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Popular Tourist Attractions in Dubai

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Dubai at Dusk

Dubai is a city state and one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates UAE. It is the second largest in terms of land and the largest in population. Dubai ranks 7th amongst the most visited tourist destinations of the world. It is expected to attract around 15 million visitors in 2015.It has liberal social policies and is the most modern of the emirates.

Just a few hours flying time from Europe and South Asia, it is ideally located for tourists looking for a convenient break. The emirate’s huge construction boom includes many superb hotels, world-renowned buildings and high-end luxury homes. The rulers have deliberately set out to create superb infrastructure and first-class tourist amenities. The goal is to achieve premier status in the tourist and trade sectors.

Dubai has very quickly established a name for itself as a great destination for shopping, partying, fine dining and sporting activities. There are many things to see and do in Dubai.  Some of its attractions are:

Desert Safari
Also known as Dune Bashing, you head out in an SUV/4×4/Hummer driven by specialist drivers.  The drive is an exhilarating roller-coaster off-road expedition over picturesque sand dunes.

Dubai City Sightseeing Tours
One fun way to see this modern city of soaring skyscrapers is to take a bus tour. Drive past or stop at the Dubai Museum, Al Fahidi Fort and the Spice Souk. You will get to see the world’s tallest building – the Burj Dubai, Burj Al Arab and visit the Palm Jumeirah. You could also take a Hop-on-Hop Off Tour of Dubai.

Dubai Fountains
This water feature is the work of the creators of the Fountains of Bellagio, Las Vegas. It spurts water as high as 500 feet and is synchronised to music. The fountains are located on the Burj Khalifa Lake and do their thing every day.

Burj Khalifa
The tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa has an outdoor observation deck on the 124th floor equipped with a telescope. The views of the surrounding desert and city are absolutely stunning.

Burj Al Arab
The Burj Al Arab is the fourth tallest hotel and (arguably) the only seven star luxury hotel in the world. The building resembles the dhow. The building stands on an artificial island just off Jumeirah Beach and opened in December 1999.

Wild Wadi Water Park
The Park is an ultra-modern water activity complex located in the Jumeirah area of Dubai and next to the Burj Al Arab. It has 30 rides including a hot and cool wave pool, water slides, artificial surfing machines and a waterfall. It also has shops, restaurants and snack stands.

Dubai Creek
The original settlement of the city came up around this picturesque creek, which is still the heart and lifeline of the place. You can take a small water taxi (abra) along the creek and see the old historic city and trading wharfs; weave among the dhows that still sail the Arabian Sea as they load and unload goods from India, Africa and other Middle Eastern ports; walk along the shores and get a closer experience of the heritage of this now modern city. You could rent a boat and have dinner whilst cruising up and down the creek.

Palm Island
This icon to luxury and everything fashionable has world famous hotels, shopping malls, spas, pools, gardens and wide selection of fine dining restaurants. There are miles of beach front lined with bars, clubs, theme parks and all forms of entertainment.

Dubai Marina
A recent addition to the Dubai attractions, the marina has great views, boat rides, casual and fine dining restaurants. Stretching along three and a half kilometres, the marina is the largest man-made marina in the world, where you will find the gleaming yachts of the super rich.  In the evening the marina turns into a magical place. The lights and shapes of some of the world’s most iconic buildings add to its allure.

Ski Dubai
Ski Dubai is the third largest indoor ski slope in the world. It has a chair lift and 6,000 tonnes of snow for your skiing pleasure. There are practice jumps, racks and other aids to help you learn the basics. You can also snowboard and toboggan down its slopes. All this snow – all year round!

Other attractions and activities can be accessed at Jumeira Beach and Park, Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo and Dolphin Bay – the world’s largest dolphin habitat.
 

