8/22/16

Tips for planning a vacation to Dubai

Source(s):penpaland.com
                 buzzle.com

Dubai, these days, finds a spot on almost everyone's wish list. And why not? It has something interesting for every kind of traveler. So, if you're planning a trip to Dubai, this post is a must-read.

Leave your prejudice behind!
Do think of Dubai as more than just the shopping haven that it is. It's got gorgeous beaches, happening nightspots, lovely architecture, and even a ski resort!
Think extravagance, and the only city that comes to mind is Dubai. But it is only on closer inspection that this city reveals its secrets―and the fact that it is a perfect confluence of two extremes. It's the city of the uber glamorous Palm Jumeirah, with its beautiful white sand beaches, lined with some of the most expensive properties in the world.
So, how do you get to planning a Dubai holiday that covers it all? It's actually quite easy. We've compiled a list of dos and don'ts that will help you chart a stellar itinerary.
Travel Tips and Information for Your Dubai Trip
Travel Tips and Information for Your Dubai Trip
Budget Your Vacation
Budget Your Vacation
Again, you'd be mistaken to assume that Dubai is a hotspot for the crème de la crème. This incredible city has so much to offer for every person who steps on its soil. Dubai is well-connected with airports from the world over, so finding plane tickets that are easy on the pocket should not be too tough. Just make sure that you book them in advance.

As far as staying options are concerned, there are far too many to choose from. From the ditzy Burj Al Arab (with its gold plated faucets), to the more modest hostels, you'll find your choice of accommodation here in Dubai.

Whatever your budget may be, one just can't stress enough on the importance of booking early. By doing so, you not only save money, but are also spoiled for choice, and nothing beats that when you're planning a vacation.
Know About the Visa
Know About the Visa
You'll obviously be needing a valid passport and a visa to enter Dubai. Travelers arriving from certain countries are issued visa upon their arrival, whereas some require to enter with a visa. You can get the necessary information from any trusted travel firm in your city, or contact your country's embassy in Dubai for more details.
Be Insured
Be Insured
Never, ever, underestimate the importance of travel insurance. Hospitalization can take a toll on your pocket, so carrying travel insurance is highly recommended. Not to say that you will be needing it, but it will do you a world of good to purchase it anyway. On a related note, pharmacies in Dubai are easy to find, in case you require any prescribed medication.
Understanding Dubai's Cultural Ethos
Dubai is a city full of contradictions, which becomes more evident when you land here. You'll always find its liberalism tinged with the slightest hint of conservativeness, which is a gentle, yet iron-clad reminder of the fact that you are in an Islamic country. Therefore, to make your stay hassle-free and pleasurable, it is best to abide by their cultural norms, as you are, after all, a guest in this country.
Attire
Attire
Do not worry too much about the clothing when you're coming to Dubai, especially if you're a woman. Regular beach wear (one-piece or a bikini) is acceptable at your hotel's pool, but refrain from donning those itsy-bitsy pieces of swimwear when you're visiting the public beaches.

Short skirts and pants, along with minis, or scooped necklines are fine when you are in the posher districts, or are visiting any of Dubai's splendid malls. But dress modestly on any excursions to the old quarters of Bur Dubai; revealing attire will only attract uncomfortable stares here.
Behavior in Public Areas
Dubai is quite uptight about public displays of affection, and they've even made it illegal. Stop yourself from going hanky panky in any of the public places, as it may take you straight to jail, and attract a heavy fine.

Dubai does not take too kindly to alcohol-fueled misbehavior at all. Drunk driving, as we all know, does have disastrous consequences the world over, and Dubai is no exception. Also, if you plan on getting drunk, do so in the confines of your hotel, or in clubs and bars, but never in public places.

Dubai has extremely strict anti-drug policies, so don't even think of getting stoned, or keep anything suspicious on you, or in your baggage. Prescription drugs are fine, as long as you are carrying the requisite documentation. It is highly recommended that you keep yourself informed about the regulations that govern prescription drugs.
Plan to Have Fun!
Dubai, among several other things, has a considerable number of idiosyncrasies to boast of. These are things that have D-U-B-A-I stamped all over them in bold, so it would be a sin to miss them-

  • The gold ATMs at the Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, or Atlantis that dispense gold nuggets in exchange of the requisite amount of cash.
  • Plucking dates (the edible kind ;)) from trees that line the roads.
  • Visit Ski Dubai, a full-fledged ski slope, smack dab in the middle of the desert, replete with penguins and all.
  • Outstanding examples of modern architecture that will have you crane your neck every time your eyes try to take in their full measure.
Dubai, as you must have guessed by now, does have a little something for everyone. All you need to do is to find your little something, and fly down, ASAP.

8/20/16

Learn How to Speak French

Source(s): penpaland.com
                     buzzle.com
If you are one of those people who are extremely interested in learning languages, you cannot possibly leave French out of your list. For those, who want to learn to communicate in French, don't stop reading.

