Tag Archives: World Heritage Site

The Empress Hotel – Victoria – British Colombia – Canada

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When it was time for Tin Man to celebrate his 60th Birthday there was no hesitation as to where the event would take place……..The Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Colombia.  After a brief stay in Seattle, it was time to take the ferry over to Victoria Island….

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Canada 072………and then after a peaceful voyage, we arrived and our beautiful Empress Hotel…..the Edwardian, château-style hotel was designed by Francis Rattenbury for Canadian Pacific Hotels as a terminus hotel for Canadian Pacific’s steamship line, whose main terminal was just a block away.   The hotel was to serve businesspeople and visitors to Victoria, but later as Canadian Pacific ceased its passenger services to the city, the hotel was successfully remarketed as a resort to tourists. Victoria emerged as a tourist destination beginning in the mid-to-late 1920s.

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The hotel was built between 1904 and 1908, opening for service in that year. Additional wings were added between 1909 and 1914, and in 1928.

During this time, The Empress (as it was known then) played hostess to kings, queens, movie stars and many famous people.

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In 1919, Edward, Prince of Wales waltzed into the dawn in its Crystal Ballroom – an event considered by Victorians to be of such importance that almost 50 years later, the obituaries of elderly ladies would appear under headlines such as, ‘Mrs. Thornley-Hall Dies. Prince of Wales Singled Her Out.’

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In the 1930s, Shirley Temple arrived accompanied by her parents amid rumors that she had fled from California because of kidnapping threats, a story borne from the presence of two huge bodyguards who took the room opposite hers and always left their door open.

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On May 30, 1939 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth attended a luncheon at the Empress, as guests of the Provincial Government.

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For many years the hotel did not have a sign above the front entrance. The strong emotions the hotel evoked in Victorians and its guests and protectors is exemplified in the statement made by an irate gentleman, as workers raised the sign above the front entrance:

‘Anyone who doesn’t know this is The Empress shouldn’t be staying here.’

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The hotel has received several accolades including Travel + Leisure Best Hotels of the World and recognized on Conde Nast Gold List. The hotel became Victoria’s first Five Green Key hotel as acknowledged by the Hotel Association of Canada for sustainability practices.

The Tin Man booked a Fairmont Gold Two Bedroom – Two Bath Suite at The Empress, as it was to be a grand celebration….

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The Suite faced the harbor and as it went around the corner also faced the Government Buildings…..Marvelous views….The Tin Man could often been seen at the window waving to tourists below as if he were English Royalty…

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The Gold Level Suite provided a lovely lounge in which Tin Man relaxed everyday and had a delightful breakfast…..

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With Beautiful Views of the Harbor…and occasionally a visitor…….. 

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In the Afternoon, Tin Man enjoyed Tea in the Lounge……never leaving the Gold Floor to explore for the first several days……

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The Morning of his 60th Birthday, Tin Man was awakened by the doorbell and a bellman delivered a most beautiful gift,  a Fairmont Robe, monogrammed in gold with Tin Man’s initials………….

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The Tin Man scampered down the hall to enjoy breakfast in the lounge

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…..upon return ……look at the most delightful gift left in his suite….

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The Afternoon of his Birthday, Tin Man decided it was time to leave the floor and explore the hotel…….but first….

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Yes, that is correct, time for the Formal Afternoon Tea, served in the Tea Room of the Hotel….

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 A time honoured tradition for over a century, the world renowned tea lobby of Fairmont Empress has served England’s most beloved ritual and Victoria’s grandest tradition of Afternoon Tea to famed royalty, celebrities and dignitaries alike.

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Surrounded by rich chintz fabrics, antiqued tapestries and rugs, elegant wing back chairs, vintage furnishings and hand-carved tables, the picturesque backdrop of the Inner Harbour provides the quintessential Victoria experience to all who grace Afternoon Tea.
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Chef and Team prepare house-made signature Empress scones, delectable pastries and tea sweets daily, reflecting locally sourced ingredients to ensure an authentically memorable experience.

