Posts from ‘May, 2010’

The Royal Albert Hall

Since its opening by Queen Victoria on 29 March 1871 the Royal Albert Hall has played host to a multitude of different event s It has been estimated that the venue has been used for over 150,000 different events from Royal Gala performances to rock concerts. Some of the huge names in rock to perform the Royal Albert include The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Abba and Led Zeppelin and even some of the newer names like Muse, The Killers and Them Crooked Vultures.

The Royal Albert Hall is in Knightsbridge and only a short stroll from many of the other local attractions like Kensington Gardens and Harrods Department Store.

Although hard to depict in our photograph which we took at night the craftsmanship of the hall is magnificent. There are amazing mosaics frieze depicting The Triumph of Arts and Sciences around the rim of the hall. There are some 16 scenes. Many visitors are also interested in seeing the stones laid by Her Majesty Queen Victoria both as a foundation stone and at the opening of the hall, where she was too emotional to speak and left the opening remarks to her son Prince Edward the Prince of Wales. Interestingly the acoustics were pretty bad in the hall at opening and they didn’t get addressed properly for nearly 100 years in 1969.

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Amsterdam’s Tulip Museum Shop

Well forgetting the dope smoking, the canals and of course the tasty Heineken nothing symbolises Amsterdam like the Tulip and no visit to this fascinating European city is complete without a visit to the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. Located at Prinsengracht 112 beside the canal and in easy walking distance of Central Station and many of the major city sights. The museum shop has a wonderful array of bulbs, flowers and everything tulip. There are some lovely souvenirs, books, prints and even specialised gardening tools and equipment. The perfect place to pick up some mementos from Holland for your friends back home. The museum will send bulbs by post overseas but please check with your friendly customs people before ordering to see if there are any restrictions on importing bulbs into your country. Tulip Bulbs are usually available around September through to the end of the year but many other varieties are available at other times.

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Prague’s Trams

The beautiful Czech Republic city of Prague has a wonderful tram network which makes visiting the city very easy. The trams in the city date back to 1875 when the trams were horse drawn but today the system is one of the most modern in Europe and covers over 140 kilometres of track and over 900 tram cars. For a real treat look out for the historic no 91 tram which runs over the warmer months. This quaint wooden tram adds a charming and nostalgic addition to Prague’s magnificent old architecture. For people wanting to see some of Prague’s most popular sites then tram 22 is the one for you it passes the Staromestska National Theatre, the Malostranska and offers some amazing views of the Prague Castle and the Pohorelec. The tram network run 24 hours, the daytime timetable runs from 4:30 am to midnight with services about every 10 minutes while the night service runs every 40 minutes.

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Hotel suite not much bigger than a coffin

Well today’s story can only come from the world of weird and whacky- Japan. Well there’s certainly no mini bar or luxurious queen bed on this unique style of hotel. It’s the capsule hotel and they are found all over the big Japanese cities usually around the train stations and cater primarily for businessman who have had that one (or several) too many beers after work and missed the the last train home or can’t quiet face the wife and kids. The capsule hotel are a communal collection of small plastic cells about two feet wide and high and around six foot long. They have a mattress, a pillow and some linen,  sometimes a small TV and DVD player and not much else. The capsule hotels usually feature community rooms where men can carry on the celebration with a few more beers or even a meal usually from a vending machine.  Sometimes the lodger can even relax in a sauna, spa or even take a massage. Costs are usually around the 20-40 dollars a mark night and payments are often made by vending machine. The facility also offer communal showers and bathrooms and many even sell pajamas or other forms of sleepwear.  Being a cheap accommodation option in the huge citys like Tokyo and Osaka sometimes they become home. People who are working in low paying jobs have been known to have extended stays in the hotels and call them home.  The capsule hotel isn’t the most private or luxurious accommodation you will find in Japan but no one can disagree about it being one of the more unique and cheapest.

The Lisa Marie- The King’s Jetplane

The Lisa Marie is a Convair 880 jet which was once owned by the King of Rock n Roll Elvis Presley. The plane about the size of a 707 was used by the king and his entourage to travel between Graceland and Elvis’s performances all over the United States. Unfortunately Elvis only owned the jet for a few years before his untimely death in 1977.

There are lots of legendary stories about Elvis and his plane but one of the favorite which gets told time and time again. Elvis was a bit hungry and needed his favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich to quench his hunger, the only problem was the best sandwiches were in Denver. So Ron Strauss his pilot flew the Lisa Marie from Memphis to Denver to pick up enough sandwiches for Elvis’s snacktime.

The airplane is part of the extensive Elvis collection on exhibition as part of Elvis’s Graceland mansion in Memphis Tennessee. The plane sits next to the Hound Dog II which is a smaller aircraft Elvis also flew in. Nearly quarter of a million people visit Graceland every year to celebrate the life and times of Elvis and the Lisa Marie Convair 880 is one of the more popular attractions.

