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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Palermo

Palermo



Palermo is a city in Insular Italy, the capital of both the autonomous region of Sicily and the Province of Palermo. The city is noted for its history, culture, architecture and gastronomy, playing an important role throughout much of its existence; it is over 2,700 years old. Palermo is located in the northwest of the island of Sicily, right by the Gulf of Palermo in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The city was founded by the Phoenicians, but named by the Ancient Greeks asPanormus meaning 'always fit for landing in.' Palermo became part of the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire and eventually part of the Byzantine Empire, for over a thousand years. From 827 to 1071 it was under Arab rule during the Emirate of Sicily when it first became a capital. Following the Norman reconquest, Palermo became capital of a new kingdom (from 1130 to 1816), the Kingdom of Sicily. Eventually it would be united with the Kingdom of Naples to form the Two Sicilies until the Italian unification of 1860.


Remains of the old city walls
Evidence for human settlement in the area now known as Palermo goes back at least to the Mesolithic period, perhaps around 8000 BC, when a group of cave drawings at nearby Addaura represent a new level in the representation of the human figure. According to Thucydides, the Sicani people arrived from the Iberian Peninsula (perhaps Catalonia). During 734 BC the Phoenicians, a sea trading peoples from the north of ancient Canaan, built a small settlement on the natural habour of Palermo. Some sources suggest they named the settlement "Ziz." The Greeks, who were the most dominant culture on the island of Sicily due to the powerful city state of Syracuse to the east, instead called the settlement Panormus. Its Greek name means "all-port" and it was named so because of its fine natural harbour. Palermo was then passed on to the Phoenician's descendants and successors, the Carthaginians. 

The Palazzo dei Normanni
After the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), Sicily was handed over to the Savoia, but by 1734 it was again a Bourbon possession. Charles III chose Palermo for his coronation as King of Sicily. Charles had new houses built for the increased population, while trade and industry grew as well. However, Palermo was now just another provincial city as the royal court resided in Naples. Charles' son Ferdinand, though disliked by the population, took refuge in Palermo after the French Revolution in 1798. His son Alberto died on the way to Palermo and is buried in the city.

From 1820 to 1848 all Sicily was shaken by upheavals, which culminated on January 12, 1848, with a popular insurrection, the first one in Europe that year, led by Giuseppe La Masa. A parliament and constitution were proclaimed. The first president was Ruggero Settimo. The Bourbons soon reconquered Palermo (May 1849), which remained under their rule until the appearance of Giuseppe Garibaldi. This famous general entered Palermo with his troops (the “Thousands”) on May 27, 1860. After the plebiscite later that year Palermo and the whole of Sicily became part of the new Kingdom of Italy (1861).

From that year onwards, Palermo followed the history of Italy as the administrative centre of Sicily. A new cultural, economic and industrial growth was spurred by more families, like the Florio, the Ducrot, the Rutelli, the Sandron, the Whitaker, the Utveggio, and other families. In the early twentieth century Palermo expanded outside the old city walls, mostly to the north along the new boulevard, the Via della Libertà. This road would soon boast a huge number of villas in the Art Nouveau style or Stile Liberty as it is known in Italy. Many of these were designed by the famous architect Ernesto Basile. The Grand Hotel Villa Igiea, designed by Ernesto Basile for the Florio family, is a good example of Palermitan Liberty Style. The very large Teatro Massimo was designed in the same period by Giovan Battista Filippo Basile, and built by the Rutelli & Machì building firm of the industrial and old Rutelli Italian family in Palermo, and was opened in 1897.

During World War II, Palermo was untouched until the Allies began to advance up Italy after the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943. In July, the harbour and the surrounding quarters were heavily bombed by the allied forces and were all but destroyed. Six decades later the city centre has still not been fully rebuilt, and hollow walls and devastated buildings are commonplace.

In 1946 the city was declared the seat of the Regional Parliament, as capital of a Special Status Region (1947) whose seat is in the Palazzo dei Normanni. Palermo's future seemed to look bright again. Many opportunities were lost in the coming decades, owing to incompetence, incapacity, corruption and abuse of power.

The main topic of the modern age is the struggle against the Mafia and bandits like Salvatore Giuliano, who controlled the neighbouring area of Montelepre. The Italian State had to share effective control of the territory, economic as well as administrative, with the Mafia families.

The so-called "Sack of Palermo" is one of the major visible faces of this problem. The term is used today to indicate the heavy building speculations that filled the city with poor buildings. The reduced importance of agriculture in the Sicilian economy had led to a massive migration to the cities, especially Palermo, which swelled in size. Instead of rebuilding the city centre the town was thrown into a frantic expansion towards the north, where practically a new town was built. The regulatory plan for the expansion was largely ignored. New parts of town appeared almost out of nowhere, but without parks, schools, public buildings, proper roads and the other amenities that characterise a modern city. The Mafia played a huge role in this process, which was an important element in the Mafia's transition from a mostly rural phenomenon into a modern criminal organisation. The Mafia took advantage of corrupt city officials (a former mayor of Palermo, Vito Ciancimino, has been condemned for his bribery with Mafiosi) and protection coming from the Italian central government itself.

Many civil servants lost their lives in the struggle against the criminal organisations of Palermo and Sicily. These include the Carabinieri general Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, the region’s president Piersanti Mattarella, Padre Pino Puglisi, a priest who had fought for the young people living in the suburbs, and courageous magistrates such as Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

Today, Palermo is a city still struggling to recover from the devastation of uncontrolled urban growth. The historic city centre is still partly in ruins, the traffic is horrific, and poverty is widespread. Being the city in which the Italian Mafia historically had its main interests, it has also been the place of several recent well-publicized murders.

Palermo is connected to the mainland by an international airport and an increasing number of maritime links. However, land connections remain poor. This and other reasons have until now thwarted the development of tourism. This has been identified as the main resource to exploit for the city's recovery, the legacy of three millennia of history and folklore.

Palermo is Sicily's cultural, economic and touristic capital. It is a city rich in history, culture, art, music and food. Numerous tourists are attracted to the city for its good Mediterranean weather, its renowned gastronomy and restaurants, its Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque churches, palaces and buildings, and its nightlife and music. Palermo is the main Sicilian industrial and commercial centre: the main industrial sectors include tourism, services, commerce and agriculture. Palermo currently has an international airport, and a significant underground economy.  In fact, for cultural, artistic and economic reasons, Palermo was one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean and is now among the top tourist destinations in both Italy and Europe. The city is also going through careful redevelopment, preparing to become one of the major cities of the Euro-Mediterranean area. 

There's no doubt about it. Food and wine are among Sicily's main attractions, and you may have sampled something of both long before arriving in Sicily. When most people think of Italian food, pasta and pizza come to mind. But Sicilian cuisine, and the Mediterranean Diet, transcends these ubiquitous culinary delights. If you plan to go on a diet, go to Sicily first. (You can always diet later.) 

Caponata, a tasty salad made with eggplant (aubergines), olives, capers and celery, makes a great appetizer. There is also an artichoke-based version of this traditional dish, though you're less likely to find it in most restaurants. Sfincione is a local form of pizza made with tomatoes, onions and (sometimes) anchovies. Prepared on a thick bread and more likely found in a bakery than in a pizzeria, sfincione is good as a snack or appetizer. Panella is a thin paste made of crushed or powdered ceci (garbanzo) beans and served fried. Maccu is a creamy soup made from the same bean. Crocché(croquet) are fried potato dumplings made with cheese, parsley and eggs. Arancine are fried rice balls stuffed with meat or cheese.