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From the original blend of The Empress Tea created specifically for Fairmont Empress, served in dainty William Edwards china and sterling silver service to the enchanting ambiance of the live piano

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After Tea, a walk about the Hotel and Grounds….

Oh …….the most beautiful Flowers…..

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 Canada 132Canada 134Attached to The Empress is the Victoria Conference Center….oh beautiful architecture….

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The Empress holds many charms to behold….

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Pure Magical Delight…..a most marvelous adventure.

The Staff of The Empress was over-the-top attentive and worked to ensure that everything was perfect.

Duane LaChance, the Concierge Gold Manager, was absolutely incredible and made this a most memorable stay.

So, it was time to enjoy the last beautiful sunset from our suite and continue our adventure…..

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St. Helena – California

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The City of St. Helena is located in the center of the world famous wine growing Napa Valley, 65 miles north of San Francisco. The area was settled in 1834 as part of General Vallejo’s land grant. The City of St. Helena was incorporated as a City on March 24, 1876 and reincorporated on May 14, 1889.

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The St. Helena area was home to the Wappo people, a Yukian-speaking group who were the area’s earliest inhabitants. The local Callajomanes tribelet village was called Annakotanoma or Anakanoma and was located where Sulphur Creek meets the Napa River. The earliest white settlers in St. Helena were John York, who lived on what is now Dean York Lane, and David Hudson, whose house is still located at Beringer Winery.

We loved the quaint feel of the town and so appreciated that the old buildings were kept in their original manner

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We were planning to have lunch at  the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone

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….but alas…..they were closed!!!!

We came upon COOK and decided that the place was perfect for a lunch break..

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We loved the décor and found the wait staff to be relaxed and friendly..

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The Menu was quite lovely and promised all sorts of delights…

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The Kitchen was open so the Tin Man went to investigate the happenings…

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A cozy table was found and the culinary journey began…

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The faux trophy in the lobby was beautiful…

california 326 Of course then it was off to the streets to find a sweet something…….

Oh look…….The Model Bakery……..

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It is lovely here in St. Helena ……but we must get back to Napa and have dinner….

Beautiful Vineyards ……..

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So……….finally some food!……….Dinner in downtown Napa..at Celadon..in the Historic Napa Mill

Lovely rustic environment and first class service…..

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Sangria…….Soup………Crab Cakes……….Mussels……..ah perfection…

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It has been a day filled with culinary delights…….hope you are ready for a nap……..I am!

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Mission San Francisco Solano – Sonoma, California

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Mission San Francisco Solano was the 21st, last and northernmost mission in Alta California.

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 It was the only mission built in Alta California after Mexico gained independence from Spain. The difficulty of its beginning demonstrates the confusion resulting from that change in governance.

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You see, the California Governor wanted a robust Mexican presence north of the San Francisco Bay to keep the Russians who had established Fort Ross on the Pacific coast from moving further inland. A young Franciscan friar from Mission San Francisco de Asis wanted to move to a location with a better climate and access to a larger number of potential converts.

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Here is a photograph of the Mission in 1910

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and one taken by the Tin Man……….notice that the building is very much the same today and the original bell stands where it always has…

 

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The Mission was successful given its short eleven year life but was smaller in number of converts and with lower productivity and diversity of industries than the older California missions.

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The mission building is now part of the Sonoma State Historic Park and is located in the city of Sonoma, California.    

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Sonoma is considered the birthplace of wine-making in California, dating back to the original vineyards of Mission San Francisco Solano, so Tin Man considers this a most important historic landmark!

We so enjoyed walking about and exploring the historic site…..alas we were the only ones inside, the trinket shops were packed but there seemed to be no interest in history today……

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On July 4, 1823 the soldiers placed a large redwood cross on the place in the Sonoma Valley where they expected the ‘new’ Mission San Francisco de Asis to be established. Then they celebrated Mass to consecrate the location. They then returned south to begin gathering men and materials to begin construction.