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Chek Lap Kok – Hong Kong’s Airport

When opened in 1998 the Hong Kong International Airport was the world’s largest and today 12 years later the airport is the one of the world’s busiest for both passengers and cargo and caters for around 300000 aircraft movements a year.  There are more than 70 boarding gates with over 60 jet bridges and is used by around 50 million people a year. The airport was built in the sea, two islands Chek Lap  Kok and Lam Chau were flattened and to make the 12 1/2 square kilometre airport. The airport took only six years to construct at a cost of about $20 billion US, replacing the old Kai Tak Airport which was wedged between Hong Kong’s skyscrapers and Victoria Harbour which had become dangerous and too small to handle the enormous growth in traffic Hong Kong required to move forward.  Chek Lap Kok has tow huge runways of 3800 metres in length and suitable for the biggest of aircraft including the new Airbus A380.  The runways are able to handle over 60 aircraft movements an hour.  Passengers are moved around the massive airport by the HKIA Automated People Movement which is a tram like system and an Airport Express rail service which reaches the heart of Hong Kong in just over 20 minutes.

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Colonial charm in Singapore

Since 1887 Raffles Hotel in the island country of Singapore has been known for its luxury and superb dining and service.  Named after Singapore’s founder Sir Stamford Raffles the Victorian style hotel offers a charm like no other and has played a huge role in the history of Singapore. The hotel is noted as being the place where the last wild tiger in Singapore was shot although there is a lot of different versions of events and no one is quiet sure of the truth if any. The hotel also had a lot of traumatic events take place during the 2nd World War when Singapore was occupied by the Japanese , ending up a transit camp for prisoners of war at the conclusion of the occupation.  Huge celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charlie Chaplin, George Bush snr. and even Queen Elizabeth II have visited this landmark hotel. The hotel is known for it’s Singapore Sling cocktail which is a must for any visitor to the city. This tropical blend of gin, brandy, pineapple, Marschino cherry amongst other things. The cocktail was invented by Raffles bartender Ngiam Tong Boon nearly 100 years ago and became  a signature drink of the hotel in the 1970’s.

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A whale of a time

The magnificent Orca or Killer Whale are the highlight attraction at San Diego’s Seaworld park. These massive mammals live in over 7 million litres of water an have been the major drawcard to this popular park since the 1960s performing to millions of visitors. The park currently has seven of killer whales but they have a huge variety of other amazing animals to thrill young and old including the pacific walruses who are so cute.  Dolphins, penguins, sharks and otters are also hugely popular exhibits and many are part of several daily shows which are held in the park where people can see the animals up close and learn about their threat of survival from pollution, over hunting and climate change.  Seaworld is home to more than animals they have a huge amount of fun for the whole family, with dozens of rides and attractions including boat rides, simulator rides and the skytower which gives a panoramic view over the park.  The Sesemae Street team are on hand for the youngsters and there are plenty of dining and shopping options.  Seaworld is a great day out in Southern California.

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A grand old lady of the sea

Longbeach California just to the south of Los Angeles is the resting place of one of what was one of the world’s grandest ocean liners. The RMS Queen Mary sailed the seven seas for just over 40 years until she was retired in 1967. Today the 1019 ft long liner is docked at Longbeach and has taken on a new role as a museum, restaurant and hotel. Many of the original splendor of the Queen Mary is intact including magnificent art deco hallways, ballrooms and function rooms.  The ship also boasts some stunning artwork including a huge transatlantic map which stands in the first class dining room which had lit up and showed the position of the ship as it cruised from London to New York. The cabins are not as luxurious as you would expect in a modern liner, but they are charming, a bit small but have good comfortable amenities. The Queen Mary is a unique accommodation experience and a very fun place to stay for anyone planning to spend a few days in Longbeach, San Diego or Los Angeles.   Interestingly the Queen Mary was owned by Disney for a period in the late 1980’s there was talk of the ship being the centrepiece of what would have become a ocean themed park. There is a striking resemblance to the Queen Mary in Tokyo’s Disneysea.. Maybe the Tokyo Park might have come out of concepts for what might have been in Longbeach.

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Alligator capital of the world

Well we think of Orlando, Florida as being home to the huge Walt Disney Resort, Universal Studios and Sea World but did you know that Orlando is also the Alligator capital of the world. Well Gatorland on the Orange Blossom Trail in Kissimmee not far from Mickey and his friends is home to 110 acres of Alligators, crocs and other leathery reptiles. The park dates back to 1949 and was founded by Owen Godwin who’s family still run the park today.  The park is great fun and the kid’s really love getting up close to some of the huge reptiles and there’s nothing like feeding time. The park is also an important learning and conservation area and home to many rare and threatened animals- not just reptiles but birds, amphibians and mammals.  The park takes about half a day to cover and is a great way to kick back and enjoy a little quieter pace in between the queueing and hustle and bustle of Orlando’s huge theme parks.

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