Sicily is renowned for its seafood. Grilled swordfish is popular. Smaller fish, especially snapper, is sometimes prepared in a vinegar and sugar sauce. Seppia (cuttlefish) is served in its own black sauce with pasta. Another Sicilian seafood dish made with pasta is finnochio con sarde (fennel with sardines). Meat dishes are always popular. Many are traditionally made with lamb or goat. Best known outside Sicily is vitello alla marsala (veal marsala), one of many regional meat specialties. Chicken "alla marsala" can be prepared using a similar recipe and method. Milza (veal spleen) sandwiches are a bit "native" for most tastes, and loaded with cholesterol, but delicious anyway.

Sicilian desserts are superlative. Cannoli are tubular crusts with creamy ricotta and sugar filling. If they taste a little different from the ones you've had outside Italy, that's because the ricotta here is made from sheep's milk. Cassata is a rich, sugary cake filled with the same delicious filling. Frutta di Martorana (or pasta reale) are almond marzipan pastries colored and shaped to resemble real fruit. Sicilian gelato (ice cream) is excellent. In fact, it is possible that ice cream was invented in Sicily during Roman times, when a relay of runners would bring snow down from Mount Etna to be flavored and served to wealthy patricians. You'll find flavors ranging from pistachio and hazelnut (nocciola) to jasmine (gelsomino) to mulberry (gelsi) to strawberry (fragala) and rum (zuppa inglese). Granita is sweetened crushed ice made in Summer and flavored with lemons or strawberries.








                                                        Palermo’s Top 5:
       
  1. The Cathedral of Palermo is an architectural complex  It is characterized by the presence of different styles, due to a long history of additions, alterations and restorations, the last of which occurred in the 18th century. The church was erected in 1185 by Walter Ophamil (or Walter of the Mill), the Anglo-Norman archbishop of Palermo and King William II's minister, on the area of an earlier Byzantine basilica. By all accounts this earlier church was founded by St. Gregory and was later turned into a mosque by the Saracens after their conquest of the city in the 9th century. Ophamil is buried in a sarcophagus in the church's crypt. The medieval edifice had a basilica plan with three apses, of which only some minor architectural elements survive today. The upper orders of the corner towers were built between the 14th and the 15th centuries, while in the early Renaissance period the southern porch was added. The present neoclassical appearance dates from the work carried out over the two decades 1781 to 1801, and supervised by Ferdinando Fuga. During this period the great retable by Gagini, decorated with statues, friezes and reliefs, was destroyed and the sculptures moved to different parts of the basilica. Also by Fuga are the great dome emerging from the main body of the building, and the smaller domes covering the aisles' ceilings.
  2. The Palazzo dei Normanni  or Royal Palace of Palermo was the seat of the Kings of Sicily during the Norman domination and served afterwards as the main seat of power for the subsequent rulers of Sicily. Today it is the seat of the regional parliament of Sicily. The palace stands in what is the highest point of the ancient centre of the city, just above the first Punic settlements, whose remains can still be found in the basement. The first building, the Qasr (in Arabic, castle or palace) is believed to have been started in the 9th century by the Emir of Palermo. Parts of this early building are still visible in the foundations and in the basements, where typical Arabian vaults are present. After the Normans conquered Sicily in 1072 (just 6 years after they conquered England) and established Palermo as the capital of the new Kingdom of Sicily, the palace was chosen as the main residence of the kings. The Norman kings transformed the former Arabian palace into a multifunctional complex with both administrative and residential aims. All the buildings were linked to each other via arcades and enclosed by gardens, designed by the best gardeners of the middle east. In 1132 King Roger II added the famous Cappella Palatina to the complex, making it the focus of the palace.
  3. Palermo City Walls Palermo has got at least 2 circuits of City Walls - many pieces of which still survive. The first circuit surrounded the ancient core of the punic City - the so-called Palaeopolis (in the area east of Porta Nuovo) and the Neopolis. Via Vittorio Emanuele was the main road E-W through this early walled City. The eastern edge of the walled City was on Via Roma and the ancient port in the vicinity of Piazza Marina. The wall circuit was approximately Porto Nuovo, Corso Alberti, Piazza Peranni, Via Isodoro, Via Candela, Via Venezia, Via Roma, Piazza Paninni, Via Biscottari, Via Del Bastione, Palazzo dei Normanni and back to Porto Nuovo. In the medieval period the wall circuit was expanded. Via Vittorio Emanuele continued to be the main road E-W through the walled City. West gate was still Porto Nuovo, the circuit continued to Corso Alberti, to Piazza Vittorio em Orlando where it turned east along Via Volturno to Piazza Verdi and along the line of Via Cavour. At this North East corner there was a defense, Castello a Mare, to protect the port at La Cala. A huge chain was used to block La Cala with the other end at S Maria della Catena (St Mary of the Chain). The sea-side wall was along the western side of Foro Italico Umberto. The wall turns west along the northern side of Via Abramo Lincoln, continues along Corso Tukory. The wall turns north approximately on Via Benedetto, to Palazzo dei Normanni and back to Porto Nuovo. Source: Palermo - City Guide by Adriana Chirco, 1998, Dario Flaccovio Editore.
    Several gates in the City Wall survive.
  4. The Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele is an opera house and opera company. It was dedicated to King Victor Emanuel II. It is the biggest in Italy, and one of the largest of Europe (the third after the Opéra National de Paris and the K. K. Hof-Opernhaus in Vienna), renowned for its perfect acoustics. The opera house was designed and overseen by the very genial Italian architect Giovan Battista Filippo Basile and, following his death in 1891, construction was then overseen by his highly artistic son, Architect Ernesto Basile. G. B. Filippo Basile was well known in Sicily also for his previous cathedral restoration design in the city of Acireale, as well as garden and villa designs in the city of Palermo and Caltagirone. 
  5. Catacombe dei Cappuccini,  the catacombs of the Capuchin convent located on the Piazza Cappuccini, just west of the city centre, contain over 8000 mummified ex-residents from Palermo and its surrounding villages, some merely clothed skeletons, other remarkably well-preserved and lifelike. Well worth a visit, interesting, if slightly morbid. Children may either find it exciting or terrifying and it must be the responsibility of their parents to think carefully before taking them.








Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Palma

Palma




Palma, in full Palma de Mallorca, is the major city and port on the island of Majorca (Mallorca) and capital city of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands in Spain. The names Ciutat de Mallorca (City of Majorca) and Ciutat (City) were used before the War of the Spanish Succession and are still used by people in Majorca. However, the official name was Mallorca, the same as the island. It is situated on the south coast of the island on the Bay of Palma. As of the 2009 census, the population of the city of Palma proper was 401,270, and the population of the entire urban area was 517,285, ranking as the twelfth largest urban area of Spain. Almost half of the total population of Majorca live in Palma. The Cabrera Archipelago, though widely separated from Palma proper, is administratively considered part of the municipality. Its airport, Son Sant Joan, serves over 22 million passengers each year. The Marivent Palace was offered by the city to the then Prince Juan Carlos I of Spain. The royals have since spent their summer holidays in Palma.

Palma was founded as a Roman camp upon the remains of a Talaiotic settlement. The turbulent history of the city saw it the subject of several Vandal sackings during the fall of the Roman Empire, then reconquered by the Byzantine, then colonised by the Moors (who called it Medina Mayurqa), and finally established by James I of Aragon.