Tin Man imagined marvelous breads baking in this oven all those years ago….

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Beginning in October, 1823 Fr. Altimira had the opportunity to build his new mission at the location he chose but since Mission San Francisco de Asís would remain open this Mission needed a different patron saint. Altimira chose San Francisco Solano, a 17th-century Franciscan missionary to South America.    His company of soldiers and neophytes set about building all the facilities needed in a California mission. His annual report for 1823 listed no baptisms, one marriage, one funeral.

Father Altimira was admonished by investigating church officials for his over-use of flogging. Fearful of a native uprising, he left for San Rafael and then moved on to Mission Buenaventura in southern California. As a result of growing Mexican pride, there was considerable sentiment in favor of forcing out priests who were Spanish-born. In 1828, Father Altimira voluntarily returned to his native Spain.
His replacement was Father Buenaventura Fortini, an older priest, who was both a fine administrator and a kindly man of the cloth, who gained the respect and trust of the Indian population.

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SONOMA – CALIFORNIA

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The Tin Man and his quest for wine has lead him to Sonoma…..Sonoma is considered the birthplace of wine-making in California, dating back to the original vineyards of Mission San Francisco Solano  about that in a later  then improvements made by Agoston Haraszthy, the father of California viticulture and credited with introduction of the Zinfandel/Primitivo grape varietal.

The Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival takes place late each September, and is California’s oldest celebration of its winemaking heritage…

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The drive into Sonoma takes one past a most beautiful sculpture of a man working a wine press, it is quite lovely against the horizon….

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Every hill is covered by vineyards and prestigious winemakers….

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The Tin Man resists the urge to stop and begin tasting wine, as his destination is the historical town square of Sonoma…

El Pueblo de Sonoma was laid out in the standard form of a Mexican town, centered around the largest plaza in California, 8 acres in size. This plaza is surrounded by many historical buildings, including the Mission San Francisco Solano, Captain Salvador Vallejo‘s Casa Grande, the Presidio of Sonoma, the Blue Wing Inn, the Sebastiani Theatre, and the Toscano Hotel.

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In the middle of the plaza, Sonoma’s early 20th-century city hall, at the plaza’s center and still in use, was designed and built with four identical sides in order not to offend the merchants on any one side of the plaza.

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The plaza is a National Historic Landmark and still serves as the town’s focal point, hosting many community festivals and drawing tourists all year round.

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Throughout the area surrounding the Plaza are so many beautiful sights…

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There are approximately thirty restaurants in the plaza area, including Italian, Irish, Mexican, Portuguese, Basque, Mediterranean, Himalayan, and French. It provides a central tourist attraction. It is also the location of the Farmer’s Market, held every Tuesday evening from April to October.  Well you know The Tin Man…..off to find an interesting restaurant………well tucked in the back of an alley off the main plaza, we found a delight…

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The moment we saw the sign we had to find a table.  The Tin Man so loved the food in Lisboa

Here is a pic of the clams from Lisboa, Portugal…

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Well don’t you know Tin Man was expecting no less from La Salette….

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The lovely Portuguese Bread….a little sweet ……of so delightful….

Then the starters……….of for the love of Hestia…..what delights….

Honey Roasted Almonds, Cow’s Cheese with Apricot Jam, Escarcot, Pork Trotter Terrine (yes…..Pig’s Feet) and lovely dark bread…

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Then the Clams………wow what a presentation…..

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Beautiful and Delightful……but alas, missing the olives…..perhaps too much for the American pallet…

oh yes….the Paella……….yummy..

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It was a most marvelous visit to the Plaza of Sonoma, hope you enjoyed coming along….

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Tower of Belem : Lisbon – Portugal

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Belém Tower or the Tower of St Vincent is a fortified tower located in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém in the municipality of Lisbon, Portugal.

The Tower was originally built on a small island in the Tagus River and now sits on the shore due to the river being redirected after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site  because of the significant role it played in the Portuguese maritime discoveries of the era of the Age of Discoveries.

