat- top look. It is said to be one of Cape Town’s most popular, most recognized attractions! Table Mountain can be experienced two ways, by hiking or taking the cable car. Depending on the time of year, it can be an incredibly muddy hike up! The Aerial Cableway provides riders with a 360-degree view. It is one of the most spectacular views of the underlying city and sparkling ocean.

Boulders Beach

If you’re looking for somewhere to relax, try spending a day at Boulders Beach! The beach has scenic views of historic granite boulders, white sand, and African Penguins! Due to the beaches location, it is very rarely crowded but is perfect for families. In recent years because of pollution and habitat destruction, the number of penguins has dwindled down drastically. Nevertheless, Boulders Beach houses penguin’s year round that are sought after by not only tourists but locals too.

Greenmarket Square

This market is in the heart of Cape Town and features multiple vendors selling everything from vibrant mosaics, too rich fabrics, and beaded wonders. Due to its central location, there is always inviting local music, dancers and tranquil artists coexisting to make Greenmarket Square the place to be any given day!

Dining:

Biesmiellah

Thinking about having a traditional meal at very little cost? Check out Biesmiellah! Biesmiellah is positioned in Bo- Kaap, a historic area in Cape Town. Biesmiellah offers African, Asian and Malaysian dishes for about $6-8 in US currency. By looking over their menu I found that they serve Chicken Tikka which is a traditional Indian dish and personally one of my favorites! The chicken is prepared in a blend of spices and coated in yogurt and cooked in a tandoor/ clay oven. It typically has an orange color to it and tastes out of this world!  They also have multiple other curry dishes and seafood dishes making it pleasing for many different peoples tastes. Although I have never traveled to South Africa, I can’t imagine this restaurant being anything less than perfection!

~Join me next week for a look at Cairo, Egypt!

Tokyo Excursion

Welcome to Tokyo, Japan! Tokyo is best known for its bustling city center, peaceful gardens, shrines, and sushi!  With a population 13.62 million people, Tokyo is far from boring! Today I will walk you through the places I would personally visit if I were to have the opportunity to travel to Japan!

Things to do:

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is one of the most beautiful gardens in Tokyo. It only costs $2 to enter and contains 3 major gardens. There is the English Landscape, Japanese Traditional and French Formal along with some smaller gardens throughout. In the spring, the garden is a mecca of gorgeous, cherry blossoms. This is the perfect location for taking a walk, sharing a picnic or even catching up on a favorite book.

Shibuya Station

Looking for something a little more upbeat on your trip? Check out Shibuya Station, one of the most popular shopping areas in Tokyo. Shibuya is known for its bustling city life, bright advertisements, and many large department stores. Most of their fashion and entertainment trends are born here.

Tsukiji Market

The Tsukiji Market is one of the biggest fish markets in the world. They handle about 2,888 tons of fish a day along with meats vegetables and flowers. The Tsukiji has two bustling market space. The inner market space is where the fish is auctioned in the early hours of the morning and closes around 11am each day. The outer market has more fish to buy but also is where many restaurants including multiple sushi stands are located. The market is described to be an experience for those who haven’t witnessed such a large operation.

Dining:

Tonki

Tonki is a lower priced restaurant where you can get a variety of dishes for between $10-$15 dollars.  Most of these dishes contain pork with an endless amount of miso soup and rice. This restaurant is unique in that everyone sits around a bar with all the chefs preparing your food right in the center. This setup allows for socializing but also a quicker meal for days you’re on the go.

Tapas Molecular Bar

Nestled on the 38th floor is a very upscale pricey restaurant known as Tapas Molecular. Inside there are only eight seats and a chef that is prepared to make you a one of a kind dish. This restaurant is also sushi bar styled so you will get to watch as a wonderful food creation is made before you. The food is described to contain many textures and flavors that are a mix of Japanese and western cuisine.

 

Into the Alps of Switzerland

Ever wanted to be on “The top of the world”? St. Moritz, Switzerland, also known as “The top of the world” is one of many places I’ve had the privilege of traveling to with my family. Some of my favorite parts about this trip included Badrutt’s Palace, endless views and best of all, the exquisite cuisine!

Badrutt’s Palace

In 1856 Johannes Badrutt took over what is today known as Badrutt’s Palace. His son, Caspar Badrutt bought it from him, renovated it and by 1896 they opened as a hotel. The hotel has 157 rooms and 37 suites. It also offers 7 restaurants, 3 bars, and a club! The palace is constantly renovating but keeps its classic, elegant charm. Behind the palace, you can enjoy the beautiful views of the glistening lake and mountain range.

Endless views

One of the views I personally got to take in the most was the St. Moritz lake. Multiple gorgeous houses are nestled into the mountainsides surrounding the lake along with a walking trail giving it a cozy feel. Another amazing experience was hiking from the Muottas Muragl which is a summit that can be accessed by a steep climb up or by a railway. Not being experienced hikers, we choose the railway! The hike was astonishingly easy due to the fact that the majority was a cutout path around the mountain edge rather than steep, exhausting inclines the whole way. People always say the grass is greener on the other side, well, boy are they right! I have never seen such rich green grass, vibrant wildflowers and sparkling blue water in my life!

Cuisine

Words and pictures alone do not do the food justice in St. Moritz! One of my favorite experiences was traveling on a railway and in a cable car to get to the Piz Nair Panorama Restaurant. The restaurant is located about 10,000 feet up and has traditional foods such as homemade soups/pasta, dried meats, and veal. As you enjoy your meal you can take in the magnificent panoramic view or even step outside and snap some family photos overlooking St. Moritz. Another wonderful dining experience can be found in Chesa Veglia which is owned by Badrutt’s Palace. Chesa Veglia is in the heart of St. Moritz and offers 2 bars and 2 restaurants. Pizzeria Heuboden, within Chesa Veglia, will draw you in with the enticing smell of pizza in the wood-fired oven.
By then if you aren’t too stuffed from dinner, you can head deeper into the downtown shopping area for some delicious Swiss truffles and other decadent desserts. Confiserie Haselmann’s appears to be not only a favorite by tourists but by the locals as well.