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10 Things for Adrenaline Junkies to do in Tasmania

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The Nut, Stanley Tasmania

The unique topography of the Tasman Peninsula boasts of several exciting adrenalin sports and activities. Adrenaline junkies won’t lack for thrills, whether it’s scuba diving, rock climbing, skiing, kayaking or other activities.


1. Scuba Diving
Tasmania is surrounded by many beautiful bays all rich in marine life. One can access all these sites by boat. On the East Coast Dive Trail, divers can explore shipwreck sites from way back as 1779. The west coast is wild and only hardy divers can attempt the waters here.

2. Snorkeling
Snorkelers have much to explore in Tasmania, particularly along the east coast. The clear blue waters allow snorkelers to play with the soft and hard corals, and enjoy the multi-hued marine life.

3. Surfing
You can enjoy some large waves on the Bass Strait, and in Hobart where the high swells delight pipe-surfers. There are 6 surf spots in the North Coast, 11 in the east, 15 in Hobart and SE, and 17 in the west coast. Shipstern Bluff is the most challenging surfing location in Australia.

4. Sea Kayaking
Kayaking is a great way to catch the best sights, both above and below the water. Sign up for a sea kayaking tour to explore the Southwest Area of Tasmania which is chock full of remote islands, wild rivers and wilderness harbors. Don’t forget to explore Wineglass Bay and the Great Oyster Bay by kayak.

5. Skiing
The Australian ski season is between June and September. Tasmania is one of the tree states to experience sufficient snow for annual skiing. Visit the Ben Lomond National Park’s premier ski resort and Mount Mawson in the Mount Field National Park for the best skiing in Tasmania.

6. Snowboarding
Most ski villages offer snowboarding as well. Snowboarding is great fun, especially when your snowboard hurtles down a steep slope, such as the one on the Ben Lomond plateau. The stunning scenery and diverse wildlife make snowboarding here a very popular experience.

7. Rock Climbing
Climbers crowd here to try the Totem Pole, a spectacular free-standing dolerite rock pillars that spears straight out of the water. With sharks and volatile tides at the bottom, climbing this rock is a say-hello-to-death kind of endeavor.

8. Wilderness Sport Climbing
Try wilderness sport climbing over the huge boulders at Adamsfield, ranging from light slopes to steep roofs. This wilderness range presents a challenge to the fittest of climbers, as the effort requires quite a bit of trekking as well.

9. Mountain Climbing
The 1270 meter tall Mt. Wellington in Hobart is a mountain climber’s delight. Cataract George in Launceston offers a great variety of climbing experiences as well. The Freycinet Peninsula offers the Hazards, a fabulous 300m high, pink granite dome to the climber.

10. Abseiling
The beauty of Cataract Gorge is vied only by its reputation as a climber’s paradise. More than 300 rocks are available for climbing in the lower gorge, with another 550 climbs up to the Trevallyn Dam. Climbers start with abseiling and then move into climbing, guided by professional climbers.
 

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Top 5 Reasons To Visit Belgium

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            Best known for it’s authentic beer, rich chocolate, and delightful waffles, Belgium’s food reputation over powers its historic character and diverse atmosphere. A destination filled with history, food, sightseeing, and relaxation, Belgium is one of Europe’s most unseen countries. If you are still contemplating on whether or not Belgium is for you, here are 5 reasons as to why Belgium is a must see European country.

1.     Notorious for it’s chocolates, waffles, and fries, Belgium has food that is easy to find in any other country but more authentic when found in Belgium. From unique fry toppings to flawless chocolate shops, the cultural food of Belgium is one of a kind.

2.     You might have tasted Belgian beer before in a country of your own, but nothing compares to an actual Belgian beer in Belgium! From strong beers that will knock you off your bar stool to over 400 different types of Beer at the Delirium bar, make sure you pace yourself when experiencing this part of the Belgian culture.

3.     Hidden in the shadows of Brussels, are the marvelous cities of Bruges and Ghent. Just a short train ride away from the countries capital, these two cities will astonish you with their medieval architecture and serene demeanor.