The tower was commissioned by King John II to be part of a defense system at the mouth of the Tagus river and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon.

The tower was built in the early 16th century and is a prominent example of the Portuguese Manueline style, but it also incorporates hints of other architectural styles.

The structure was built from lioz limestone and is composed of a bastion and the 100 foot four story tower.

On the outside of the lower bastion, the walls have spaces for 17 canons with portholes open to the river and an ocular in the north.

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The upper tier of the bastion is crowned by a small wall with bartizans in strategic places, decorated by rounded shields with the cross of the Order of Christ that circle the platform.

King Manuel I was a member of the Order of Christ and the cross of the Order of Christ is repeatedly used numerous times on the parapets.

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These were a symbol of Manuel’s military power, as the knights of the Order of Christ contributed to numerous military conquests in that era. 

 The bartizans, cylindrical watchtowers, in the corners are cover in zoomorphic corbels and domes covered with buds. The corners of this platform have turrets topped by Moorish-looking cupolas.

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The base of the turrets have images of beasts, including a rhinoceros.

This rhinoceros is considered to be the first sculpture of such an animal in Western European art and probably depicts the rhinoceros that Manuel I sent to Pope Leo X in 1515 which was caged in the tower at one time.

This is the same rhinoceros that is mentioned in my post about Marseille : CLICK HERE to see that story….

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As you walk about the area you realize you are surrounded by all sorts of wonders…

Like this bridge….. Ponte 25 de Abril (25th of April Bridge)

If you have been to San Francisco, California, and this bridge looks familiar……well it should……

  It was built by the same company (American Bridge Company) that constructed the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and not the Golden Gate, also explaining its similarity in design.

Until 1974, the bridge was named Salazar Bridge (Ponte Salazar). The name “25 de Abril” commemorates the Carnation Revolution.  It was inaugurated on August 6, 1966 and a train platform was added in 1999.

Also nearby is the Monument to the Discoveries  located on the edge of the Tagus’ northern bank, it was erected in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator.

The monument is sculpted in the form of a ship’s prow, with dozens of figures from Portuguese history following a statue of the Infante Henry sculpted in base relief.

As we were enjoying all the marvelous sights, a submarine suddenly appeared….

Then, just across the road, is Jerónimos Monastery  located along the Praça do Império (Empire Square),   it was originally built to support pilgrims who travelled in the region by Henry the Navigator; expanded and elaborated from 1501 by architects for King Manuel I of Portugal to serve as a resting-place for members of the House of Aviz; and as a church for seafaring adventurers who embarked during the Age of Discovery, after Vasco da Gama‘s successful voyage to India.

Construction was funded by a tax on eastern spices, and over time came to represent Portuguese historical discoveries, becoming over time a national monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site, housing artifacts and exhibitions like the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (National Archaeological Museum) and the Museu da Marinha (Maritime Museum) within its walls.

Just amazing………all these beautiful historical sites nestled together!

Well you know the Tin Man…….an appetite has been worked up and we are off to  Restaurante Triperio

Oh the delights begin………

Marvelous Olives, Famous Portuguese Bread and the Cheese…..France, you best beware….this is good!

Then the Soups…….on the left a wonderful Bean Soup and on the right an OVER THE TOP Garlic and Bread Soup…

Then the most amazing Pork and Clams in a Traditional Broth with Olives and Vegetables….

But Alas, it is time to bid farewell to Belem…I do hope you enjoyed visiting this most wondrous of places with me….

Grosseto – Italy

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grosetto3You always know when you are entering Tuscany……the surroundings suddenly begin to look sculpted, as if you were walking in a work of art…

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Our destination is Grosseto, whose origins can be traced back to the High Middle Ages.

Grosseto was first mentioned in 803 as a fief of the Counts Aldobrandeschi, in a document recording the assignment of the church of St. George to Ildebrando degli Aldobrandeschi, whose successors were counts of the Grossetana Mark until the end of the 12th century.

Grosseto is enchanting, in part, due to the fact that the city is surrounded by ancient Medicean Walls.