After the conquest of Majorca, it was loosely incorporated into the province of Tarraconensis by 123 BC; the Romans founded two new cities: Palma on the south of the island, and Pollentia in the northeast - on the site of a Phoenician settlement. Whilst Pollentia acted as port to Roman cities on the northwestern Mediterranean Sea, Palma was the port used for destinations in Africa, such as Carthage, and Hispania, such as Saguntum, Gades, and Carthago Nova. Though no visible remains of this period are seen in present day Palma, archaeological discoveries still occur whenever excavating under the city centre.

The arrival of Moors in the Balearic Islands occurred at the beginning of the 8th century. During this period, the population developed an economy based on self-sufficiency and piracy, and even showed evidence of a relative hierarchy. The dominant groups took advantage of the Byzantine withdrawal due to Islamic expansion, to reinforce their domination upon the rest of the population, thus ensuring their power and the gradual abandonment of Imperial structures.

In 707, a Muslim fleet, under the command of Abd Allgaht ibn Musa, son of the governor of Ifriqiya, Musa ibn Nusayr, stopped at the island. It appears that Abd Allah convinced the factional powers of the city to accept a peace treaty. This treaty granted, in exchange for a tax, respect for social, economic and political structures to the communities that subscribed it, as well as the continuity of their religious beliefs..

After 707, the city was inhabited by Christians who were nominally in allegiance to the sovereignty of the Caliphate of Damascus, yet who, de facto, enjoyed an absolute autonomy. The city, being in Majorca, constituted an enclave between westernChristian and Islamic territories, and this attracted and encouraged increased levels of piracy in the surrounding waters. For wide sectors of the city's population, the sacking of ships (whether Muslim or Christian) which passed through Balearic waters, was the first source of riches during the next fifteen decades. Eventually, the continued piracy in the region lead to retaliation by Al-Andalus which launched its naval power against the city and the whole of the Islands. The Islands were defended by the emperor Charlemagne in 799 from a Saracen pirate incursion.

In 848 (maybe 849), four years after the first Viking incursions had sacked the whole island, an attack from Córdoba forced the authorities to ratify the treaty to which the city had submitted in 707. As the city still occupied an eccentric position regarding the commerce network established by the Caliph in the western Mediterranean, the enclave was not immediately incorporated into Al-Andalus.

While the Caliphate of Córdoba reinforced its influence upon the Mediterranean, the interest of Al-Andalus for the city increased. The logical consequence of this evolution was the substitution of the submission treaty by the effective incorporation of the islands to the Islamic state. This incorporation took place in the last years of the Emirate. a squad under the command of Isam al-Jawlani took advantage of the instability caused by several Viking incursions and disembarked in Majorca, and after destroying any resistance, incorporated Majorca, with Palma as its capital, to the Córdobese dominions. 
The incorporation of the city to the Emirate sets the basis for a new social organisation, far more articulated and complex than before. Commerce and manufacture developed in a manner that was unknown previously. This caused a considerable demographic growth, thereby establishing Medina Mayurqa as one of the major ports for trading goods in and out of the Caliphate of Córdoba. 

On December 31, 1229, after three months of siege, the city was reconquered by James I of Aragon and was renamed Palma de Mallorca. In addition to being kept as capital of the Kingdom of Majorca, it was given a municipality that comprised the whole island.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Palma became the refuge of many who had exiled themselves from the Napoleonic occupation of Catalonia and Valencia; during this period freedom flourished, until the absolutist restoration. With the establishing of the contemporary Spanish state administrative organization, Palma became the capital of the new province of Balearic Islands in the 1833 territorial division of Spain. The French occupation of Algeria in the 19th century ended the fear of Maghrebi attacks in Majorca, which favoured the expansion of new maritime lines, and consequently, the economic growth of the city, which suffered a demographic increase, with the birth of new nucleus of population.

Since the 1950s, the advent of mass tourism radically changed the face of both the city and island, transforming it into a centre of attraction for visitors and attracting workers from mainland Spain. This contributed to a huge change in the traditions, the sociolinguistic map, urbanisation and acquisitive power.

The boom in tourism caused Palma to grow significantly, with repercussions on immigration. In 1960, Majorca received 500,000 visitors, in 1997 it received more than 6,739,700. In 2001 more than 19,200,000 people passed through Son Sant Joan airport near Palma, with an additional 1.5 million coming by sea.

In the 21st century, urban redevelopment, by the so-called Pla Mirall (English "Mirror Plan"), attracted important groups of immigrant workers from outside the European Union, especially from Africa and South America.

The Old City (in the south-east area of Palma behind the Cathedral) is a fascinating maze of streets clearly hinting towards an Arab past. With the exception of a few streets and squares which allow traffic and are more populated with tourists most of the time, the walkways of this city quarter are fairly narrow, quiet streets, surrounded by a diverse range of interesting buildings, the architecture of which can easily be compared with those in streets of cities such as Florence (Italy), for example. The majority are private houses, some of which are open to the public as discreet museums or galleries. The tall structures, characteristic window boxes, detailed metal carvings and overhanging eaves of these buildings make a stark contrast with the view of the bay that is obtained by stepping out of the shady alleyways next to the cathedral and onto the old city walls. The Old City is also home to the Ajuntament (or Town Hall), the Convent of the Cathedral and the Banys Àrabs.


Palma is definitely the best city for eating out on the island. There’s an excellent variety of choice. Palma has every kind of restaurant imaginable; from traditional Spanish (with delicious tapas) to stylish restaurants covering the whole international range - Italian, Indian, Chinese, Thai….whatever kind of cuisine you prefer you’ll find it here. 

“Café culture” is a way of life here. People sit out all day long just watching other people…you never know who you might meet…This is great people watching territory. You can drink hot chocolates or cappuccinos, surrounded by artists, famous people and creative types. Try the Mallorca’s ensaimadas pastry. They’re absolutely delicious.

The eating out scene in Palma can be split into two separate areas. If you’re looking for bars serving light snacks the best place is the Sa Llotja area. Passeig Maritim has some excellent restaurants, most are alongside the harbour. In the old town and Santa Catalina you’ll find some newer restaurants along with the local favourites.


Palma holds some of the best nightclubs and bars on the island. The most stylish and expensive venues are found here and you could even be partying amongst some famous stars. 
Palma has a wide range of clubs, bars, restaurants and cafe bars. The nightlife buzzes all night long and all year round. One of the busiest places is Sa Llotja. The pubs and bars here tend to get very packed and things start to wind down at around one or two in the morning. Then everyone heads off to the Passeig Maritim, where the drinking and dancing continues…the bars and discotecas stay open till at least 5 or 6am.


Head down to C/Apuntadors Sa Llotja and you’ll be overwhelmed by a mass of English and Irish bars packed with holidaymakers and locals. The atmosphere is always very lively. There are also plenty of bars and clubs offering all kinds of live music from flamenco to jazz to blues. Although “officially” they’re meant to close at 2pm, a lot of the places stay open till 3pm or 4pm.

Passeig Maritim is located to the west of the city centre. Like Sa Llotja, It’s a regular haunt of both locals and tourists. This is where it all continues after Sa Llotja. The Passeig Maritim is a mixture of both a gay scene and a grunge/indie scene, with sex shops and topless bars. Some places well worth checking out here are; the Crazy Cow (with its charming terrace and delightful house music); and Made in Brazil (for Latin tunes).