Learning a new language is always fun. For some it's easier than it is for others, but it is fun nonetheless. You don't need reasons to speak French, or any language for that matter. As long as you're interested, that's all that matters. But how do you go about it? You know that you want to speak French, but there surely must be some rules, regulations or method to follow. Well, there is. Following a few simple steps, along with practice daily is the key here. So, let's start learning how to speak French.

How to Speak French Fluently

The most important aspect of any language is grammar, so it goes without saying that this is your first step towards your journey of learning le français. It is also the best way to learn French. So, how about we get started then?

Step 1 of learning how to speak French can practically be taken for granted. There is hardly any need to specify this, but there is no way that anyone can start learning a language without knowing alphabets and numbers. The alphabets used in French are the same as those used in English. It's the same set of 26 alphabets. What you would however need to focus on is pronunciations. Since books obviously aren't your solution to that, CDs or any other audio materials will come in handy. As for numbers, you could use 'teach yourself kits', because merely reading a book may not do much for your attempt at speaking the language. While books are the perfect source to learn spellings, and other written aspects, you still need to know the spoken part, especially since that is the main purpose of your interest in the language.

Step 2 is learning the accents. It could've been combined and made a part of the above mentioned, but we'd much rather discuss it individually. French is incomplete without the accents. It may come across as an undistinguished feature of the language, but gradual proficiency of the language will make you realize that it isn't so insignificant after all. Accents are mostly used only with vowels, but there are odd exceptions, especially since French is full of exceptions. There are 4 commonly used accents in French. They are:
  • Accent aigu which is only ever used on the letter 'e' (é)
  • Accent grave which is used with vowels 'a, e, u' (à, è, ù)
  • Accent circonflexe which can be used on all vowels (â, ê, î, ô, û)
  • Accent cedille which is the only accent used with a consonant, is used below the letter 'c' (ç)
  • Accent tréma is the fifth accent which is rarely in use, but can be used with vowels 'e, i, u' (ë, ï, ü)
The presence or absence of any of these accents could change the entire meaning of a word. It does take a while to get used to these aspects, but once that happens, you'll be able to work almost mechanically.

Step 3 of your French learning attempt is learning articles and genders. There are 2 categories of articles in French. Definite and Indefinite articles. The use of these articles is based on factors such as gender and number. It is of extreme importance to remember that every word in French has a gender. Take a look at the table to get a better idea of the articles used.

Gender Definite Article Indefinite Article
masculine (singular) le un
feminine (singular) la une
masculine (plural) les des
feminine (plural) les des

Step 4 takes you to learning pronouns. Begin with personal pronouns because you will need them to get around when you want to learn French phrases and other sentence formation. The personal pronouns used in French are as follows...

TYPE SINGULAR PLURAL
1st person je nous
2nd person tu vous
3rd person (m) il ils
3rd person (f) elle elles

Once you learn the key basics, you could also move on to learning how to conjugate French verbs. Doing so will make you even more fluent with the language. In fact, one of the best ways to learn to speak French is to practice the given methods with someone who already knows the language well. This will help with your proficiency too.

I hope the given tips, albeit elementary, will help you the next time you are visiting francophone countries (countries that speak French). I'm sure that once you learn to speak this language, you'll want to study it even further. It's a beautiful language, and one you'll surely fall in love with. I know I did.

8/14/16

Famous Waterfalls of the World

Source(s): penpaland.com
                     buzzle.com
Waterfalls are true spectacles and the epitome of nature's beauty. They are a proof of the sheer power and breathtaking beauty that Mother Nature possesses. Many waterfalls around the globe have become famous tourist destinations.
Did You Know?
Iligan City, located in the Province of Lanao del Norte, Philippines, is sometimes called the City of Majestic Waterfalls because of the numerous waterfalls situated in the area. There are around 23 waterfalls in and around Iligan, Maria. Cristina Falls is the most popular amongst them.

