28 September 2009


Loch Lomond and mountains
Loch Lomond is a freshwater Scottish loch, lying on the Highland Boundary Fault. It is the largest lake in mainland Britain, by surface area, and contains many islands, including Inchmurrin, the largest fresh water island in the British Isles. It is a popular leisure destination and is featured in song. View across Loch Lomond at the waterline looking North at Ben Lomond Loch Lomond is a freshwater loch lying on the Highland Boundary Fault, the boundary between the western lowlands of Central Scotland and the southern Highlands. It is 39 kilometres (24 mi) long and between 1.21 kilometres (0.75 mi) and 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) wide. It has an average depth of about 37 metres (120 ft), and a maximum depth of about 190 metres (620 ft). Its surface area measures 71 km2 (27 sq mi), and it has a volume of 2.6 km3 (0.62 cu mi). Of all lakes in Great Britain, it is the largest by surface area, and the second largest (after Loch Ness) by water volume. Within the United Kingdom, it is surpassed by Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland only. Traditionally a boundary of Stirlingshire and Dunbartonshire, Loch Lomond is located in the current council areas of Stirling, Argyll and Bute, and West Dunbartonshire, and its southern shores lie approximately 23 kilometres (14 mi) north of Glasgow, the country's largest city. Loch Lomond is now part of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Ben Lomond is on the eastern shore: 974 m (3,195 ft) in height and the most southerly of the Scottish Munro peaks. A 2005 poll of Radio Times readers named Loch Lomond as the 6th greatest natural wonder in Britain. The main arterial route along the loch is the A82 road which runs the length of its western shore. For a long time this was a notorious bottleneck, with the route clogged with tourists during the summer months. It was upgraded in the 1980s and 1990s, although the stretch north of Tarbet remains unimproved.


Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan (Scottish Gaelic Eilean Donnáin), is a small island in Loch Duich in the western Highlands of Scotland. It is connected to the mainland by a footbridge and lies about half a mile from the village of Dornie. Eilean Donan (which means simply "island of Donnán") is named after Donnán of Eigg, a Celtic saint martyred in the Dark Ages. The island is dominated by a picturesque medieval castle. The original castle was built in the early 13th century as a defence against the Vikings. By the late 13th century it had become a stronghold of the Mackenzies of Kintail (later the Earls of Seaforth). In 1511, the Macraes, as protectors of the Mackenzies, became the hereditary Constables of the Castle. In 1539 Iain Dubh Matheson, chief of the Clan Matheson died whilst defending the Castle on Eilean Donan island against the Clan MacDonald of Sleat on behalf of the Clan Macrae and Clan Mackenzie. In April 1719 the castle was occupied by Spanish troops attempting to start another Jacobite Rising. The castle was recaptured, and then demolished, by three Royal Navy frigates on 10–13 May 1719. The Spanish troops were defeated a month later at the Battle of Glen Shiel. The castle was restored in the years between 1919 and 1932 by Lt. Col. John MacRae-Gilstrap. The restoration included the construction of an arched bridge to give easier access to the castle. In 1983 The Conchra Charitable Trust was formed by the Macrae family to care for the Castle. A curious distinction is that it has one of only two left-handed spiral staircases in a castle in Great Britain, as the reigning king at the time of building held a sword with his left hand. One strange feature of the castle today is the grey field gun from the Great War, positioned outside the building by a war memorial and fountain dedicated to the men of the Macrae clan who died in the war. Eilean Donan is the home of the Clan Macrae. In 2001, the island had a population of just one person.


Urquhart Castle sits beside Loch Ness in Scotland along the A82 road, between Fort William and Inverness. It is close to the village of Drumnadrochit. Though extensively ruined, it was in its day one of the largest strongholds of medieval Scotland, and remains an impressive structure, splendidly situated on a headland overlooking Loch Ness. It is also near the castle where the majority of Nessie (Loch Ness Monster) sightings occur. The walled portion of the Castle is shaped roughly like a figure-8 aligned northeast-southwest along the bank of Loch Ness. The main gate is on the inland side near the middle, narrow portion, of the walls. A much smaller gate on the Loch side is located roughly across from the main gate. The castle is quite close to water level and offers little in the way of physical boundaries, but a dry moat was excavated on the inland side with a drawbridge leading to the main gate. There is considerable room for muster on the inland side, and further inland a hill rises quite close to the castle. Most of the remaining built up area of the inner courtyard is on the northeast portion, which is quite close to water level. It is anchored at its northern tip by the main tower house of five stories and an upper castellated wall. The tower's south-west side blew down in a storm in the early 18th century, but the remaining sections can be accessed via the circular staircase built into one corner of the tower. Although no upper floors remain, the cuts for support beams are visible in the stone walls and illustrate construction methods of the era. Below the tower are the Great Hall, kitchen, various trades and the chapel, mostly in ruins. The castle formerly had another built-up area at its southern end, located on a small hill of about 5 meters rise. Opposite this, on the Loch side, was a more recently built smithy and a dovecot. This entire area is now in ruins, and the uppermost portions of the tower house remain the tallest portion of the castle still standing.