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The walls embrace this beautiful city and no vehicles are allowed!  Peaceful, quiet and simply divine!

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  Grosseto has a long and turbulent history.  In 1137 the city was besieged by German troops, led by duke Henry X of Bavaria, sent by the emperor Lothair III to reinstate his authority over the Aldobrandeschi.

In the following year the bishopric of Roselle was transferred to Grosseto.

In 1151 the citizens swore loyalty to the Siena, and in 1222 the Aldobrandeschi gave the Grossetani the right to have their own podestà, together with three councilors and consuls.

In 1244 the city was reconquered by the Sienese, and its powers, together with all the Aldobrandeschi’s imperial privileges, were transferred to Siena by order of the imperial vicar.

Thereafter Grosseto shared the fortunes of Siena. It became an important stronghold, and the fortress (rocca), the walls and bastions can still be seen today.

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In 1266 and in 1355, Grosseto tried in vain to win freedom from the overlordship of Siena. While Guelph and Ghibelline parties struggled for control of that city, Umberto and Aldobrandino Aldobrandeschi tried to regain Grossetto for their family. The Sienese armies were however victorious, and in 1259 they named a podestà from their city. But Grosseto gained its freedom and in the following year and fought alongside the Florentine forces in the Battle of Montaperti.

Over the next 80 years Grosseto was again occupied, ravaged, excommunicated by Pope Clement IV, freed in a republic led by Maria Scozia Tolomei, besieged by emperor Louis IV and by the antipope Nicholas V in 1328, until it finally submitted to its more powerful neighbour, Siena.

The pestilence of 1348 struck Grosseto hard and by 1369 its population had been reduced to some hundred families. Its territory, moreover, was frequently ravaged, notably in 1447 by Alfons V of Sicily and in 1455 by Jacopo Piccinino.

Sienese rule ended in 1559, when Charles V handed over the whole duchy to Cosimo I de Medici, first Grand Duke of Tuscany.

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Later you will see that we had the privilege of dining in an ancient Medici building that was an amazing experience.

In 1574 the construction of the Medicean Walls was begun and we are so glad they survived and protect this beautiful city today.

We knew that our visit to Grosseto would include staying at the marvelous Grand Hotel Bastiani

grosetto4We had stayed here once before and fell in love with the old world charm and elegance of the hotel

It is located just inside the ancient Medicean Walls and on the Piazza Gioberti, in the shadow of the Cathedral of Grosseto…

grosetto6I do not usually gush on about hotels; however, this one is on the top of the list of our favorites…

A beautiful staircase….

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europe2 163…..and nothing……….nothing beats an Italian Breakfast……..nothing….

europe2 160Okay, enough gushing…………..onto the city….

The Romanesque cathedral, the main monument of the city, is named for its patron St. Lawrence, and was begun at the end of the 13th century, by architect Sozzo Rustichini of Siena.

It was erected over the earlier church of Santa Maria Assunta, it was only finished in the 15th century (mainly due to the continuing struggles against Siena).

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The façade of alternate layers of white and black marble is Romanesque in style, but is almost entirely the result of 16th century and 1816–1855 restorations: it retains decorative parts of the original buildings, including Evangelists’ symbols.

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The layout consists of a Latin cross, with transept and apse.

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The interior has a nave with two aisles, separated by cruciform pilasters. The main artworks are a wondrously carved baptismal font from 1470–1474 and the Madonna delle Grazie by Matteo di Giovanni (1470).

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The campanile (bell tower) was finished in 1402, and restored in 1911.

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The Church of San Francesco is located on the Omonym Square, it was built in the Middle Ages.

It was an important Benedictine convent, before moving to the Franciscans.

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At the center of the cloister stands the characteristic Pozzo della Bufala (Well of the Buffalo) in travertine; another well is located in the square outside the church.

Then there is the Church of San Pietro. the oldest religious building in Grosseto, it was built along the stretch of the Via Aurelia that crossed the center and was originally a plebeian and stational church along the old consular road.