4.     Compared to Bruges and Ghent, Brussels is a modern city that not only is the capital of Belgium, but the European Union as well. However do not let its modernism fool you, Brussels has some medieval secrets of its own.

5.     Giving Berlin a bit of competition, Brussels’ nightlife has been emerging over the years. With many bars and restaurants open until 6 in the morning, you can find anything from tequila bars to seafood restaurants to put up camp for the night.

So before you plan your next trip to an overpopulated city or a remote island, think about the distinctive beers you can try in Brussels, the delectable chocolates in Bruges, the great waffles in Ghent, and the medieval secrets residing beneath your feet and book Belgium!

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Tour of Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre

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Two Young Orangutans

From Kota Kinabalu

Getting There

The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is located in the Malaysian Sabah District of North Borneo. There are several ways you could get to the Centre. Public transport buses operate from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan, a journey of about 5 hours. Sandakan is the closest town to the Centre’s reception office and is about 23 kms. away.  You could also take a tour bus from Kota Kinabalu.

Once you arrive at Sandakan you could hire a taxi to the Centre. There is a taxi stand outside the Centre too. Minivans also operate with one leaving every hour. If you take the Kota Kinabalu/Sandakan bus you could hop off at Jalan Sepilok, which is a junction just two and a half kilometres from the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre. From Sandakan the public transport bus bearing ‘Sepilok Batu 14’ sign will take you directly to the Centre. They start operating from 6 in the morning.

About Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre
First started by an Englishwoman, this first of its kind, rehabilitation centre opened in 1964.  It is located in a corner of the fabulously green and relatively virgin Sepilok Forest Reserve.  Occupying about 43 square kilometres it is the largest orang utan sanctuary in the world.

The objective of the Centre is to repatriate orphaned, injured, rescued, displaced (by logging or development projects) or previously captive orang utans into their natural habitat. They are taught the necessary skills needed to survive in the jungle via a mentoring system. This involves pairing the new/young arrivals with another older veteran of the system.  

The creatures are not kept in captivity in the Centre, rather they set free and encouraged to forage and fend for themselves. Though the Centre has feeding sessions every day at 10am and 3pm, the diet is kept deliberately monotonous. It is supposed to act only as a supplement, for these gentle red-haired apes, and promote their search for a more varied and self-acquired meal. This helps them to get used to living in the wild.

Physical (or any other) interaction between visitors and staff of the Centre is not encouraged or permitted. That is because the Centre does not want any attachments to develop, diseases transmitted. Also the orang utans are sometimes unpredictable.  Weighing in at an average 135/140 kgs., they are very strong and dangerous to tangle with.

Visitors to the centre can observe the orang utans at feeding times.  There is no guarantee that you will get to see many orang utans. Non-appearance of these attractive and appealing animals is a testament to the success of the rehabilitation process. When the trees are bearing fruit the chances are that they will not show up. Having said that, the Sepilok Centre, is a very popular tourist attraction because of the very regular sightings that occur.

There are plenty of other wild creatures to see. The Centre also cares and treats sun bears, gibbons and Sumatran rhinos. Noisy Macaques are aplenty including flying squirrels.

Visiting Hours:
Entrance Gate: 8am till 5pm – Daily
Ticket Counter: 9am to 11m & 2pm till 3:30pm

Orang Utan Feeding Times:  10am and 3pm. You should try and get to the feeding area about 15 to 20 minutes before.

Admission Fee:
Adults – RM30
Children below 18 years – RM15

Camera Fee: RM10
 

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Pope Benedict XVI’s Last Vatican Papal Audience

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(Your last chance for a personal pilgrimage to see the Pope)

Pope Benedict XVI

On 11 February 2013, the Pope Benedict XVI stunned the world with the announcement of his resignation from his post – making him the first pope to resign in 600 years; or in other words 6 centuries! The pope told the faithful that he had made his decision “in full freedom for the good of the church”; aware of his own declining physical strength needed to carry out the duties of the papacy.

