Thursday

Top New York Attractions , Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge, built between 1869 and 1883, connects Manhattan with New York's most populous borough, Brooklyn. The bridge is one of the most famous and magnificent landmarks in New York City.
 
Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge looking from Brooklyn Heights
Brooklyn Bridge looking from Brooklyn Heights

At the time of construction, Brooklyn - founded by Dutch settlers in the 17th century - was still an independent city. In fact it was even one of the country's largest cities. In 1898, 15 years after the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn citizens decided in a close vote to become a borough of New York.

Construction


Brooklyn Bridge
 
Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge closeup of arch
Brooklyn Bridge closeup of arch
Brooklyn Bridge arch
 Brooklyn Bridge arch
The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge started in 1869 and took 14 years to complete. At the time many saw the construction of such a large bridge as a folly.
The driving force behind the whole project, John Roebling, was a German immigrant who had worked for the Prussian government as a bridge and road builder. He launched the idea of building a bridge across the East River after he had taken a ferry across the river that ended up stuck in the ice.

John Roebling would never get to see the bridge he had designed: he died after crushing his foot in an accident. He wasn't the only one to lose his life during the construction: 20 of the in total 600 workers died while working on the bridge. The son of John Roebling, Washington Roebling, took over the leadership of the project but he suffered from the caisson-disease as a result of the works on the pillars of the bridge and was on his deathbed during the inauguration. That day, May 24, 1883, about 150,000 people crossed the bridge.

Roebling had not just made a bridge that looked incredibly strong, it also turned out to be just as strong in reality. A mesh of cables of which the four strongest have a diameter of 11 inches (28 cm) are anchored in the ground and keep the bridge from collapsing.

Brooklyn Bridge Tower

Brooklyn Bridge Tower
 
Brooklyn Bridge Tower
But even if the four strongest cables would snap, the other cables would still be sufficient to support the bridge. Roebling even claimed that the bridge wouldn't collapse without any cables, it would merely sag.
But even after the inauguration, many New Yorkers were not convinced the bridge was safe. So as to prove the doubters wrong, P.T. Barnum led a caravan of circus animals - including a herd of 21 elephants - across the bridge in 1884.

The Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge ranks as one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century and remains one of New York's most popular and well known landmarks.
The impressive bridge spans the East river between Brooklyn and Manhattan and stretches for a length of 5989 ft, about 1.8 km. The span between the large towers measures 1595.5 ft (486 meters). This made the Brooklyn Bridge the world's largest suspension bridge.

The most noticeable feature of the Brooklyn Bridge are the two masonry towers to which the many cables are attached. The towers with large Gothic arches reach a height of 276 ft (84 meters), at the time making them some of the tallest landmarks in New York. Roebling claimed that the monumental towers would make
 
Brooklyn Bridge
The Footpath
the bridge a historic monument. He was proven right when the bridge officially became a national monument in 1964.

Footpath

An elevated pedestrian path not only gives you the opportunity to cross the river without being bothered by the traffic that rushes past a level below, but it also offers a great view of the bridge's towers as well as downtown Manhattan's skyline. The views alone attract millions of visitors to this bridge each year.
 

Saturday

Top attractions of New York Statue of Liberty

For the many immigrants who flocked from Europe to New York, the Statue of Liberty was the first image they saw of the USA. The statue was a gift from the French government for the 100th anniversary of America's Independence.

Design

 
Statue of Liberty seen from above
Statue of Liberty seen from above
 
Statue of Liberty Close-up
 Statue of Liberty Close-up
 
The statue was designed by a young French sculptor, Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, who was striving to build a statue like the great Colossus that once stood at the Greek island Rhodes.

The statue's face was modeled after his mother's and the story goes that the body was modeled after a prostitute.
The crown of Lady Liberty, as the statue is often affectionately called, has seven spikes, symbolizing the Seven Seas across which liberty should be spread. In her left hand she holds a tablet with the Declaration of Independence and in her right hand a torch, symbolizing Enlightenment.

Construction


The statue's steel framework was made by the French engineer Gustave Eiffel, better known as the man behind the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Thanks to an ingenious construction consisting of copper plates attached to the metal framework, the statue is flexible enough to withstand heavy storms. Large iron bars attach the framework to a central pylon.