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The beautiful Palazzo Aldobrandeschi whose origins are medieval.  It is now a Neo-Gothic edifice with ogival mullioned windows and merlons in the upper part of the walls.

It houses the seat of the province of Grosseto. The architect was Lorenzo Porciatti.

europe2 165The city is filled with marvelous shops and the people are all so relaxed and friendly……………

…..I do believe it is the absence of vehicles!

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europe2 173As we venture about town we stumble upon an ancient structure whose upper portions have collapsed over the years…

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The Ristorante Locanda de Medici de Peccianti…WOW……….we must eat here!

europe2 176We find the entrance into the ancient Medici cellars that now house this fantastic restaurant…

We learn that these ancient cellars were used as bomb shelters during World War II…..

europe2 168We venture into a world of culinary delight….

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Leonardo, the Chef – Owner waits on us!  The pasta is hand made………no machines….

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grosetto14What a delightful and enchanting visit we have had here in Grosseto…….now it is off to bed to dream of the rest of the journey ahead….

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……….until next time ciao!

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The Alcazar of Segovia – Spain

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….and so it begins, our journey to The Alcazar of Segovia

She sits upon the hilltop guarding over the town, her steady gaze upon us.

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Rising out on a rocky crag above the confluence of the rivers Eresma and Clamores near the Guadarrama mountains, it is one of the most distinctive castle-palaces in Spain by virtue of its shape – like the bow of a ship.

The Alcázar was originally built as a fortress but has served as a royal palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College and a military academy since then.

The castle is one of the inspirations for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle.

The Alcázar of Segovia, like many fortifications in Spain , started off as an Arab fort, which itself was built on a Roman fort but little of that structure remains.

The first reference to this particular Alcázar was in 1120, around 32 years after the city of Segovia returned to Christian hands in the days of  Alfonso VI of León and Castile

Throughout the Middle Ages The Alcazar remained one of the favorite residences of the monarchs of the Kingdom of Castile and a key fortress in the defense of the kingdom.

It was during this period a majority of the current building was constructed and the palace was extended on a large scale by the monarchs of the Trastámara dynasty.

Below is a picture of The Throne Room…..

In 1258, parts of the Alcázar had to be rebuilt by King Alfonso X of Castile after a cave-in and soon after the Hall of Kings was built to house Parliament.

The Hall of Kings is a most majestic place and carvings of all the Kings adorn the walls and these ancient Monarchs look down upon the visitors of today…

However, the single largest contributor to the continuing construction of the Alcázar is King John II who built the ‘New Tower’ (John II tower as it is known today).

In 1474, the Alcázar played a major role in the rise of Queen Isabella I of Castile.

On 12 December news of the King Henry IV‘s death in Madrid reached Segovia and Isabella immediately took refuge within the walls of this Alcázar where she received the support of Andres Cabrera and Segovia’s council.

She was crowned the next day as Queen of Castile and León.

There is a very large painting of the Coronation that is just breathtaking…

The interior of the Castle of Segovia is in perfect accordance with the magnificence of its exterior. Many apartments are decorated with delicate traceries and pendant ornaments, in the style of the Alhambra

The Templar Iglesia Vera Cruz (Church of the True Cross) is the most interesting of several splendid Romanesque churches in Segovia and is visible from the windows of The Alcazar

The Church was consecrated in 1208 and built by the Knights Templar to house a fragment of the True Cross

Inside, the round nave centers on an unusual two-story gallery, where the Knights are thought to have kept vigil over the sliver of wood, as it rested on the altar below….

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The Church is patterned on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where according to legend the True Cross was found by St. Helena in the 4th century.

Such enchantment and history surrounded by snow capped peaks……

Wandering about The Alcazar, one is swept into the history that took place within her walls….