First Papal Audience after the Announcement

On 13 February ‘13, thousands of enthusiastic, faithful crowd greeted Benedict at the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall to hear the Holy Father speak—for the first time—since his announcement of the resignation two days before.

A huge banner at the rear of the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall proclaimed “Thanks Your Holiness.”

Significance of the Last Papal Audience: And the life-after for the Pope

The Pope will hold one more Wednesday audience before he retires. Vatican officials say that the 85-year-old will continue with his diary as usual until the day he officially retires at 8 p.m. on 27 February.

Benedict is expected to keep a low public profile thereafter. As such, this last appearance as pontiff is expected to draw large crowds for what may well be some of the last speeches by a man who has spent his life – teaching and preaching – as a priest, a cardinal and a pope.

And once retired, he will live a life of prayer in a converted monastery on the edge of the Vatican gardens.

NOTE: The Audience is not a Mass. It is a time for pilgrims and visitors to greet and listen to the Pope. Also it is advisable to get your vatican tickets sorted before you reach the place, in order to avoid disappointment.

DRESS CODE: Dress appropriately (meaning – no shorts or sleeveless shirts) and don’t bring backpacks or knapsacks.

DETAILS: Pope Benedict XVI's last General Audience will be Wednesday, February 27, at 10:30 AM, in St. Peter's Square.

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Venice Rides of Love

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(Valentine’s Day Special)
Love in the air
Paris may be the branded weekend get-away for Valentine’s Day, but lying among the Venetian Lagoon is one of Europe’s most romantic cities. This Valentine’s Day, break out from the norm and take your sweetheart to the passionate Italian city of Venice. Located in Northeast Italy, Venice is made up of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges. Best known for its historic Gondola Rides, Venice is the place to be this Valentine’s Day. However not every Gondola Ride is the same, from ones that serve dinner to ones that sing, here’s a list of Gondola rides that will enhance your love this Valentine’s Day.
Venice Gondola Ride
1. Gondola Serenade: This gondola ride is not just a pretty view of the Grand Canal and backstreets of Venice. While riding through the ‘the finest street in the world’ allow your Gondolier to serenade you and your darling with a romantic, Italian love song.

2. Discover Love: If you and your loved one are more of the adventurous type, then the Discover Venice & Gondola Ride is for you! A combination of Gondola ride and walking tour, experience the romance as well as the history Venice has to offer.

3. Dinner And A Show: Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Take your Valentine on a romantic Gondola ride, with a three-course meal and of course no Gondola ride is complete without a gondolier serenade.

4. Ultimate Ride: A private intimate ride, a three-course a’la carte meal, and a romantic serenade, what more could your Valentine want? This Gondola ride is a sincere and loving way to tell your Valentine how much you love them.

This Valentine’s Day, there is no better way to show your Valentine how much they mean to you than with a Venice Gondola Ride.
 

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Sydney Harbour Bridge

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Sydney Harbour BridgeCall it iconic, symbolic, the gateway, the most famous, distinctive, landmark or whatever, but the Sydney Harbour Bridge is really Australia’s most well-known badge of recognition.  Oh yes!  The locals call it ‘The Coathanger.’

When it was officially opened on 19th March 1932, an estimated crowd of between 300,000 and a million people lined the shores around the harbour to witness it.

Construction work on the Sydney Harbour Bridge began in 1924. The first suggestion to build a bridge connecting the northern and southern shores of the harbour came as far back as 1815. The suggestion was put forward by a ‘convict,’ and architect, Francis Greenway. It was only in 1900 that design submissions were invited with the approved design, by Dr. J C Bradfield, accepted in March 1924.