Most of the clubs here play Spanish pop music apart from Pachas. 
Located on the side of the cliff looking over the Paseo Maritimo and the yachts linked between the Palma’s horseshoe shaped Marina, Pacha Mallorca is one of the best known nightclubs in Palma. This club comes into life from 10pm in the night and stays so till 6am the following morning. During the summer months this club gets exceptionally busy and the entrance fee is increased.  



                                                        Palma’s Top 5:
       
  1. The Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, more commonly referred to as La Seu, is a Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral, built on the site of a pre-existing Arab mosque. It is 121 metres long, 55 metres wide and its nave is 44 metres tall. Designed in the Catalan Gothic style but with Northern European influences, it was begun by King James I of Aragon in 1229 but finished only in 1601. It sits within the old city of Palma atop the former citadel of the Roman city, between the Royal Palace of La Almudaina and the episcopal palace. It also overlooks the Parc de la Mar and the Mediterranean Sea. In 1901, fifty years after a restoration of the cathedral had started, Antoni Gaudí was invited to take over the project. While some of his ideas were adopted – moving the choir stalls from the middle nave to be closer to the altar, as well as a large canopy – Gaudí abandoned his work in 1914 after an argument with the contractor. The planned changes were essentially cosmetic rather than structural, and the project was cancelled soon after.
  2. The Banys Àrabs, or Arab Baths, one of the few remnants of Palma's Moorish past, are accessed via the quiet Ca'n Serra street near the Convent of the Cathedral, and include the lush gardens of Ca'n Fontirroig, home to Sardinian warblers, house sparrows, cacti, palm trees, and a wide range of flowers and ferns. The small two-roomed brick building that once housed the bath is in fact of Byzantine origin, dating back to the 11th century and possibly once part of the home of a Muslim nobleman. The bath room has a cupola with five oculi which let in dazzling light. The twelve columns holding up the small room were pillaged from an earlier Roman construction. The floor over the hypocaust has been worn away by people standing in the centre, mainly to photograph the entrance and the garden beyond it. The whole room is in a rather disreputable condition. The other room is a brick cube with a small model of the baths as they once were in the corner.
  3. The Royal Palace of La Almudaina is the Alcázar (fortified palace) of Palma. It is the royal summer official residence and administered by the Patrimonio Nacional. The site dominates the entrance to the city and this excellent strategic position was realised as early as the Talayot period, whose people were the first to live here millennia ago. The Romans used the same area in the 2nd century BC to create a nucleus for their new city, Palmeria, which marked the birth of the city as we know it. When the ‘Dark era’ began, 7 centuries later, the Vandals destroyed it building one of their own, but in 903 when the Arabs conquered the island, the governor, or Wali as he was known, built himself a fortress on the same site. ‘Almudayna’ in Arabic meaning ‘Fortress’ and this was the beginning of the building you see now.
  4. The museum of Palau March, next to Parliament, sits exactly where the old gardens of the Convent of San Domingo used to be. In the 1930’s Juan March Ordinas, the richest man in Mallorca, began its construction as a residence for his family. The drawings were made by the famous Spanish architect Luis Gutierrez Soto but were based on preliminary work done by the Mallorcan architect Forteza. The result combines the austere Herreran style of the façade in Calle Conquistador with the light, open Mediterranean style of this side, facing the Cathedral. It stands out more as an example of the architectural change undergone during this period than it does on the basis of its intrinsic value. Its construction took 6 years, finishing in 1945.
  5. Bellver Castle - a fairy tale outline that stands on a pedestal of pine trees. If anything defines this castle it’s the location, because it is also the origin of its name – ‘Bellver’ meaning ‘Beautiful view’. The Bellver Castle is located 3 km from Palma's city centre and 112.6 m above sea level, dominating the bay and a large part of the island of Mallorca.Like the Cathedral and the Almudaina, it was the brainchild of King James II and was to serve as a residence for the kings of Mallorca. Started around 1310, it took about 9 years to complete and is witness to a unique architectural design- it is the only castle, in all of Spain, with a circular design. The castle consists of three semi-circular towers and another tower about 7 metres away from the main body. The construction is set around a central courtyard and has two levels: the ground floor with round arches and flat ceilings and the upper floor with lancet arches covered with a cross vault in pure Gothic style.









Saturday, 4 August 2012

Paris

Paris




Paris is the capital and largest city of France. It is situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region. As of January 2009 the city of Paris, within its administrative limits (the 20 arrondissements) largely unchanged since 1860, has an estimated population of 2,234,105 and a metropolitan population of 12,161,542, and is one of the most populated metropolitan areas in Europe. Paris was the largest city in the Western world for about 600 years prior to the 19th century.

Paris is today one of the world's leading business and cultural centres, and its influences in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities. Paris is considered one of the greenest and most liveable cities in Europe. It is also one of the most expensive cities.


The earliest archaeological signs of permanent settlements in the Paris area date from around 4200 BC. The Parisii, a sub-tribe of the Celtic Senones, inhabited the area near the river Seine from around 250 BC. The Romans conquered the Paris basin in 52 BC, with a permanent settlement by the end of the same century on the Left Bank, Sainte Geneviève Hill and the Île de la Cité. The Gallo-Roman town was originally called Lutetia, or Lutetia Parisorum but later Gallicised to Lutèce. It expanded greatly over the following centuries, becoming a prosperous city with a forum, palaces, baths, temples, theatres, and an amphitheatre.

The collapse of the Roman empire and the 5th-century Germanic invasions sent the city into a period of decline. By AD 400, Lutèce, largely abandoned by its inhabitants, was little more than a garrison town entrenched into a hastily fortified central island. The city reclaimed its original appellation of "Paris" towards the end of the Roman occupation.

The Paris region was under full control of the Germanic Franks by the late 5th century. The Frankish king Clovis the Frank, the first king of the Merovingian dynasty, made the city his capital from 508. The late 8th century Carolingian dynasty displaced the Frankish capital to Aachen; this period coincided with the beginning of Viking invasions that had spread as far as Paris by the early 9th century.

Repeated invasions forced Parisians to build a fortress on the Île de la Cité. One of the most remarkable Viking raids was on 28 March 845, when Paris was sacked and held ransom, probably by Ragnar Lodbrok, who left only after receiving a large bounty paid by the crown. The weakness of the late Carolingian kings of France led to the gradual rise in power of the Counts of Paris; Odo, Count of Paris, was elected king of France by feudal lords, and the end of the Carolingian empire came in 987 when Hugh Capet, count of Paris, was elected king of France. Paris, under the Capetian kings, became a capital once more.

Paris lost its position as seat of the French realm during the occupation by the English-allied Burgundians during the Hundred Years' War, but regained its title when Charles VII of France reclaimed the city from English rule in 1436. Paris from then on became France's capital once again in title, but France's real centre of power would remain in the Loire Valley until King Francis I returned France's crown residences to Paris in 1528.

Sacré-Cœur
During the French Wars of Religion, Paris was a stronghold of the Catholic party. In August 1572, under the reign of Charles IX, while many noble Protestants were in Paris on the occasion of the marriage of Henry of Navarre – the future Henry IV – to Margaret of Valois, sister of Charles IX, the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre occurred; begun on 24 August, it lasted several days and spread throughout the country.

In 1590 Henry IV unsuccessfully laid siege to the city in the Siege of Paris. During the Fronde, Parisians rose in rebellion and the royal family fled the city (1648). King Louis XIV then moved the royal court permanently to Versailles, a lavish estate on the outskirts of Paris, in 1682. A century later, Paris was the centre stage for the French Revolution, with the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789 and the overthrow of the monarchy in September 1792.

