Friday, April 22, 2011

Reykjavik, Iceland

Jokusarlon Lagoon

The largest and best known of Iceland's glacial lakes, Jokulsarlon Lagoon is in the south of the country at the end of the Vatnajokull glacier. The lagoon first appeared around 1935 and has been growing ever since with the accelerating melting of the glacier.

 
 
 
These days it looks likely to eventually breach the narrow isthmus and join up with the sea, making it an inlet rather than a lake. The Icelanders are keen to stop this happening as the main highway which circles Iceland passes over this narrow strip of land.

 
 

 

Gulfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss is a massive waterfall on the river Hvita which originates in the glacial lake Langjokull. Gullfoss means 'golden falls' because the glacial sediment in the water turns the falls golden in the sunlight. The water falls 105 feet (32 meters) in two steps. As you approach, you hear the falls before you see the wild, tumbling water as the river valley is a deep, dramatic crevasse. You can stand at the top or walk down the path to the bottom.

 
  

 

 

 

 

The Pearl (Perlan)

Perlan ('The Pearl' in English) is a spectacular landmark which overlooks Reykjavik and can be seen for miles around. Dating from 1991, it is actually a water storage facility (for the geothermal water that comes out of the earth here and supplies the city with its hot water) with a viewing platform, a cafeteria and a revolving restaurant on top. Inside there is a large space which is often used for concerts.


 
 
 


Perlan also houses the Viking Saga Museum which is open everyday.

Videy Island

Across the water from Reykjavik lies Videy Island. Once the main harbor until Reykjavik took over in 1943, the first settlement on the island dates from the 10th century. These days birds are the main inhabitants of the island with around 30 species coming to breed there.

 
 
 

For humans, there is a restaurant, located in Videyjarstofa house, the first stone and cement building in Iceland, which dates from 1755. The island was once home to Augustine monks until 1539 when the reformation began in Iceland. There are also walking tracks and horse-riding.

Cancun, Mexico

Chichen Itza

One of the Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza - meaning "At the mouth of the well of the Itza" - is Mexico's most visited archeological site, a magnificent display of Mayan culture and the ceremonial center of the Yucat√°n.

 
 

The highlight of Chichen Itza is the Kukulkan Pyramid, known as "El Castillo", 24 meters (79 feet) high of step pyramid construction. Mesoamerican cultures occasionally built larger pyramids on top of smaller ones and this is the case for El Castillo where an excavation discovered a temple with an elaborate jaguar throne.

 



Cave of the Sleeping Sharks

Just 30 minutes off the coast of Cancun near Isla Mujeres lies a popular diving destination called Cave of the Sleeping Sharks, which has baffled marine biologists everywhere. Sharks must constantly be in motion in order to breathe through their skins, but in this cave the sharks can use bubbles from underwater springs to breathe, allowing them to "sleep" completely still.

 
 

The Cave of the Sleeping Sharks was discovered in 1969 and lies about 60 feet (20 meters) underwater, formed by coral formations that allow divers to get close to the resting sharks. Nurse sharks are most commonly seen in the cave and although they are harmless it is still exhilarating to be able to swim so close to them.
 
 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Housing one of the world’s finest collections of art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts is a must-see on a visit to Boston. The museum’s highlight is undoubtedly its American collection, which includes American paintings and decorative arts.

 
 
 

And there’s more. The Museum of Fine Arts also displays an incredible collection of European Impressionist paintings, including one of the largest collections of Monets outside of Paris. The MFA also holds one of the richest Degas collections in the world, not to mention Asian and Old Kingdom Egyptian collections, classical art, Buddhist temple, and medieval sculpture and tapestries. After you’re done marveling at these treasures, be sure to check out the exhibits of Japanese art, including Buddhist and Shinto treasures.

 
 
 
  

 

 

 

 

Boston Museum of Science

With more than 600 interactive exhibits, the Boston Museum of Science is an educational playground so engaging and effortless that you can’t help but learn something. The amazing array of exhibits explores computers, technology, complex systems, algae, maps, models, dinosaurs, birds and much more.

 
 

Favorites include the world's largest lightning bolt generator, a full-scale space capsule, a world population meter, and a virtual fish tank. At Investigate!, live science demonstrations involve animals and experiments taking place before your eyes. The Science in the Park exhibit uses familiar objects such as skateboards and playground equipment to teach kids the concepts of physics. You can even find out how much you weigh on the moon!

 
 
 

 

Boston Common

The starting point of the Freedom Trail, Boston Common is the oldest park in the country. At 50 acres/20 hectares, the Common is the anchor for the Emerald Necklace, a system of connected parks that winds through many of Boston’s neighborhoods.

 
 
 

The Common has served many purposes over the years, including as a campground for British troops during the Revolutionary War. Today, though, the Common serves picnickers, sunbathers, and people watches. In winter, the Frog Pond attracts ice-skaters, while summer draws theater lovers for Shakespeare on the Common.

 
 
 

 

 

 

New England Aquarium

Teeming with more than 15,000 sea creatures of all sizes, shapes, and colors, the New England Aquarium is a giant fishbowl of sea-life wonder. Harbor seals and sea otters frolic in a large observation tank at the entrance, but the main attraction is the awesome four-story, 200,000 gallon (760,000 liter) Giant Ocean Tank, which swirls with more than 600 creatures great and small, including turtles, sharks, and eels.