The ancients gaze upon you as you pass from their frozen images in the stained glass…

A world of enchantment…..with the most amazing views…

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Temple of Debod – Madrid, Spain

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While visiting Madrid, we had the great pleasure of visiting the Temple of Debod

The Tempolo de Debod is an ancient Egyptian temple and was originally built just over 9 miles south of Aswan in southern Egypt very close to the first cataract of the Nile and to the great religious center dedicated to the goddess Isis, in Philae.

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In the early 2nd century BC, Adikhalamani (Tabriqo), the Kushite king of Meroë, started its construction by building a small single room chapel dedicated to the god Amun.

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It was built and decorated on a similar design to the later Meroitic chapel on which the Temple of Dakka is based.  Later, during the reigns of Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy VIII and Ptolemy XII of the Ptolemaic dynasty, it was extended on all four sides to form a small temple, which was dedicated to Isis of Philae. The Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius completed its decorations.

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From the quay there is a long processional way leading to the stone-built enclosure wall, through three stone pylon gateways and finally to the temple itself.

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In 1960, due to the construction of the Great Dam of Aswan and the consequent threat posed to several monuments and archeological sites, UNESCO made an international call to save this rich historical legacy.

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Spain sent a large team to assist in the relocation of the monuments and temples.

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As a sign of gratitude for the help provided by Spain in saving the temples of Abu Simbel, the Egyptian state donated the temple of Debod to Spain in 1968.

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The temple was rebuilt in the Parque del Oeste, near the Royal Palace of Madrid, and opened to the public in 1972.

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  It constitutes one of the few works of ancient Egyptian architecture which can be seen outside Egypt and the only one of its kind in Spain.

This was a most amazing and touching experience….

….but as always with The Tin Man…..an appetite has been worked up!

To celebrate being able to visit such an ancient monument, we have decided to dine in the oldest restaurant in the world………….Restaurante Botin’s…

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Francisco de Goya worked at Botin’s  as a waiter while waiting to get accepted into the Royal Academy of Fine Arts

The first floor has all the original cabinetry from when Botin’s opened in 1725

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The staircase leads to dining in the basement which once held all the ovens in which the suckling pigs were roasted…

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Now a marvelous dining area…..

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still serving that wonderful sucking pig………roasted to perfection…

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….especially when served with roasted new potatoes and Amstel Beer…

Syracuse – Sicily

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Syracuse  is a historic city in Sicily, the capital of the province of Syracuse.

The city is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes.

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This 2,700-year-old city played a key role in ancient times,

when it was one of the major powers of the Mediterranean world.

Syracuse is located in the southeast corner of the island of Sicily, right by the Gulf of Syracuse next to the Ionian Sea.

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The city was founded by Ancient Greek Corinthians and Teneans and became a very powerful city-state.

Syracuse was allied with Sparta and Corinth, exerting influence over the entire Magna Graecia area of which it was the most important city.

Once described by Cicero as “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all”, it later became part of the Roman Republic and Byzantine Empire.

Our trek to Malta took us to this enchanted city for only a brief time…

on our way we passed by Mount Etna,  the tallest active volcano on the European continent, 10,922 feet high.

It is the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps.

Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity, which was quite amazing to watch…

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We had met a lovely couple in Messina, who suggested a stop in Syracusa to visit the Piazza Duomo

We stayed in the Hotel Roma which is actually part of the Temple of Athena, now the Syracuse Cathedral….

We arrived at night and the city was magical……with all sorts of promises for daybreak….

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We stayed in the Hotel Roma…….which was once part of the Temple of Athena..

in one section of the hotel you could look though the glass floor and gaze upon the Altar of Atena….quite literally walking on history!

Our room had a marvelous balcony with views of the Piazza Duomo …

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In the morning we dashed off around the corner to see what treasures were hidden at the back of the hotel…

There it was the Temple of Athena, now the Syracusa Cathedral…..

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The charm of this construction of a modern place of worship upon a much more  ancient one is heightened by the fact that some of the columns “trapped” within  the walls have been tilted and twisted by earthquakes that the cathedral has endured  during its history.

In these deformities one can see “frozen” in time the awesome  force of nature that shook Syracuse in its ancient history.