There is still an ongoing debate (heated at times) as to which bridge is the model for the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The two contenders are the smaller Tyne Bridge in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England and the Hell Gate Bridge in New York, USA.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb:  To get an absolutely stunning 360° view of Sydney and the Blue Mountains you have to take the Bridge Climb. This guided climb started in 1998 with tours, of 12 to 14 people, leaving every 10 minutes or so. The round trip takes roughly three and a half hours. There are also twilight and night tours when you can catch a fabulous sunset or the city as she lights up.

At around US$200, the price is a bit steep (pun intended).

Some Interesting Facts about Sydney Harbour Bridge
 
Length of arch span:  503 metres

Height of top of arch: 134 metres about mean sea level

Height of aircraft beacon:  141 metres above mean sea level

World’s Largest: It is the world’s longest single steel arch bridge

Total length of bridge: 1149 metres including approach spans

Bearing Pins: Each of the four pins measures 4.2 metres long and 368 millimetres in diameter

Number of rivets:  Approximately 6 million

Largest rivet: Weighed 3.5 kilograms and was 395 millimetres long

Allowance for arch expansion: The arch may rise or fall 18 centimetres due to heating or cooling

Record tonnage erected: 589 tonnes of steelwork was erected on the arch in one day on 26th November 1929

Load Test: The Bridge was test loaded using up to 96 steam locomotives placed in various configurations

Paint required:  272,000 litres of paint were required to give the Bridge its initial three coats

Users:  When it opened you could walk or ride across on a horse or in a horse carriage.  Sadly, you cannot today. You can however still walk or bicycle across

Traffic: Eight vehicle lanes, two train lines, a footway and a cycleway

Flying Under The Bridge: Several sorties were flown in the 1940s, particularly in 1942 and 1943.  I don’t think it is allowed anymore
 

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Discovering Angkor Wat and Angkor Archaeological Park

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Angkor WatAngkor Archaeological Park

Angkor comes as a surprise, shock actually! No matter how much you have read and all the pictures you have seen you will still be unprepared. The sheer size and scale of the place (it is the size of Paris) is astounding. Covering about 400 square kilometres this UNESCO World Heritage Site is located amidst fields and lush forests.

It is a living heritage with people living and working the fields in the tradition of their Khmer ancestors. They still retain dance, and music, religious customs and cultural traditions from those ancient times.

The Khmer kings began building the complex in about 802 AD. The city was a true representation of their reach and power that lasted till late into the 14th century. The Khmer domain stretched from Vietnam to China and all the way to the Bay of Bengal. What they built is one of the mankind’s most astounding architectural and civic feats.

All these years later and the over 100 stone temples, still in fine condition, stand as testament to their achievements. Now a protected Archaeological Park, the city comprises literally thousands of sculptural riches, water features (basins, water channels, moats, reservoirs and canals). The ancient irrigation system of Angkor complex is still viable and used by the locals.

Khmer art, architecture, cultural traditions and religious practices drew heavily and evolved from the Indian subcontinent. Inspired by Hindu and Buddhist traditions it took on its own distinct characteristics while borrowing from local styles and culture. The end result is unique.

Despite the huge numbers of treasures, one structure stands out – the Angkor Wat. This massive, yet beautiful temple and its vast enclosure was the work of King Suryavarman II.  Work on the temple began in 1113 and is dedicated to the Hindu god, Vishnu. It is the greatest of Khmer monuments.

Preservation and restoration of the site passed through several organisations, including  the École Française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO), the Archaeological Survey of India, the Polish conservation body PKZ, and the World Monuments Fund. From 1993 the International Coordinating Committee for Angkor ensures the preservation, restoration and conservation of the Angkor Archaeological Park.

Tourism is a huge economic factor for the people here. The challenge is to minimise the enormous damage to this heritage that unsustainable tourism brings with it. Local people are unhappy with development, water demands and construction aimed at meeting tourist needs and feat they will ruin the environment and ambience. UNESCO has a large programme to safeguard this fabulous site and its surroundings from all these depredations.