 
 

At the base of the tank the penguin pool is home to three species of fun-loving penguins. Countless side exhibits explore the lives and habitats of other underwater oddities, including the two-floor Amazing Jellies exhibit, home to hundreds of ethereal jellyfish, and the Edge of the Sea exhibit, with its sea stars, horseshoe crabs, and sea dragons. Other attractions include displays on denizens of the Amazon, marine life in the Gulf of Maine, and the ecology of Boston Harbor.

 

 

Faneuil Hall Marketplace

The heart and soul of downtown Boston, Faneuil Hall Marketplace is a bustling complex of restaurants, food stalls, shops, bars, and public spaces. Since it opened in 1976, this festive market and eating center draws both visitors and locals to its cobblestone plaza, teaming with shoppers, street performers, and people-watchers.

 
 
 

Faneuil Hall Marketplace itself if comprised of three historic 19th century buildings. Quincy Market, a three-level Greek revival-style building, sits in the center behind Faneuil Hall. Next to it is the North Market building and the South Market building.

 
 
  

 

Quincy Market

The main hub of the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, bustling Quincy Market has attracted locals and visitors alike for nearly 200 years. This historic food hall, set inside a stately three-level Greek revival-style building, is packed with more than 50 shops, 14 restaurants, and 40 food court stops. There’s even a bar that’s an exact replica of the bar from the popular TV show Cheers.

 
 
 

Inside Quincy Market, the central corridor is lined with full-service restaurants, pushcarts, and New England souvenirs. Choose from chowder, bagels, Indian, Greek, baked good, and ice cream. Then, take a seat at one of the tables in the central rotunda. On warm evenings, tables spill outdoors from restaurants and bars fill up with people, creating a festive mood.

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Beacon Hill

True, Beacon Hill may be home to the Massachusetts State House, the crown jewel of the neighborhood and focal point of politics in the Commonwealth, but the real appeal of this prestigious neighborhood lies in it beauty. Gas lanterns illuminate the cobblestone streets, while distinguished brick town houses come decked with purple windowpanes and blooming flowerboxes.




Beacon Hill’s residential streets are reminiscent of London, and streets such as stately Louisburg Square indeed capture the grandeur that was intended. Charles Street, Beacon Hill’s charming commercial thoroughfare, is Boston’s most enchanting spot for browsing boutiques, haggling over antiques, or sipping a steaming cappuccino at one of the European-styled cafes. Stay for a fine dinner, made all the more romantic when it is enjoyed in such a delightful setting.
 
 



 

Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail is a great way to explore Boston’s most popular sites. The 2 ½-mile/4-km trail itself links a number of historic sites, many associated with colonial United States history. The route is marked with a line of red paint or red brick on the sidewalk; markers identify stops and plaques point the way from one sight to the next.

 
 
 

The Freedom Trail starts on the Boston Common and visits sights on Beacon Hill, in Downtown, near the Waterfront, and in the North End, before crossing the bridge and ending in Charlestown. As such, it provides an introduction to some of Boston’s distinct neighborhoods, as well as its rich history.
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Fenway Park

Boston's most cherished landmark? Site of Boston's greatest dramas and worst defeats? To many Bostonians, it's not Bunker Hill or the Tea Party ship, but tiny old Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Built in 1912, Fenway Park is one of the last survivors of old-style baseball parks. Only Wrigley Field in Chicago rivals its legendary status.

 
 
 
 
 

Baseball at Fenway is special thanks to the unique shape of the park, the intimate playing field, and the one and only Green Monster, the famous towering left field wall that compensates for the relatively short distance from home plate. The Green Monster consistently alters the regular course of play - what appears to be a lazy fly ball could actually drop over the Monster for a home run, and what appears to be a sharp double into the gap may be played off the wall to hold the runner to a single.
 
 
 

Boston Harbor Islands National Park

Boston Harbor Islands National Park is comprised of 34 islands, sprinkled throughout the Boston Harbor. These islands – many of which are open for trail walking, bird-watching, fishing, and swimming – offer a range of ecosystems. On a visit to this park, you’ll encounter sandy beaches, rocky cliffs, fresh and saltwater marsh, and forested trails. Best of all, the islands are only 45 minutes from downtown Boston.

 
 
 

Georges Island is not only one of the transportation hubs for the islands, it is also the site of the 19th century Fort Warren. Spectacle Island, another transportation hub, has walking trails and hosts many special events like live jazz concerts and festivals. Lovells Island draws boaters, swimmers, and sunbathers to its lovely rocky beaches. Here you can catch an afternoon shuttle to Grape Island, where you can pick raspberries, bayberries, and elderberries, all growing wild amid the island’s scrubby wooded trails.

 
 
 

 

 

Boston Public Garden

The Boston Public Garden is a 24 acre (10 hectare) botanical oasis of Victorian flowerbeds, verdant grass, and weeping willow trees shading a tranquil lagoon. At any time of the year, it is an island of loveliness, awash in seasonal blooms, gold-toned leaves, or untrammeled snow.

 
 
 
 

A statue of George Washington, looking stately atop his horse, greets visitors at the main entrance on Arlington Street. Other pieces of public art in the park, however, are more whimsical. The most endearing is Make Way for Ducklings, always a favorite with tiny tots who can climb and sit on the bronze ducks. But it’s the peaceful lagoon that draws visitors and locals a like to the Public Garden. For it is hear, you should take on the slow-going swan boats, a serene relic of bygone days.