The Statue of Liberty was constructed in Paris, France. It took nine years before it was completed in 1884 after which it was sent to the USA in 214 crates. Even before the arrival of the statue, Bartholdi himself had traveled to the United States to discuss the location of the statue with president Ulysses S. Grant. Eventually it was decided tot erect the statue at a small island in the harbor of New York City. Today the island is known as Liberty Island.
Aerial view of Liberty Island

 
Liberty Island
The biggest and most embarrassing problem was the construction of the pedestal, which had to be paid for by the Americans themselves.
The statue's torch was displayed in Madison Square park for six years - from 1876 until 1882 - in an attempt to spark interest and attract funds. But it was only after publisher Joseph Pulitzer published the names of those who donated money for the project that the funds started flowing in. Eventually, the statue was erected 10 years late, in 1886, when it was officially inaugurated by president Grover Cleveland.

The Statue

 
Aerial view of the Statue of Liberty
Aerial view of the Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is 46,5 meters (151ft) tall and together with the pedestal it reaches a height of 93 meters (305ft). You can take the staircase inside the statue and walk all the way up the 354 steps to the crown from where you have a nice view over New York City.



Tuesday

Top attractions of Barcelona, Spain, (Parc Güell - Güell Park)

Parc Güell is one of the world's most intriguing parks. The park's colorful main staircase and the fanciful pavilions that were designed by Antoni Gaudí look like they belong in some fairy tale.
Fountain in Parc Güell

 Fountain in Parc Güell

A Failed Project

 
Parc Güell 'Dragon'
Mosaic Dragon
 
This popular park started out as a development project. Eusebi Güell, a well known Catalan industrialist, acquired a seventeen hectare (42 acres) large hilly plot in the Gràcia district, just north of Barcelona. He wanted to turn the area into a residential garden village based on English models. Sixty housing units as well as several public buildings were planned.
 
Reception House in Parc Güell


In 1900 Güell commissioned his friend and protégé Antoni Gaudí with the development of the project. With the support from other architects including Josep M. Jujol and his disciple Francesc Berenguer, Gaudí worked on the garden village until 1914 when it was clear the project was a commercial failure: Güell failed to sell a single house.

In 1918 the city of Barcelona acquired the property and in 1922 it opened to the public as a park.

Gaudí's Staircase and Pavilions

Parc Güell Staircase

 Staircase with Sala Hipòstila

The main square of the Güell Park

Gran Placa Circular

 
Serpentine bench
Serpentine Bench

 
Covered path, Parc Güell
Covered path, Parc Güell
 
Two houses were completed as well as pavilions for visitors and park keepers. The pavilions, designed by Gaudí, seem to be taken out of Hansel and Gretel, with curved roofs covered with brightly colored tiles and ornamented spires. The staircase at the entrance of the park is also designed by Gaudí. The dragon-like lizard at the center of the with trencadis-ceramics decorated staircase is the best known symbol of the park.

Serpentine Bench

A connecting flight of stairs leads to another famous feature of the park: the Gran Placa Circular. Originally intended as a market place for the residents, this plaza is bordered by what was known as the world's longest bench. The colorful ceramic serpentine bench, designed by Jujol, twists snakelike around the plaza. The view from the plaza is spectacular, you can see as far as the Mediterranean Sea. The whole platform is supported by eighty-six huge columns, creating a hall beneath the plaza, known as the Sala Hipòstila.

Gaudí Museum

Between 1906 and 1926, Gaudí lived in one of the two houses that were completed. The house, known as the Casa Museu Gaudí, was designed by Francesc Berenguer. It serves as a museum and displays some of Gaudí's furniture (including some from the Casa Batlló) and drawings. The park also includes the Casa Trias (not open for visitors). The buildings in the park are connected by winding roads with paths that are often supported by tree-like columns.

Due its unique design, Parc Güell was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1984. Several other creations by Antoni Gaudí have been given this honor, including Casa Milà, Casa Batlló, Palau Güell, Casa Vicens and the nativity facade of the Sagrada Família.