The temples can be broadly categorized into four groups:
•    Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom
•    Little Circuit (Le Petit Circuit), to the east of Angkor Thom
•    Big Circuit (Le Grand Circuit), taking in major sites north and further east
•    Roluos group, 15 km east of Siem Reap
•    Outlying temples, about 20 km from Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat Temple

Angkor Wat (Temple)

Describing Angkor Wat is almost impossible, let alone on a restricted forum like this. The sheer size, endless beauty and details of the temple are overwhelming no matter how many times you see it. It is the largest temple complex and religious monument in the world so you will need several visits to take in its three levels.

Architecturally it is based on ancient Indian Dravidian concepts with carvings and sculptures covering every surface of the temple including walls (inside and out), roofs and lintels. The eastern gallery contains the most celebrated scene, the Churning of the Sea of Milk.

The temple was protected from the jungle’s encroachment by its wide surrounding moat. It is estimated that if the temple was to be built today it would take 300 years, yet the monument was finished in no more than 40 years – in the 12th century!

Angkor Wat has been on Cambodian national flags since 1863.

When to go:
Time of Year:  November to February is the coolest period and the best time to visit.  The down side is that is when the Angkor and temple area are packed with tourists and the rates for everything are sky high. March to May, temperatures average 40°C and very humid.

June to October is the rainy season. Should you visit at this time, there are hardly any tourists and you can get a good half day of sightseeing before the rains come in the afternoon.

Time of Day:  The best times are at sunrise and sunset. Angkor Wat is spectacular at sunrise.  The Park opens at 5:00am and visitors are relatively few but the place can fill up really quickly.  

Getting There
The Angkor Archaeological Park is located in Northern Cambodia and 6 kms (or 20 minutes by car/motorbike) north of Siem Reap township. In the rainy season the roads to Angkor are bad – slushy and rutted.

Tour Buses:  Offer air-conditioned comfort; cost US$ 25 to US$75; include driver and guide; visit only 2/3 main sites; arrive when crowds are large and lack options.


Cars with drivers:  Offer drivers knowledgeable of the area; cost between US$45 to US$50 a day; guides come extra.


Motorbikes: (with drivers) offer a variety of visiting options including to remote/seldom visited areas; cost US$6 to US$8 a day; drivers’ English is often limited but they can give you insights into local life.


Tuk Tuks:  Hire these at guesthouses; maximum space – 2 travellers; cost US$12 for the main temples; more for the outer ones; extra US3$ if you want to visit Angkor Wat at sunrise.
Bicycles:  Good option; cost US$1 per day; but be prepared to be jolted.  In the rainy season, the roads turn to squishy muddy tracks.
Other options:  Within the Park itself you can hire horse carriages, elephants and electric cars.

Admission:  You have to buy a pass to enter the Angkor area; available at the Apsara Authority; cost: 1 day – US$20; 3 days US$40; 7 days US$60.  Passes are non-transferable.

Guides:  US$20 a day; they speak most international languages.

On your own:  If you don’t want a guide, the “Ancient Angkor” guide book is a brilliant option and very informative.

 

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Exploring Philadelphia

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Philadelphia

Whether you are in the mood for food, culture, sports or history, the City of Brotherly Love has it all. Better known as Philadelphia, the large American city, which lies beneath the shadows of New York and Boston, is filled with fascinating events and activities.

 
1. If you are looking to experience the food in Philadelphia, then look no further than the Philadelphia South Street Walking Tour. Located in South Philly, the tour takes you through one of the cities unique and diverse neighborhoods. Starting at a Jewish deli and ending at a popular "cheese steak" shop, the tour includes food markets, street art, historic buildings and more. 
 
2. Need some romance in the City of Brotherly Love? Then take your sweetheart on the romantic Spirit of Philadelphia. A 3-hour cruise that offers a live show, buffet dinner, and a spectacular view of the Philadelphia skyline. With the option of lunch or dinner, spend the rest of your day visiting the Penn’s Landing area. 
 