During World War I, Paris was at the forefront of the war effort, having been spared a German invasion by the French and British victory at the First Battle of the Marne in 1914. In 1918–1919, it was the scene of Allied victory parades and peace negotiations. In the inter-war period, Paris was famed for its cultural and artistic communities and its nightlife. The city became a gathering place of artists from around the world, from exiled Russian composer Stravinsky and Spanish painters Picasso and Dalí to American writer Hemingway. 

On 14 June 1940, five weeks after the start of the Battle of France, an undefended Paris fell to German occupation forces. The Germans marched past the Arc de Triomphe on the 140th anniversary of Napoleon's victory at the Battle of Marengo. German forces remained in Paris until the city was liberated in August 1944 after a resistance uprising, two and a half months after the Normandy invasion. Central Paris endured World War II practically unscathed, as there were no strategic targets for Allied bombers (train stations in central Paris are terminal stations; major factories were located in the suburbs). Also, German General von Choltitz did not destroy all Parisian monuments before any German retreat, as ordered by Adolf Hitler, who had visited the city in 1940. 

Much of contemporary Paris is the result of the vast mid-19th century urban remodelling. For centuries, the city had been a labyrinth of narrow streets and half-timber houses, but, beginning with Haussman's advent, entire quarters were leveled to make way for wide avenues lined with neo-classical stone buildings of bourgeoisie standing. Most of this 'new' Paris is the Paris we see today.

The building code has seen few changes since, and the Second Empire plans are in many cases still followed. The "alignement" law is still in place, which regulates building façades of new constructions according to a pre-defined street width. A building's height is limited according to the width of the streets it borders, and under the regulation, it was always difficult to get an approval to build a taller building. 
 However, In an effort to boost the global economic image of metropolitan Paris, several skyscrapers (300 m (984 ft) and higher) have been approved since 2006 in the business district of La Défense, to the west of the city proper, and are scheduled to be completed by the early 2010s. Paris authorities also stated publicly that they are planning to authorise the construction of skyscrapers within the city proper by relaxing the cap on building height for the first time since the construction of the Tour Montparnasse in the early 1970s.

Paris' culinary reputation has its base in the diverse origins of its inhabitants. In its beginnings, it owed much to the 19th-century organisation of a railway system that had Paris as a centre, making the capital a focal point for immigration from France's many different regions and gastronomical cultures. This reputation continues through today in a cultural diversity that has since spread to a worldwide level thanks to Paris' continued reputation for culinary finesse and further immigration from increasingly distant climes. It may however come as a surprise that Paris isn't considered the culinary capital of France, rather some people prefer the French cooking found in small rural restaurants, outside of the city, closer to the farms and with their focus on freshness and regional specialities. Even amongst French cities, Paris has long been considered by some people as second to Lyon for fine dining.

There have been many other challenges in the last 20 years or so as restaurateurs in places like San Francisco and Sydney briefly surpassed their Parisian fore bearers, again with an emphasis on freshness of ingredients but also borrowings from other cuisines. Parisian cooks didn't just rest on their laurels during this time, rather they travelled, taught, and studied, and together with Paris's own immigrant communities, have revitalized the restaurant trade. Today you can find hundreds of beautiful restaurants with thoughtful (or just trendy) interior design and well-planned and executed cartes and menus offering a creative mélange of French and exotic foreign cuisines. It's safe to say that Paris is once again catching up with or edging ahead of its Anglophone rivals.

Of course there are also some traditional offerings, and for the budget conscious there are hundreds of traditional bistros, with their sidewalk terraces offering a choice of fairly simple (usually meat centred) meals for reasonable prices.

For the uninitiated, it is unfortunately possible to have a uniformly poor dining experience during a stay in Paris, mainly because many attractions are situated in upscale areas of town, and that mass tourism attracts price gougers. It is frequent to hear of people complaining of very high Parisian prices for poor food and poor service, because they always tried to eat close to major tourist magnets. For good food and great service, try to go eat where the locals eat .

Many restaurants are tiny and have tables close together - square metres are at a premium and understandably restaurateurs need to make the most of limited space. In some cases when the restaurant is crowded, you may have to sit beside strangers at the same table. If that does not appeal to you, go to a more upscale place where you will pay for the extra space. Trendy restaurants often require reservations weeks, if not months in advance. If you haven't planned far enough ahead, try to get a reservation for lunch which is generally easier and less expensive.



One of the best value and most convenient ways to see the sights of Paris is with the Paris Museum Pass, a pre-paid entry card that allows entry into over 70 museums and monuments around Paris (and the Palace of Versailles) and comes in 2-day (€39), 4-day (€54) and 6-day (€69) denominations (prices as of Apr 2012). Note these are 'consecutive' days. The card allows you to jump lengthy queues, a big plus during tourist season when line can be extensive, and is available from participating museums, tourist offices, Fnac branches and all the main Métro and RER train stations. You will still need to pay to enter most special exhibitions. To avoid waiting in the first long queue to purchase the Museum Pass, stop to purchase your pass a day or more in advance after mid-day.  The pass does not become active until your first museum or site visit when you write your start date. After that, the days covered are consecutive. (Do not write your start date until you are certain you will use the pass that day and be careful to use the European date style as indicated on the card - day/month/year. 

Paris is one of the great fashion centres of the Western world, up there with New York, London, and Milan, making it a shopper's delight. While the Paris fashion scene is constantly evolving, the major shopping centres tend to be the same. High end couture can be found in the 8th arrondisement. In summer, there is nothing better than browsing the boutiques along Canal St-Martin, or strolling along the impressive arcades of the historic Palais-Royal, with beautifully wrapped purchases swinging on each arm.

A good note about Le Marais is that as it is a mostly Jewish neighborhood, most of the shops in Le Marais are open on Sundays. The stores in this area are intimate, boutique, "Parisian" style clothing stores. You will no doubt find something along each street, and it is always well worth the look.

Other great areas to shop around in are around the area Sèvres Babylone (Métro Line 10 and Line 12). It is in this area you will find the Le Bon Marché 7th, particularly rue de Cherche Midi 6th. The area boasts some of the major fashion houses (Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier, Versace, etc) and also has smaller private boutiques with handmade clothing.

In the Quartier Saint-Germain-des-Prés, you can find a handful of vintage clothing shops, carrying anything from couture early 20th century dresses, to 70s Chanel sunglasses. Walking along Boulevard Saint-Germain, you will find major brands. However, if in search of eclectic finds, opt to walk the northern side of the Boulevard, especially along rue Saint André des Arts, where you can always find a nice café to stop in. The area south of Saint-Germain is just as nice, and comes with a price tag to match.

In the artsy quarters of 1 and 4, there are many bargains to be had, once again, if you are prepared to look. Souvenirs are easily found and can be fairly inexpensive as long as you don't buy from the tourist sites. For cheap books of French connection, try the University/Latin quarter as they sell books in all languages starting from half a euro each.