Thursday

Top attractions of Barcelona, Spain, ( Sagrada Família)

The Sagrada Família, Antoni Gaudí's unfinished masterpiece, is one of Barcelona's most popular tourist attractions. Construction on this church will continue for at least another decade, but it has already become Barcelona's most important landmark.

A New Church

 Barcelona, Spain, Sagrada Família
Sagrada Família
 
The idea for the construction of a new church was launched by a devout organisation whose goal was to bring an end to the de-christianisation of the Barcelonese, which had started with the industrialization and was caused by the increasing level of education of the Catalan population. The organisation purchased a plot of land in the new Eixample district in 1877. The architect Francisco de Paula del Villar designed a neo-Gothic church and led the construction which started in 1882.

Antoni Gaudí's Design

One year later, the modernist architect Antoni Gaudí took over as lead architect at the age of 31. From that moment on, Gaudí devoted most of his life to the construction of the church.

Instead of sticking to the original plans, Gaudí changed the design drastically. The neo-Gothic style made way for Gaudí's trademark modernist style, which was based on forms found in nature. When he died in 1926 only 
Sagrada Familia detail
 
Two of the towers
Nativity Facade, Sagrada Familia

Detail of the
Nativity Facade
 
one facade (the Nativity Facade), one tower, the apse and the crypt were finished.

Because Gaudí was constantly improvising and changing the design while construction was going on, he left few designs and models. And most of these were destroyed in 1936 during the Civil War.

Eighteen Towers

Still, architects now have a clear idea of what Gaudí had in mind. The last version of his design called for a church 95m/312ft long and 60m/197ft wide. The church will be able to accommodate some 13 000 people. When finished, the Sagrada Família will have a total of eighteen towers.

Four towers on each of the three facades represent the twelve apostles. The towers reach a height of 90 to 120m (394ft). Another four towers represent the four evangelists. They will surround the largest, 170m/558ft tall tower, dedicated to Jesus Christ. The last tower, dedicated to Virgin Mary, will be built over the apse.

Construction

After Gaudí's death in 1926 construction slowed dramatically due to a lack of funds and the outbreak of the Civil War. Construction pace started to pick up again in the mid 1950s and now two facades and eight towers have been completed. The main nave was roofed in 2000. At that time construction was expected to last for another hundred years, but modern technology has enabled architects to speed up construction so that the Sagrada Família is now slated for completion in 2026, the centenary of Gaudí's death.
Nave of the Sagrada Familia
Nave of the Sagrada Familia

Facades

The first facade, facing east, is known as the Nativity Facade. It was finished by Gaudí himself and is ornamented in a Baroque fashion with motifs of animals and plants.

Opposite the Nativity Facade is the Passion Facade. Construction started in 1954, but only in 1987 sculptures depicting the crucified Jesus Christ were added. As soon as they were installed, the abstract figures caused a storm of criticism, as the style was very different from Gaudí's.

The third and main facade is the Glory Facade. Construction of this facade - the most monumental of the three - started in 2002 and is still ongoing. This facade, on the south side of the church, will picture life and death.

Visiting Sagrada Família

Sagrada Familia at night
Sagrada Familia at night
 
Even though the Sagrada Família is far from finished, the remarkable church is well worth a visit. You can visit the crypt were Gaudí is buried as well as the transept and central nave with its giant, tree-like pillars and spectacular vaulting. A museum narrates the history of the church and tells the story of its great architect.

You can also visit the towers. An elevator and a long walk will lead you to the top of a tower from where you have a magnificent view over Barcelona. The climb is not recommended for those with fear of heights or for people with claustrophobia! 
 

Friday

London top attractions (Buckingham Palace)

Buckingham Palace, one of several palaces owned by the British Royal family, is one of the major tourist attractions in London.

History

Buckingham Palace, London

 Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace seen from St. James's Park

Buckingham Palace seen from St. James's ParkBuckingham Palace Gate

Buckingham Palace Gate

Detail of the Buckingham Palace gate

 Detail of the Buckingham Palace gate

The original building was constructed as a countryhouse in 1705 by the duke of Buckingham, John Sheffield. King George III bought the house in 1761 for his wife and had it altered by William Chambers.