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The temple of Athena in Doric style was erected in the fifth century BC the tyrant Gelo after the victory against the Carthaginians in the Battle of Imera.

The Athenaion had six columns in front, with 14 columns along the sides. Part of the temple is currently visible on the left side of the cathedral…

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In the seventh century the temple was converted into a church by the bishop of the city Zos.

The church, of Byzantine style, was dedicated to the Nativity of Mary.

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The floor dates from the fifteenth century and in 1518 the nave was covered with the wooden ceiling still preserved.

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In the sixteenth century was also erected the bell tower. In 1728 the façade was reconstructed.

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We found being in this structure that survived so many years and served so many people in different capacities so very interesting…

Now off to the markets……..

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The city is brimming with beauty….

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We come upon the Fountain of Diana……

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……so this Siracusa, known to English speakers as Syracuse, was a wonder to behold…..

One of the great ancient capitals of Western civilization, founded in 734 BC by Greek colonists from Corinth which soon grew to rival, and even surpass, Athens in splendor and power.

This magical place became the largest, wealthiest city-state in the West and a bulwark of Greek civilization.

Rulers such as Dionysius filled the courts with Greeks of the highest cultural stature—among them the playwrights Aeschylus and Euripides, and the philosopher Plato

We are left, sitting on the Piazza Duomo, sipping our cappuccino, preparing for the next leg of our journey……

…..suddenly the air if filled with beautiful music…..and there he is…

a young boy sitting on the steps of the Temple of Athena with his accordion….

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……….like a dream, I say…………..like a dream…….

ciao

Berne – Switzerland

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In 1983 the historic old town in the center of Bern/Berne became a UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Berne is ranked among the world’s top ten cities for the best quality of life

The train from Zurich to Berne provided the most amazing vistas and we knew we were in for a delightful treat…

The structure of Bern’s city center is largely medieval …..

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Perhaps its most famous sight is the Zytglogge , an elaborate medieval clock tower with moving puppets.

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It also has an impressive 15th century Gothic cathedral, the Munster…..

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The festive May Pole in the Munster…….

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Thanks to 6 kilometers (4 miles) of arcades, the old town boasts one of the longest covered shopping promenades in Europe….oh yes we walked them all….several times…..

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The Federal Palace (Bundeshaus), built from 1857 to 1902, which houses the national parliament, government and part of the federal administration, can also be visited…..

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Albert Einstein lived in a flat at the Kramgasse 49, the site of the Einsteinhaus, from 1903 to 1905, the year in which the Annus Mirabilis Papers were published….

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There are eleven Renaissance allegorical statues on public fountains in the Old Town.

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Nearly all the 16th century fountains, except the Zähringer fountain which was created by Hans Hiltbrand, are the work of the Fribourg master Hans Gieng.

One of the more interesting fountains is the Kindlifresserbrunnen  or Child Eater Fountain

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All along the street, each building has a set of Cellar Doors….

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These are actually the entrances to cafes, shops and clubs…..under each establishment is another one!!

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Every corner we turned held another beautiful view….

Have you noticed that it is very quiet in the town??

Well we chose the perfect time to visit Berne….there was a giant Family Expo being held….

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We had the entire town to ourselves!  Marvelous!

We fell in love with all the beautiful fountains and statues throughout the town…..

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Berne is just enchanting……

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The fresh crisp air off the snow covered Alps was just divine…..

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……..We were ready for some great Swiss Food….

europe2 669……since it was a holiday of sorts, finding an open restaurant was not that easy…..

We found the wonderful Ringgenberg with a beautiful patio for al fresco dining…

Oh what delights awaited our palates…..

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Cream of Asparagus Soup with Mushrooms topped with Asparagus and Delightful Tiny Pancakes…

….of course since we are in Switzerland, the Cappuccino is topped with Marvelous Chocolate….

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We fell in love with Berne and hope to come and visit her again one day….

europe2 647europe2 656Hope you enjoyed this visit to Berne with us……..until next time……