                                                        Paris’ Top 5:
       
  1. The Eiffel Tower  is a puddled iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris, named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair, it has become both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tower is the tallest structure in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world; 7.1 million people ascended it in 2011. The third level observatory's upper platform is at 279.11 m the highest accessible to public in the European Union and the highest in Europe as long as the platform of the Ostankino Tower, at 360 m, remains closed as a result of the fire of August 2000. The tower received its 250 millionth visitor in 2010.
  2. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A popular landmark, the basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. Sacré-Cœur is a double monument, political and cultural, both a national penance for the supposed excesses of the Second Empire and socialist Paris Commune of 1871 crowning its most rebellious neighborhood, and an embodiment of conservative moral order, publicly dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was an increasingly popular vision of a loving and sympathetic Christ.
    The Sacré-Cœur Basilica was designed by Paul Abadie. Construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. It was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919.
  3. The Musée du Louvre in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre—is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, France, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement (district). Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 19th century are exhibited over an area of 60,600 square metres (652,300 square feet). The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace (Palais du Louvre) which began as a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum, to display the nation's masterpieces. The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property. As of 2008, the collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.
  4. The Arc de Triomphe  is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle (originally named Place de l'Étoile), at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. There is a smaller arch, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which stands west of the Louvre. The Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
  5. Notre Dame de Paris  also known as Notre Dame Cathedral or simply Notre Dame, is an historic Roman Catholic Marian cathedral on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement. Widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and among the most well-known churches ever built, Notre Dame is the cathedral of the Catholic Archdiocese of Paris; that is, it is the church that contains the cathedra (official chair) of the Archbishop of Paris, currently André Vingt-Trois. The cathedral treasury is notable for its reliquary, which houses the purported crown of thorns, a fragment of the True Cross and one of the Holy Nails – all instruments of the Passion and a few of the most important first-class relics. Notre Dame de Paris is often reputed to be one of the most prominent examples of Gothic architecture in both France and in Europe as a whole, and the naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass are in contrast with earlier Romanesque architecture. The first period of construction from 1163 into 1240s coincided with the musical experiments of the Notre Dame school.










Thursday, 2 August 2012

Portsmouth

Portsmouth



Portsmouth is the second largest city in the ceremonial county of Hampshire on the south coast of England. Portsmouth is notable for being the United Kingdom's only island city; it is located mainly on Portsea Island. It is situated 64 miles (103 km) south west from London and 19 miles (31 km) south east from Southampton.

As a significant naval port for centuries, Portsmouth is home to the world's oldest dry dock still in use and also home to some famous ships, including HMSWarrior, the Tudor carrack Mary Rose and Lord Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory. Although smaller than in its heyday, the naval base remains a major dockyard and base for the Royal Navy and Royal Marine Commandos whose Headquarters resides there. There is also a thriving commercial ferryport serving destinations on the continent for freight and passenger traffic.


There have been settlements in the area since before Roman times, mostly being offshoots of Portchester, which was a Roman base (Portus Adurni) and possible home port of the Classis Britannica. Portsmouth is commonly regarded as having been founded in 1180 by the Anglo-Norman lord Jean de Gisors. Most early records of Portsmouth are thought to have been destroyed by Norman invaders following the Norman Conquest. The earliest detailed references to Portsmouth can be found in the Southwick Cartularies. However, there are records of "Portesmūða" from the late 9th century, meaning "mouth of the Portus harbour". The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for 501 claims that "Portesmuða" was founded by a Saxon warrior called Port, though historians do not accept that origin of the name. 

In the Domesday Book there is no mention of Portsmouth. However, settlements that were later to form part of Portsmouth are listed. At this time it is estimated the Portsmouth area had a population not greater than two or three hundred. Whereas Portsea had a small church prior to 1166, Portsmouth's first real church was built in 1181, when a chapel dedicated to Thomas Becket was erected by Augustinian monks; it was run by the monks of Southwick Priory until the Reformation. The modern Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral is built on the original location of the chapel.

In 1194 King Richard The Lionheart returned from being held captive in Austria, and set about summoning a fleet and an army to Portsmouth, which Richard had taken over from John of Gisors. On 2 May 1194 the King gave Portsmouth its first Royal Charter granting permission for the borough to hold a fifteen day annual "Free Market Fair", weekly markets, to set up a local court to deal with minor matters, and exemption from paying the annual tax, with the money instead used for local matters. King Richard later went on to build a number of houses and a hall in Portsmouth. The hall is thought to have been at the current location of the Clarence Barracks (the area was previously known as Kingshall Green). Some believe that the crescent and eight-point star found on the thirteenth century common seal of the borough was derived from the arms of William de Longchamp, Lord Chancellor to Richard I at the time of the granting of the charter but it is actually the granting by Richard of the arms of the defeated Isaac Komnenos of Cyprus (Isaac had held Richard's fiancee and sister captive; and he conquered Cyprus as a result, in the Third Crusade. His awarding of the arms could possibly reflect a significant involvement of Portsmouth soldiers, sailors or vessels in that operation.). The crescent and star, in gold on a blue shield, were subsequently recorded by the College of Arms as the coat of arms of the borough.

In 1200 King John reaffirmed the rights and privileges awarded by King Richard. King John's desire to invade Normandy resulted in the establishment of Portsmouth as a permanent naval base, and soon afterward construction began on the first docks, and the Hospital of St Nicholas, which performed its duties as an almshouse and hospice. During the thirteenth century Portsmouth was commonly used by Henry III and Edward I as a base for attacks against France.

By the fourteenth century commercial interests had grown considerably. Common imports included wool, grain, wheat, woad, wax and iron, however the port's largest trade was in wine from Bayonne and Bordeaux.

In 1338 a French fleet led by Nicholas Béhuchet raided Portsmouth, destroying much of the town, with only the local church and hospital surviving. Edward III gave the town exemption from national taxes to aid reconstruction. Only ten years after this devastation the town for the first time was struck by the Black Death. In order to prevent the regrowth of Portsmouth as a threat, the French again sacked the city in 1369, 1377 and 1380. Henry V built the first permanent fortifications of Portsmouth. In 1418 he ordered a wooden Round Tower be built at the mouth of the harbour, which was completed in 1426. Henry VII rebuilt the fortifications with stone, raised a square tower, and assisted Robert Brygandine and Sir Reginald Bray in the construction of the world's first dry dock. In 1527, with some of the money from the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry VIII built Southsea Castle and decreed that Portsmouth be home of the Royal Navy he founded. In 1545, he saw his vice-flagship Mary Rose founder off Southsea Castle, with a loss of about 500 lives, while going into action against the French fleet. Over the years, Portsmouth's fortifications were rebuilt and improved by successive monarchs.

During the English Civil War the arsenal at the Square Tower was surrendered by its royalist commander in return for safe passage out of the city for himself and the garrison. The City would become a major base for the Parliamentary Navy during the war. The father of the Royal Navy Robert Blake during the Commonwealth would use Portsmouth as his main base, during both the Anglo Dutch war and the Anglo Spanish war. He died within sight of the city after his final cruise off Cadiz.

On 13 May 1787 11 ships sailed from Portsmouth, to establish the first European colony in Australia; it also marked the beginning of prisoner transports to that continent. It is known today as the First Fleet in Australia.

Portsmouth has a long history of supporting the Royal Navy logistically, leading to its importance in the development of the Industrial Revolution. Marc Isambard Brunel, the father of famed Portsmouth engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, established in 1802 the world's first mass production line at the Portsmouth Block Mills, to mass produce pulley blocks for rigging on the Royal Navy's ships. At its height the Dockyard was the largest industrial site in the world.