In 1826, King George IV asked famed architect John Nash to expand the house - then known as Buckingham House - into a palace. Meanwhile St. James's Palace was still the principal palace used by the royals for ceremonies and receptions.

King George IV as well as his younger brother and successor King William IV both died before the palace was completed. Queen Victoria was the first to reside in the palace. In July 1837, three weeks after her accession to the throne, she moved from Kensington Palace, where she grew up, to the new Buckingham Palace.

The palace was expanded in 1850 with a new east wing. The wing added a large number of rooms to the palace, including an expansive 40 meter (131 ft) long ballroom. The monumental facade of the east wing was built in 1913 by Aston Webb. It is this facade, facing the Mall and St James's Park, which is now known by most people.

Royal Family

Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace

 Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace


A part of the palace is still used by the Royal family. A flag is hoisted each time the Queen is in the Palace. The palace is not only home to the royal family, there are also a number of staff members living here. The palace has about 600 rooms, including a throne room, a ballroom, picture gallery and even a swimming pool.

Some of these rooms can be visited during a couple of months in the summer - when the Royal Family is not in the palace - including the lavishly decorated State Rooms: the Throne Room, Green Drawing Room, Silk Tapestry Rooms, Picture Gallery, State Dining Room, Blue Drawing Room, Music Room and White Drawing Room are all part of the tour around the Buckingham Palace.

Another interesting part of the palace that is open to visitors is the Queen's Gallery, where works of art from the royal collection are on display. The palace's stables, the Royal Mews, can also be visited. Here you'll find a number of royal horse-drawn carriages.

Queen Victoria Memorial

Right in front of the building is the Queen Victoria Memorial, 
 
Change of the guards
Changing of the Guards
 
designed by Sir Aston Webb and built in 1911 in honor of Queen Victoria, who reigned for almost sixty-four years.

Changing of the Guard

The changing of the guard takes place daily at 11 o'clock in front of Buckingham Palace.
A colorfully dressed detachment, known as the New Guard, parades along the Mall towards Buckingham Palace and during a ceremony replaces the existing, Old Guard. The ceremony, which is accompanied by music played by a military band, always attracts throngs of onlookers.
 

Monday

London Attractions (London Eye)

A relatively recent but already very popular tourist attraction is the London Eye, a giant observation wheel located in the Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank. The 135 meter (443ft) tall structure was built as part of London's millennium celebrations. 
London Attractions (London Eye)
London Eye

A Landmark for the new Millennium

The structure was designed by the architectural team of David Marks and Julia Barfield, husband and wife.
They submitted their idea for a large observation wheel as part of a competition to design a landmark for the new millennium.

None of the entrants won the competition, but the couple pressed on and eventually got the backing of British Airways, who sponsored the project.

Construction

The London Eye near the Thames
 
Construction of the observation wheel took more than a year and a half to complete. In the process over 1700 tonnes of steel were used for the structure and more than 3000 tonnes of concrete were used for the foundations.
The futuristic looking capsules, accommodating up to 25 passengers, were transported all the way from France by train through the chunnel. Each egg-shaped capsule is 8 meters long and weighs 500kg. The 25 meter (82 ft) long spindle was built in the Czech Republic. The rim has a diameter of 122m (400ft), about 200 times the size of a bicycle wheel. 80 Spokes connect the rim with the spindle.

London seen from the London Eye
London seen from the London Eye

The Observation Wheel

The observation wheel turns slow enough for people to embark while it is moving. A complete turn takes about 30 minutes. Thanks to the construction of the glass capsules on the outer side of the rim, 
London Eye Capsules

London Eye Capsules
Capsule
 
the passengers have a great 360° view over London. Many famous landmarks are clearly visible, including Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament. On a clear day you can see as far as 40 km (25 miles).

Make sure you get your tickets in advance, lines can be very long, both the lines for embarking and for ticket purchases. It's less crowded at night when the views are even more spectacular.
 