Kilchurn Castle is a ruined 15th century structure on the northeastern end of Loch Awe, in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. It was the ancestral home of the Campbells of Glenorchy, who later became the Earls of Breadalbane also known as the Breadalbane family branch, of the Clan Campbell. The earliest construction on the castle was the towerhouse and Laich Hall (looks onto Loch Awe). Today, its picturesque setting and romantic state of decay make it one of the most photographed structures in Scotland.


Stirling Castle, located in Stirling, is one of the largest and most important castles, both historically and architecturally, in Scotland. The castle sits atop Castle Hill, a volcanic crag, which forms part of the Stirling Sill geological formation. It is surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, giving it a strong defensive position. Its strategic location, guarding what was, until the 1930s, the farthest downstream crossing of the River Forth, has made it an important fortification from the earliest times. Most of the principal buildings of the castle date from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. A few structures of the fourteenth century remain, while the outer defences fronting the town date from the early eighteenth century. Several Scottish Kings and Queens have been crowned at Stirling, including Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1543. There have been at least eight sieges of Stirling Castle, including several during the Wars of Scottish Independence, with the last being in 1746, when Bonnie Prince Charlie unsuccessfully tried to take the castle. Stirling Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and is now a tourist attraction managed by Historic Scotland.


Ballathie House Hotel
Ballathie House is a 19th century mansion in in Perthshire, Scotland. It is located around 9 miles (14 km) north of Perth, and 5.5 miles (8.9 km) west of Coupar Angus, close to the River Tay. The present house was built in 1886, and since 1972 it has operated as a country house hotel. Before 1886 The Drummond family, the Earls of Perth, owned the Ballathie lands in the 17th century, selling to the Robertson family. According to Historic Scotland, the house was built during the 1850s.General Richardson Robertson of Tullybelton undertook the building of the current house but died in 1883, 3 years before it was completed. Country house, 1886-1972 Ballathie House in 1905. General Richardson Robertson's nephew, Colonel Edmund Robert F. Richardson took over the house, selling it in 1910 to Sir Stewart Coates, from Paisley. The house was enlarged by alterations to the servants quarters and a new entrance porch. Central heating and electric lighting were also installed. An army hut was erected for use as a dance hall after the World War I and dances were held for staff and locals. A 9-hole golf course was laid out by professional golfer Ben Sayers but this was ploughed up as part of the campaign to provide more food during World War II. In 1936, the estate was sold to Colonel Stephen Hardie, a chartered accountant in Glasgow and founder member of the British Oxygen Company. Hardie died in 1969 and the house was sold, and converted into a hotel in 1972 by the Maxwell family from the west of Scotland. Hotel, 1972-present John Milligan purchased the estate separately in 1998, then also the hotel in 2005. The estate is still used for farming and sports. The Sportsman's Lodge was completed in 2003, within the grounds of the hotel. Christopher Longden has been the Manager since 1993, with Jonathan Greer Head Chef since 2006.

23 September 2009


The Monte Carlo Casino is one of the most notable tourist attractions of Monaco. The casino complex is a gambling facility which also includes the Grand Théâtre de Monte Carlo, an opera and ballet house, and the headquarters of the Ballets de Monte Carlo. It is situated in the Monte Carlo quarter, although the citizens of Monaco are forbidden to enter the gaming rooms. It hosts the annual European Poker Tour Grand Final. The casino is owned by the Société des Bains de Mer (Euronext: MC0000031187), a public company, in which the government holds a majority interest. This corporation also owns the principal hotels and clubs of the community that serve the tourist trade. The route of the Monaco Grand Prix (the Circuit de Monaco) runs past the casino.


Monaco, officially the Principality of Monaco (French: Principauté de Monaco; Monégasque: Principatu de Múnegu; Italian: Principato di Monaco; Occitan: Principat de Mónegue), is a small sovereign city-state located in South Western Europe on the northern central coast of the Mediterranean Sea, having a land border on three sides only with France, and being about 16 km (9.9 mi) away from Italy. Its size is just under 2 km² with an estimated population of almost 33,000. Monaco is the world's most densely populated sovereign country, and the world's smallest French-speaking country. An average person takes only 56 minutes to walk across the width of the country. Monaco is the name of the country as well as the name of its only and capital city. It is often regarded as a tax haven, and many of its inhabitants are wealthy and from foreign countries, making up a majority of the population, at around 84%. Monaco is a constitutional monarchy and principality, with Prince Albert II as head of state. The House of Grimaldi has ruled Monaco since 1297, and the state's sovereignty was officially recognized by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861. Despite being independent, Monaco's defense is the responsibility of France.