Admiral Nelson left Portsmouth for the final time in 1805 to command the fleet that would defeat the larger Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar. The Royal Navy's reliance on Portsmouth led to the city becoming the most fortified in Europe, with a network of forts (a subset of "Palmerston's Follies") encircling the city. From 1808 the Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron, who were tasked to stop the slave trade, operated out of Portsmouth.

In 1926 Portsmouth was granted city status, following a long campaign by the borough council. The application was made on the grounds that Portsmouth was the "first naval port of the kingdom".
During the Second World War, the city was bombed extensively destroying many houses and the Guildhall. 930 people died in the air raids on Portsmouth and nearly 3,000 others were injured. There were also many injuries and deaths in the dockyard and naval and military establishments. Its status as a major port was the key factor in the Luftwaffe's decision to bomb it so heavily. While most of the city has since been rebuilt, developers still occasionally find unexploded bombs around the area. Southsea beach and Portsmouth Harbour were vital military embarkation points for the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944. Southwick House, just to the north of Portsmouth, had been chosen as the headquarters for the Supreme Allied Commander, US General Dwight D. Eisenhower, during D-Day.

After the war, much of the city's housing stock was damaged and more was cleared in an attempt to improve the quality of housing. Those people affected by this were moved out from the centre of the city to new developments such as Paulsgrove and Leigh Park. Post-war redevelopment throughout the country was characterised by utilitarian and brutalist architecture, with Portsmouth's Tricorn Centre one of the most famous examples. More recently, a new wave of redevelopment has seen Tricorn's demolition, the renewal of derelict industrial sites, and construction of the Spinnaker Tower.

The city centre is the main shopping area in Portsmouth, mainly sited around the shopping streets Commercial Road, Edinburgh Road, Arundel Street, Crasswell Street and Charlotte Street. The City Centre is home to the Cascades Shopping Centre and major high street stores. To the north of the City Centre is the Victory Retail Park. Portsmouth and Southsea railway station (the city's central station) is located to the south of the city centre, close to the Guildhall and the Civic Offices. Just to the south of the Guildhall is Guildhall Walk, a street which is known for its bars and clubs, such as Walkabout, VBar, Pure, and Babylon (a club that only plays music from the 90s). Located in Edinburgh Road is the Portsmouth Roman Catholic cathedral and Victoria Park.

The most significant project is at the Northern Quarter, centred on the former Tricorn site, which will form a new regional shopping destination. The development will provide new shops, cafés and restaurants.






                                                        Portsmouth’s Top 5:
       
  1. The Cathedral Church of St Thomas of Canterbury commonly known as Portsmouth Cathedral, is the Church of England cathedral of the Diocese of Portsmouth and is located in the heart of Old Portsmouth. It is the seat of the Bishop of Portsmouth.  Around the year 1180, Jean de Gisors, a wealthy Norman merchant and Lord of the Manor of Titchfield, gave land, in his new town of Portsmouth, to the Augustiniancanons of Southwick Priory, so that they could build a chapel "to the Glorious Honour of the Martyr Thomas of Canterbury, one time Archbishop, on (my) land which is called Sudewede, the island of Portsea". This chapel was to become, in turn, a parish church in the 14th century and then a cathedral in the 20th century. Of this original building, the chancel and transepts remain.   
  2. HMS Victory is a 104-gun first-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, laid down in 1759 and launched in 1765. She is most famous as Lord Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. She was also Keppel's flagship at Ushant, Howe's flagship at Cape Spartel and Jervis's flagship at Cape St Vincent. After 1824 she served as a harbour ship. In 1922 she was moved to a dry dock at Portsmouth, and preserved as a museum ship. She continues to be flagship of the Second Sea Lord and is the oldest naval ship still in commissionThe naval architect chosen to design the ship was Sir Thomas Slade who, at the time, was the appointed Surveyor of the Navy. She was designed to carry at least 100 guns and was established with that number of guns; in practice, her armament varied from 104 to 106 guns and carronades. In January 1808 the Victory was reduced to a 98-gun second rate, but was reclassed as a 104-gun first rate in February 1817. The keel was laid on 23 July 1759 in the Old Single Dock (since renamed No. 2 Dock and now Victory Dock), and the name was finally chosen in October 1760.
  3. Southsea Castle (early in its history also known as Chaderton castle ) is one of Henry VIII's Device Forts, also known as Henrician Castles, built in 1544 on the waterfront at the southern end of Portsea Island (an area that later became named Southsea after the castle). The castle was built to guard the eastern entrance to the Solent and entrance to Portsmouth Harbour. Henry VIII watched the Mary Rose sink from near this location.  The Castle was initially constructed in 1544 however there is the possibility that work started the year before. The work was in part paid for by money received as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The castle was constructed around a square keep. To the south towards the sea the castle had an angled bastion with the same arrangement on the north side. Square gun platforms made up the east and west sides. Edward VI spent a night at the castle in 1552 while inspecting the defenses of Portsmouth.
  4. Spinnaker Tower is a 170-metre (560 ft) landmark tower. It is the centrepiece of the redevelopment of Portsmouth Harbour, which was supported by a National Lottery grant. Its shape was chosen by Portsmouth residents from a selection. The tower, designed by local firm HGP Architects and the engineering consultants Scott Wilson and built by Mowlem, reflects Portsmouth's maritime history by being modelled after a sail. After several years of delays and cost overruns, it was opened on 18 October 2005.  The tower is 2 1⁄2 times as high as Nelson's Column, making it the tallest accessible structure in the United Kingdom outside London. The tower is visible for miles around Portsmouth, changing the horizon of the area. It can be seen from the Isle of Wight, and even the Manhood Peninsula.
  5. The Mary Rose was a carrack-type warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII. After serving for 33 years in several wars against France, Scotland, and Brittany and after being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she saw her last action on 19 July 1545. While leading the attack on the galleys of a French invasion fleet, she sank in the Solent, the straits north of the Isle of Wight. The wreck of the Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1971 and salvaged in 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust in one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archaeology. The surviving section of the ship and thousands of recovered artefacts are of immeasurable value as a Tudor-era time capsule. The excavation and salvage of the Mary Rose was a milestone in the field of maritime archaeology, comparable in complexity and cost only to the raising of the Swedish 17th-century warship Vasa in 1961. The finds include weapons, sailing equipment, naval supplies and a wide array of objects used by the crew. Many of the artefacts are unique to the Mary Rose and have provided insights into topics ranging from naval warfare to the history of musical instruments. Since the mid-1980s, while undergoing conservation, the remains of the hull have been on display at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. An extensive collection of well-preserved artefacts is on display at the nearby Mary Rose Museum.










Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Pesaro

Pesaro


Pesaro is a city and comune in the Italian region of Le Marche, capital of the Pesaro e Urbino province, on the Adriatic. Fishery, furniture industry and tourism are the main strengths of the local economy.

The city was founded as Pisaurum by the Romans in 184 BC as colony in the territory of the Picentes, the people who lived on the northeast coast during the Iron Age. A settlement of the latter tribe has been found at Novilara. The northern Picentes were invaded in the 4th century BC by the Gallic Senones, earlier by the Etruscans, and when the Romans reached the area the population was an ethnic mixture. Within it the Gauls at least were still distinct, as the Romans separated them out and expelled them from the country.

Under the Roman administration Pesaro, a hub across the Via Flaminia, became an important center of trading and craftmanship. After the fall of the Western Empire, Pesaro was occupied by the Ostrogoths, and destroyed by Vitigis (539) in the course of the Gothic War. Hastily rebuilt five years later after the Byzantine reconquets, it formed the so-called Pentapolis, part of the Exarchate of Ravenna. After the Lombard and Frank conquests of that city, Pesaro became part of the Papal States.