Saturday

London Attractions (Tower Bridge)



London's Tower Bridge is one of the most recognizable bridges in the world. Its Victorian Gothic style stems from a law that forced the designers to create a structure that would be in harmony with the nearby Tower of London.
Tower Bridge-london

Tower Bridge

Bridge History

Plans for the Tower Bridge were devised around 1876 when the east of London became extremely crowded and a bridge across the Thames in that area of the city seemed a necessity. It would take another eight years - and lots of discussions about the design - before construction of the bridge started.

The bridge, designed by city architect Horace Jones in collaboration with John Wolfe Barry, would eventually be completed in 1894. Five contractors and nearly 450 workers were involved in the construction of the 265 meter long bridge. It took 11,000 tons of steel to build the framework. At the time many people disliked its Victorian Gothic design, but over time the bridge became one of London's most famous symbols.


Mechanics
Tower Bridge closing
Tower bridge raising
The proximity of the harbor and its location in the direction of the sea required for the bridge to allow the passage of large vessels. Hence the decision to create a moveable bridge which can be opened to accommodate boat traffic. The mechanism to open the bridge is hidden in the two towers. Until 1976, when the mechanism became electrified, steam power was used to pump water into hydraulic accumulators which powered the engines.
Each deck is more than 30 meters wide and can be opened to an angle of 83 degrees. When opened the bridge has a clearance of almost 45 meters. It used to open almost 50 times a day but nowadays it is only raised about 1,000 times a year.
Tower Bridge at dusk

Tower Bridge at night
Twilight view of the Tower Bridge
 Twilight view of the Tower Bridge
Bridge lifts are pre-scheduled (for cruise ships, etc) so visitors can check the bridge's website to find out when it will rise and lower.


Visiting the Bridge

Taking photographs of the Tower bridge is a favorite London tourist activity, but you can also go inside the bridge, where you'll have a magnificent view over London from the walkway between the two bridge towers.

Inside the bridge is the Tower bridge Exhibition, a display area that encompasses the walkway and the two famous towers where you can observe the Victorian engine room. Visitors can learn about the history of the bridge via photos, films, and other media.







Tuesday

London Attractions (Big Ben Saint Stephen's Tower)

The Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster - officially named Saint Stephen's Tower - is commonly known as the Big Ben. The tower is one of London's most famous landmarks.

Big Ben

Big Ben

The clock inside the tower was the world's largest when it was installed in the middle of the 19th century. The name Big Ben actually refers to the clock's hour bell, the largest of the clock's five bells. The other four are used as quarter bells.


Big Ben

Big Ben

 


There were two bells cast as the clock tower's hour bell. A first, 16 ton weighing bell was cast by John Warner and Sons in 1856. Since the Clock Tower was not yet completed, the bell was hung temporarily in the Palace Yard. The bell soon cracked so it was recast in 1858 in the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a 13.5 ton bell. Unfortunately soon after this bell was placed in the belfry in July 1859, it cracked as well. This time, instead of yet again recasting the bell, the crack was repaired and a lighter hammer was used to prevent any more cracks.
Big Ben clock detail

Clock face



The hour bell was probably named after Benjamin Hall, the First Commissioner of Works. Some sources however claim the bell was named after Benjamin Caunt, a British heavyweight boxing champion.
Big Ben seen from South Bank

The Clock


The clock was the largest in the world and is still the largest in Great-Britain. The clock faces have a diameter of almost 25ft (7.5m). The hour hand is 9ft or 2.7m long and the minute hand measures 14ft (4.25m) long.
The clock is known for its reliability, it has rarely failed during its long life span. Even after the nearby House of Commons was destroyed by bombing during World War II, the clock kept on chiming. The clock's mechanism, designed by Edmund Beckett Denison, has a remarkable accuracy. The clock's rate is adjusted by simply adding small pennies on the shoulder of the pendulum.


The Tower

 


The tower was constructed between 1843 and 1858 as the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster. The palace is now better known as the Houses of Parliament.
The clock tower rises 316ft high (96m) and consists of a 200ft (61m) high brick shaft topped by a cast iron framed spire. The clock faces are 180ft / 55m above ground level.


Views


Unfortunately the clock tower is not publicly accessible, but if you're looking for views over London the London Eye and the Shard are currently the best options.

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