Vatican City, officially the State of the Vatican City (Italian: Stato della Città del Vaticano), is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, the capital city of Italy. At approximately 44 hectares (110 acres) (0.44 km2), and with a population of over 800, it is the smallest country in the world by both area and population. Vatican City is a city-state that came into existence in 1929 and is thus distinct from the central authority of the Roman Catholic Church, known as the Holy See, which existed long before 1929. Ordinances of Vatican City are published in Italian; official documents of the Holy See are issued mainly in Latin. The two entities even have distinct passports: the Holy See, not being a country, only issues diplomatic and service passports; the state of Vatican City issues normal passports. In both cases the passports issued are very few. The Lateran Treaty in 1929, which brought the city-state into existence, spoke of it as a new creation (Preamble and Article III), not as a vestige of the much larger Papal States (756-1870) that had previously encompassed central Italy. Most of this territory was absorbed into the Kingdom of Italy in 1860, and the final portion, namely the city of Rome with a small area close to it, ten years later, in 1870. Vatican City is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state, ruled by the bishop of Rome—the Pope. The highest state functionaries are all clergymen of the Roman Catholic Church. It is the sovereign territory of the Holy See (Sancta Sedes) and the location of the Pope's residence, referred to as the Apostolic Palace. The Popes have resided in the area that in 1929 became Vatican City since the return from Avignon in 1377. Previously, they resided in the Lateran Palace on the Caelian Hill on the opposite side of Rome, which was out of repair in 1377. The signing of the agreements that established the new state took place in the latter building, giving rise to the name of Lateran Pacts, by which they are known.


Dome of St. Peter's at sunset.
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter (Latin: Basilica Sancti Petri), officially known in Italian as the Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano and commonly known as St. Peter's Basilica, is located within the Vatican City. St. Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world, holding 60,000 people. It is the symbolic "Mother church" of the Catholic Church and is regarded as one of the holiest Christian sites. It has been described as "holding a unique position in the Christian world" and as "the greatest of all churches of Christendom". In Catholic tradition, it is the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to tradition, first Bishop of Rome and therefore first in the line of the papal succession. Tradition and some historical evidence hold that Saint Peter's tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St Peter's since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this site since the 4th century. Construction of the present basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, began on April 18, 1506 and was completed on November 18, 1626. St. Peter's is famous as a place of pilgrimage, for its liturgical functions and for its historical associations. It is associated with the papacy, with the Counter-reformation and with numerous artists, most significantly Michelangelo. As a work of architecture, it is regarded as the greatest building of its age. Contrary to popular misconception, Saint Peter's is not a cathedral, as it is not the seat of a bishop. It is properly termed a papal basilica. Like all of the earliest churches in Rome, it has the entrance to the east and the apse at the west end of the building.


Palermo Cathedral


Saint Peter from the Tiber bunk in Rome.


Cathedral of Monreale - north of Palermo in Sicily island.


1 2 3
4 5 6

1 - Selinunte

2 - Palermo

3 - Segesta

4 - Monreale

5 - Taormina

6 - Etna


Map of Sicily and its monuments / attractions.

20 March 2009


Horseshoe Falls - Winter Sunlight
Thanks to Karen


Tourist Railways available in Switzerland...
- Postcard sent by my friend José Graça -


Vilsandi island

16 March 2009


Storm over the Pierres Noires lighthouse.


11 March 2009


NEW YORK - Downtown Manhattan with Twin Towers. Thanks to Nicole


NEW YORK - Empire State Building

Thanks to Nicole

The State of New York is a state in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern regions of the United States and is the nation's third most populous. The state is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east. The state has a maritime border with Rhode Island east of Long Island, as well as an international border with the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario to the north. New York is often referred to as New York State to distinguish it from New York City. New York City, which is the largest city in the state and in the United States, is known for its history as a gateway for immigration to the United States and its status as a financial, cultural, transportation, and manufacturing center. Both state and city were named for the 17th century Duke of York, James Stuart, future James II and VII of England and Scotland. New York was inhabited by the Algonquin, Iroquois, and Lenape Native American groups at the time Dutch and French nationals moved into the region in the early 17th century. First claimed by Henry Hudson in 1609, the region came to have Dutch forts at Fort Orange, near the site of the present-day capital of Albany in 1614, and was colonized by the Dutch in 1624 at both Albany and Manhattan; it later fell to British annexation in 1664. The borders of the British colony, the Province of New York, were roughly similar to those of the present-day state. About one third of all of the battles of the Revolutionary War took place in New York. New York became an independent state on July 9, 1776 and enacted its constitution in 1777. The state ratified the United States Constitution on July 26, 1788 to become the 11th state. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, it is also a destination of choice for many foreign visitors. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_york http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire_state_building