During Renaissance it was ruled by the Malatesta (1285–1445), Sforza (1445–1512) and Della Rovere (1513–1631). Under the latter family, who elected it as capital of their duchy, Pesaro lived its most flourishing age, with the construction of numerous public and private palaces, while a new line of walls (the Mura Roveresche) was erected. On September 11, 1860 the Piedmontese troops entered the city, and Pesaro was subsequently annexed to the new Kingdom of Italy.

At the heart of the city lies the wide main square, Piazza del Popolo. Sipping a cool drink from one of the smart bars flanking the piazza, admire the sea-horses and tritons that decorate the sparkling fountain in the centre. Then let your eyes wander over the Palazzo Ducale that vies for your attention with the imperious post office building. The clean-lined Renaissance palace, recently restored, was built in the middle of the 15th century by the ruling Sforza family. It now houses local government offices and an exhibition space open to the public. Take a moment to walk into the imposing courtyard.



Leaving the square towards the sea along Via Rossini you'll find on your right the modest house where Italy's great opera composer Gioachino Rossini was born in 1792; it is now a small shrine to the composer. The annual Rossini Opera Festival in August has earned a world-wide reputation for performing works from his large repertoire of bel canto operas.

The city was once noted for its ceramic workshops that turned out the brightly painted earthenware known asmajolica. In the Musei Civici (Civic Museums) in Piazza Toschi Mosca (just off via Rossini) you can browse through one of Italy's finest collections of Renaissance and baroque pottery, much of it striking for its spontaneous, almost modern, use of colour and design.

If crockery leaves you cold, the warmth of Giovanni Bellini's masterpiece, the Coronation of the Virgin in the adjoining Pinacoteca shouldn't. This large painting with a series of smaller panels, originally created as an altarpiece, catches the eye with its sun-drenched colours and rounded, sculptural figures. The gallery also has a large collection of interesting, if less important, Renaissance pictures.

La Rocca Costanza
The castle in the background of Bellini's painting is the Sforza family fortress at nearby Gradara - it was Pesaro's ruling lord, Costanzo Sforza, who commissioned the picture from the Venetian artist. If you're driving north on the motorway you will catch sight of it a few miles from Pesaro - the view has hardly changed since the day Bellini painted it.

Centuries before the Sforza family ruled Pesaro, the city was already a thriving Roman colony, founded in 184 BC, probably on the foundations of an even older settlement . For lost property from Roman Pisaurum visit the Museo Archeologico Oliveriano in via Mazza to the west of the main square. 


Keep heading straight down via Rossini and you will eventually find yourself on the sea-front and looking at one of the city's most flamboyant buildings, the Villino Ruggeri. This heavily stuccoed confection is one of the finest examples of the Italian Liberty style that swept the Adriatic Riviera at the turn of the 20th century.

Like most Italian beaches, the 3 km strand here is laid out with serried ranks of umbrellas and deck chairs but it is rarely overcrowded. For a more secluded beach with green hills as a backdrop, make for Baia Flaminia just to the north of the centre. As well as sections with all the gear where you have to pay, there are also free stretches of public beach. You'll also find free, uncluttered public beaches just south of the town on the SS16 road towards Fano. 

Cooking in the Marche is deeply rooted in peasant tradition and remains impervious to the arrival of frozenbastoncini di pesce (fish fingers). Here the home cook rather than the professional chef rules and even the smartest restaurants seek to produce food just like nonna, or grandmother, used to make.

The use of fresh, top quality materials assembled with the minimum of fuss marks marchigiano food. But as dishes are strictly based on tradition and local produce, each local area has its distinctive cucina tipica. As with any rural diet, much use is made of food gathered from the wild; funghi, game, nuts, field herbs and - the area's greatest culinary treasure - truffles are an important feature in the Marche.

Not surprisingly, the best food is still to be had in Marche homes rather than in restaurants. The arrival, however, of tourists in smaller towns and villages has often raised the standards in local restaurants and led to the "rediscovery" of long lost traditional dishes.

The old labels ristorante, trattoria and osteria have become somewhat interchangeable in recent years; many of the smarter, and most expensive places, call themselves osterie and take pride in reinterpreting strictly local dishes with great flair. Many restaurants also double as a pizzeria, but note that pizzas are usually only available in the evening when the wood-fired oven is lit.

Generally, though, a ristorante will at least have a written menu and a broader choice of wines. In trattorie, particularly in country areas, you will often have to cope with a menu rattled off at your table by the proprietor - at your blank looks a son or daughter with some English or French will often be brought out from the back to assist.

Avoid the temptation just to order dishes whose names are familiar to you from back home - you will frequently be missing the best the house has to offer. If you are touring in summer or early autumn, look out for posters advertising the local sagra - a festival dedicated to a town's particular speciality where you can try the food in question in every guise imaginable. 





                                                        Pesaro’s Top 5:
       
  1. The Ducal Palace, constructed by Alessandro Sforza in the second half of the 15th century. The façade has a portico with six arcades supported by six heavy pilasters and an upper floor with five windows crowned by coats of arms, festoons and puttoes.
  2. Pesaro Cathedral Basilica, built in the 5th century over remains of a late Roman edifice and dedicated to St. Terence during the Middle Ages. The façade, in Romanesque-Gothic style, is unfinished: it has a simple ogival portal surmounted by a band of small arches. Step inside to see the remarkable mosaic floor uncovered in 2000. The beautiful early Christian work dates from the 6th century and can be admired through glass panels set in the suspended modern floor. This vast work of art belongs to the same period as the magnificent Byzantine mosaics at Ravenna. In some points you can also glimpse an even earlier and deeper mosaic floor dating from as early as the 4th century.
  3. The Rocca Costanza (Castle), built in the 15th century by Costanzo Sforza, later for a time used as prison. It has a square plan with four cylindrical corner towers and a wide dry moat.  The building was named after Costanzo Sforza, who had it built between 1474 and 1483. The initial design of Giorgio Marchesi Settignano, but soon after was assigned to another architect, probably the great Luciano Laurana, the Work continued under the guidance of Cherubino from Milan. In 1500 Cesare Borgia occupied Pesaro and the fortress, The interior features an arcade courtyard with round arches. The central arch is flanked by two round with garlands marble, beneath which elegant inscriptions recalling the two main architechts of the Rock. Newly renovated in 1657, the Rock was turned into prison in 1864 until 1989. It is currently used as a venue for cultural events, including those linked to the annual Rossini Opera Festival.
  4. The birthplace of Gioacchino Rossini, located at 34 Via Rossini. It has a museum dedicated to the composer, with manifestoes, prints, portraits and his spinet.
  5. The Palla Di Pomodoro In Freedom Square, at the center of the gardens, there is a huge sphere with characteristic mechanisms, created by renowned sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro, is now a symbol of Pesaro and the square is a meeting of citizens. The grand ball lying on the surface of the water of a fountain from which one looks the sea, is the bronze cast made in 1998 by sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro based on the original made in 1967 for Expo ' Montreal. The original work is located in Rome today outside the main entrance of the Foreign Ministry headquarters. Since the seventies,  the Great Ball has become a traditional meeting place and to provide information to visitors passing through town. In the late '90s it was covered with bronze and placed at the center of a large fountain, mainly to prevent degradation and vandalism.