As with most major tourist attractions, getting to the Taj Mahal as early as possible ensures that you beat the herds (and the heat). Taking in the stunning beauty and tranquility of the Taj (really, photographs do it no justice) and the misty stillness of the surrounding area at sunrise you'll forget you're still in Agra; not so come 8am when the floods begin to arrive.
Take a trip outside Dublin to Glendalough (glen of the two lakes), a village in County Wicklow complete with lake and an ancient monastic settlement from the 6th century. A very magical place not far from Dublin city.
This is a Roman palace near the main square in Split (which also has a little cafe in it). There is a tower to climb up where you have fantastic views of the city, as well as being able to go underground and see the rooms that they have excavated. Well worth a look.
Look for the large tower and the main square - they are all within close distance from one another.
The tower's wonderful name Kiek in de Kok means, in Low German, "peep into the kitchen". Apparently soldiers in the tower used to be able to see into the kitchens of houses below it, hence the name.
The 118 ft (36 m) cannon tower was originally built in the 15th century as part of the city's defences. Its solid 13 ft thick stone walls proved invaluable during the siege of 1577 when Russian soldiers blasted a huge hole in the tower but could still not penetrate it or the city.
Now the tower contains an interesting museum relating to the defences of Tallinn and the various wars and sieges that the city, and tower, has witnessed. Exhibits include two cannons, which, like the tower, have great monikers "The Lion" and "Bitter Death". Along side these are some of the paraphernalia, such as a long loading stick, needed to work the cannons and quite in-depth descriptions of how cannons were loaded, fired and used. Indeed there is quite a lot of historical information given throughout the exhibition that can be a little overwhelming as you try to remember dates, wars, allies and enemies however, rather that than little or no information.
There is also a shiver-inducing representation of the Plague Doctor, all in black with a beaked hood - the beak was filled with medicinal herbs to try and ward off infection - and a stick for prodding and pointing.
On the top floor, where seagulls and pigeons perch in the windows, are some fantastic views of the city and beyond. It's easy to imagine the soldiers sitting up there trying to keep warm by the fire with just the birds for company.
A short walk from Alexander Nevsky Cathedral or Freedom Square.
Open: Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat-Sun 11am-4.30pm closed Monday
Externally the facade of the Stadhuis is decorated with 49 statues representing Royal and Biblical figures.
The original statues where destroyed in 1792 and replaced in 1862, however, the inferior masonry used meant that the statues had to be replaced again in the 20th century.
If you visit the Gothic Hall you are also given a guide to the statues telling you who is who and expanding on some in more detail.
We particularly liked “Baldwin with the Iron Arm” and the wonderfully named “Philip the Beautiful”.
If the Belfort stands guard over the Markt in Bruges then the The Stadhuis or Town Hall is sentinel of the Burg.
This magnificent Gothic building was built between 1376 and 1420 and renovated in the 19th and 20th centuries. On the first floor is the restored Gothic Hall, which can be visited for an entrance fee of 2.50 euros (price includes a very informative audio guide).
What strikes you first about the Gothic Hall is the vibrant colours with which it is decorated. The brown, gold, red and burgundy of the arched ceiling and the large, multi-coloured wall frescos. The latter were commissioned towards the end of the 19th century and show scenes from the history of Belgium and Bruges such as the defeat of the French at the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302. Where the ceiling arches meet are small keystones showing scenes from the New Testament and around the perimeter of the hall, where the arches touch the wall, are small frescos representing the months and seasons.
A small room leading off from the hall contains a number of historical artefacts including an interesting and detailed map of the city.
If you get lost in some of the attractive narrow streets of Bruges see if you can spot the distinctive shape of the Belfort standing out above the buildings as it is a useful focal point to lead you back to the Markt.
The Belfort looks like the sort of tower Rapunzel would be locked up in. Two square Norman style church towers stacked on top of each other with an extra hexagonal tower on top for good measure, decorated along the way by spires and arrow slits.
This imposing structure dominates the Markt and the surrounding area. Climb the 366 steps (count them, 366) to the top for fantastic views of the surrounding city. It is a bit of an 'energetic' climb, however, there are places where you can stop and rest for a while on the way, although with traffic moving up behind you and coming down ahead of you passing can be quite tricky (but a useful way to practice saying “After You” and “Thank You” in various languages). The views really are worth it though
And you might also hear the 47 bells of the Carillon play a tune.
Entrance is 5 euros
Open: 9.30am-5.00pm Tues-Sun (closed Mon)
Haha, you don't believe me?
Oh yes, we have got everything here in Edinburgh, and these ruins of a very curious attempt can still be seen behind the emergency exit of the library in Morningside.
Unfortunately, the owners are quite protective of the old cinema, which is not open to the public.
Entry via Springvalley Gardens;
Pics and article: blog.fempages.org/wp/?p=197
The Duke of Wellington stands imposingly outside the Gallery of Modern Art and some years ago, a cone appeared overnight, presumably the result of a youthful prank. Although it was removed, it kept magically re-appearing and eventually the authorities gave up.
It has become such a landmark that the statue and its cone have featured in tourist guidebooks. A few years ago, when Greater Glasgow & Clyde Valley Tourist Board wanted photographs to launch their new Web site, they removed the cone. Immediately, the Lord Provost, Alex Mosson, expressed disappointment, saying that it highlighted the Glaswegian sense of humour. His predecessor, ex-Provost Pat Lally joined in and also agreed it should stay. The end result is that Wellington (and sometimes his horse too) can be seen sporting traffic cones! Not that anyone is suggesting that the Provost and ex-Provost were personally involved....