3. Interested in sports? Philadelphia is one of the most unique sporting cities in America. With wild fans that are passionate about ice hockey, football, basketball and baseball, take the opportunity to go to a game. Make sure you arrive early enough for the parking lot tailgate! Food like hot dogs, sausages and hamburgers are very popular, and inside the event Chickie's & Pete's is a favoured Philadelphia restaurant. 
 
4. Looking for a little bit of education while on your trip, or do you just love history? Either way Philadelphia is one of America’s most historic cities and there is no better way to see it than through the Colonial City Walking Tour. From the Betsy Ross house to Independence Hall, the tour takes you back in time to where the city of Philadelphia began. 
 
5. Lastly, if history, food, or sports is not for you, give the King of Prussia Mall a try. Philadelphia is home to one of America’s largest shopping malls, located just outside the city, the King of Prussia Mall has over 400 stores to delight your shopping interest. Made up of a Court side and a Plaza side, the mall is easy to navigate and has a little bit of something for everyone. 

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Luxembourg Gardens

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Luxembourg Gardens; Credit - Grant Glendinning If you are looking for a chess partner; want to soothe your nerves, then take a stroll past lovely flowering plants and shrubs; lounge at an open-air café while sipping coffee; give the kids a pony ride; get away from your office for a quiet lunch break, then the gorgeous Luxembourg Gardens is just the place for all these activities. The gardens have fountains, sculptures, ponds, tennis courts, a marionette theatre, playgrounds and food kiosks.

Jardin du Luxembourg, to give its proper name, sprawls in the 6th Arrondissement, the heart of Paris, on the Left Bank of the Seine. It is bounded by Rue de Vaugirard, Boulevard St. Michel, Rue Auguste-Comte and Rue Guyneme. The second largest park in the city it is the official gardens of the Luxembourg Palace, the home of the French Senate.

The Palace and the Gardens are the child of Marie de Medicis’ grief at the assassination her husband, Henri IV. Not wanting to live in sorrow at the Louvre, their home, after his death she bought the (now called) Petit-Luxembourg Palace in 1611.

She then set about building a new one to resemble her childhood home in Florence – the Palazzo Pitti. She also commissioned several gardeners, notably Tommaso Francini, to design and create a park in her beloved Florentine style. 2,000 elm trees were planted amidst several terraces. Francini then built the beautiful Medici Fountain – the centre of a grotto.

When work first started the garden was only eight hectares. Then in 1630, Mme. Marie purchased more adjoin land and engaged Jacques Bovceau to carry on the work. He laid out a series of squares along an east-west grid that was marked at the east end by the Medici Fountain. He added borders of flowers and hedges in front of the palace, an octagonal basin with a fountain facing (what is now) the Paris Observatory.

Work was completed in 1625 but the present size of the Gardens was reached in only 1790.  This additional land was confiscated from the Carthusian monks by leaders of the French Revolution. Jean Chalgrin, architect of the Arc de Triomphe, carried out restoration work on the derelict gardens. He preserved and incorporated the old vineyards and formal French style gardens of the monks.

In the mid to late 1800s, many statues, sculptures and new boulevards were added. The Medici Fountain was rebuilt and moved to its present location. A scale model of the Statue of Liberty, built by Bartholdi, became a new resident. The garden also acquired a marionette theatre, greenhouses, an apiary and an orangerie.

The Jardin du Luxembourg now has hundreds of statues, monuments and fountains; acres of flower beds, trees and shrubs. It has changed much since Marie de Medici’s original plan but one thing has always remained – serenity. The gardens have always been an oasis amidst Paris’ turbulent history and everyday life. It is true sanctuary in every sense of the word.

Admission to the Luxembourg gardens depends upon the time of the year.

Opening times: Between 7:30am and 8:15 am.
Closing times: Between 4:45pm and 9:45 pm.
 

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