Near Museum of Modern Art
The Scott Monument is along with the Balmoral tower clock and Edinburgh Castle, the most important landmark in Edinburgh. It features a statue of Sir Walter Scott. Sometimes Scottish bagpipers play next to the monument - it is common courtesy to tip him. Go in the morning to avoid the crowds.
The views from this 200ft tower are breathtaking and really give you a perspective on the magnificent layout of Edinburgh and its sights. Be warned though - there is no lift just 287 steps to climb to the top.
The monument lies in Princes Street gardens.
Along with Charlotte Square, St Andrews Square shows off the splendour of Edinburgh's New Town. Old and new buildings come together here with the Palladin country house (now housing the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland) and the famous Harvey Nichols store on the southern side of the square.
St Andrews Square lies at the eastern end of George Street and is just a 5 min walk from Edinburgh's main bus station.
Charlotte Square is the 18th century showcase of Edinburgh's New Town. The garden in the square's centre is tranquil and a great place to rest and appreciate the Georgian architecture of the houses surrounding the square.
Charlotte Square lies in the heart of the city centre at the western end of George Street (behind Princes Street).
The world's last surviving cable car powerhouse and carbarn (1887) houses a free cable car museum.
In addition to historic cable cars (including an original 1873 cable car), displays, informational video and souvenirs, you can watch and hear the motors and sheave wheels moving the cables underneath the three remaining cable car lines of one of America's few moving National Historic Landmarks (1964).
1201 Mason St (at Washington St), Nob Hill, San Francisco;
tel: (415) 474 1887
To get there ride Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde cable cars to Washington and Mason car stop;
If you believe in it, you can kiss the Blarney Stone on the top of Blarney Castle, about ten kilometres from the city. The legend derives from Cormac Teige McCarthy who, when he promised loyalty to Queen Elizabeth l, but would not give in to her, got the response from the Queen that he was giving her, “a lot of Blarney.”
If after climbing the Medieval stone staircases, hanging upside down over the edge of the castle you still feel like kissing the stone, well and good. Me, I can’t help thinking about everyone else who has kissed it!
With two sides of the tower in red sandstone and two sides in white limestone. “Partly coloured like the people, red and white is Shandon Steeple,” goes the local doggerel. The famous chimes of 8 bells can be rung by visitors for a few Euro. It was known locally as “the four faced liar” as each of the four clocks on the church used to show a different time. Now modern technology means they all show the same time. Ah well, it’s progress!
Church Street, Shandon
OK, it's tacky and touristy, but it's fab. Hang on to the side while you race down toward the Bay, or better still, late at night shooting down California Street. Better than a fairground ride.
There are cable car turnarounds at the bottom of California Street and at the bottom of Powell Street;
This is the most visited monument in Britain after the Tower of London, but it should be remembered that it is a working military establishment. Inside, roam the Crown Room and the Great Hall. Listen for the one o’clock gun fired daily, except on Sundays. Ponder the Witches’ Well, where women found guilty of witchcraft were put to death.
Situated on rocky outcrops, the castle rears over Princes Street, the main shopping thoroughfare, and an elegant, wide avenue, graced by public gardens with the tapering spire of the Scott Monument at one end.
tel: 0131 225 9846;
At one time, because Edinburgh was built on such hilly ground, the planners built bridges in an effort to even out the city. Gradually the arches of these bridges became shelters for traders and small manufacturers and as buildings grew up on either side they and their alleyways became absorbed into the surroundings, and forgotten - until recently when rediscovered and opened up.
A tour will take you through a doorway of ancient oak with creaking hinges that sets the teeth on edge, down dubious stone staircases echoing with footsteps older than your own and into the damp gloom of a cobbled lane that once was open to the air but now lies brooding with its memories.
No noise reaches here and only the drip of water from glistening walls of old brick, green with moss and algae, breaks the uneasy silence.
Everyone talks in whispers, if at all. The air is chilled and seeps into the bones.
We are taken under a low arch into a dark recess where the only light is that of the guide’s torch. Above curves the flaking brickwork of a vaulted ceiling with stalactites from limestone seepage hanging in one corner.
The guide talks about the history of the vaults and what they were used for but it is difficult to concentrate in the penetrating cold.
As we shuffle out into the alley to go to the next cavern, it is hard not to look back into the gloom and wonder.
Another vault is reputed to be haunted by the tormented soul of a small child, Wee Annie. Visitors, in order to bring comfort to this soul, have left dolls, teddies and pennies.
As you leave the grinning dolls with their over-large eyes and the teddies with their mildewed fur, you cannot help but think that later in the darkness of the mouldering caverns there will be…
Mercat Tours specialise in walking tours around haunted sites in Edinburgh;
Take a walk to Old Greyfriars Churchyard, where in 1858 a man by the name of John Gray was laid to rest, and although no stone was to mark the spot it was not forgotten. For fourteen years after his death, John Gray’s faithful Skye terrier, Bobby, kept guard on his master’s grave until his own death. His own grave, with a little statue of himself close by his master’s, is marked with the inscription: “Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.”
Greyfriars Place, Edinburgh;
tel: 0131 226 5429;
City Lights Books, in North Beach, is sacred ground for fans of the beat movement. Still run by the octogenarian poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, it retains something of the bohemian charm of its heyday. When you've finished browsing its impressive array of titles why not head next door to Vesuvios - Jack Kerouac's watering hole of choice - for the authentic beat experience?
261 Columbus Avenue;
tel: (415) 362 8193; fax: (415) 362 4921;
Open daily, 10am - midnight.
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