Waterfalls have long been a subject of great interest for nature enthusiasts. A waterfall is formed when the flowing water of the river falls steeply over a cliff or an area that is steep in nature. This flowing water generally falls a long distance and with a great amount of force. Depending on how they flow when they fall from an elevated height, waterfalls are classified into different types. These are, cascade, plunge, horsetail, fan, and segmented. Not only are these waterfall intriguing geographical features, they're also places of great tourism value, some even declared as World Heritage Sites. Here, we take you on a journey to virtually visit the best!
Famous Waterfalls Around the World
Angel Falls
angel falls
The Angel Falls, named after its discoverer James Crawford Angel, is the world's highest waterfall. It falls from a height of 979 meters and has a plunge of about 807 meters falling to meet the Churun river. It is located in the Bolivar state of Venezuela and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site where it drops off the edge of the Auyantepui mountain. A lot of its water is expelled as mist much before it reaches the ground.
Dettifoss
dettifoss
Located in Vatnajokull National Park in Iceland, it is situated on the Jokulsa a Fjollum river. The waterfall is largely considered to be the most powerful waterfall in the European continent. As of 2012, you can visit the waterfall using the new road that was finished last year. The view is obstructed by the spray of the waterfall on the west bank but the eastern side is better maintained and can be visited easily.
Gullfoss
gullfoss
Located in the canyon of the Hvita river of Iceland, it is one of the most popular waterfalls in the country. The literal translation of the name of the waterfall is Golden Falls. It flows into a three step staircase and then falls into a crevice in two stages. The crevice that the falls plunge into are about twenty meter in width and 2.5 km in length. The waterfall is so formed that the crevice is not visible and it looks like the river has vanished into the earth.
Iguazu Falls
iguazu falls
This waterfall is situated along the Brazil-Argentina border and is famous for its scenic beauty. Though its height is just about 89 meters, it is said to rank as the fourth best waterfall in the world because of its beauty. The U-shaped cliff in the waterfall which is known as the Devil's throat is the most striking feature of this waterfall. These falls were discovered by the Spanish Conquistador Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca.
Niagara Falls
niagara falls
The Niagara Falls is one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world with about six million cubic meters of water flowing per minute. It is situated on the border between Canada and America. The Niagara Falls is the collective name for a set of waterfalls which consist of the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and the Horseshoe Falls. It is well-known for its beauty and attracts a large number of tourists from around the world.
Plitvice
plitvice
Located on the border of the Plitvice Lakes National Park, these are situated in Croatia between Zagreb and Zadar. Sixteen separate lakes made of 12 upper cluster and four lower cluster lakes make for naturally tiered heights that create some of the most gorgeous falls in the world. Another reason that these falls are extremely famous are because the color of the water is known to reflect different colors due to the minerals or organisms present in it.
Rhine Falls
rhine falls
Located in the town of Schaffhausen in northern Switzerland, the Rhine Falls is the largest plain waterfall in the continent of Europe. It is believed that the falls were formed about 17,000 years ago which make them one of the oldest falls in the world. The falls cannot be climbed by any fish, except eels who use the support of the rocks to make their way up.
Sutherland Falls
sutherland falls
Located in Milford Sound, South Island in New Zealand, Sutherland Falls were for the longest time believed to be the tallest in the country. At about 580 meters tall, they are only second in height to the Browne Falls, that are about 843 meters high. The falls are made of three cascade falls, with the first one being about 229 meters tall, the second one about 248 meters high, and the lowest one about 103 meters in height.
Victoria Falls
victoria falls
Victoria Falls are considered to be the largest waterfalls. This claim is based on its dimensions; the width of the waterfall being about 1708 meters and the height being about 108 meters. They are located on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The source is river Zambezi. Locally these falls are known as the Mosi-oa-Tunya or the Smoke that Thunders due to the sound that it makes.
Yosemite Falls
yosemite falls
The highest waterfalls in North America, Yosemite Falls are located in the Yosemite National Park in California. They're seventh highest in the world with the total height equaling 2425 feet or 739 meters. The falls are made up of two plunge falls and one cascade falls. The upper falls plunges from a height of 425 meters and forms a cascade type of waterfall. The flow gets united again and forms the lower falls which falls a distance of 97 meters.
Kaieteur Falls
kaieteur falls
One of the most powerful waterfalls in the world, Kaieteur falls are located in Kaieteur National Park, central Guyana. According to World Waterfall Database, it is a single drop waterfall and is also the 123rd tallest waterfall in the world. Kaieteur falls is also the 19th largest waterfall in terms of volume and the 26th most scenic globally. These falls are about three times higher than the more well-known Niagara Falls.
Yellowstone Falls
yellowstone falls
Yellowstone Falls are located in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. They consist of two major waterfalls, the upper falls which are 109 feet (33 m) high and the lower falls which are 308 feet (94 m) high. The lower falls are almost twice as high as Niagara Falls, it tears through the canyon and falls to a shallow pool creating an ethereal mist at all times. There are many vantage points for viewing the falls and none of them should be missed.
Jog Falls
Jog Falls, located in waterfall-rich southwestern state of Karnataka, is the second-highest plunge waterfall in India. These waterfalls are segmented, falling from a height of 253 m (830 ft). Jog Falls is created by Sharavathi river, and has become a major tourist attraction, especially in the monsoons. The tourism department has built 1500 steps from the viewpoint till the bottom of the hill, where tourists can get a better view of these falls.
Tugela Falls
tugela falls
Tugela falls is the second highest waterfall in the world with a total height of 948 m (3,110 ft). It is located in the Drakensberg (Dragon's Mountains), in the Royal Natal National Park in KwaZulu-Natal Province, Republic of South Africa. Many tourists hike up to the source of the waterfall to get a better view.
Detian
detian
Ban Gioc - Detian Falls is the fourth largest waterfall along a national border, after Victoria Falls, Iguazu Falls and Niagara Falls. It consists of 2 waterfalls on the Guichun River. Many species of endemic plants are found in the gorge of the waterfall. Believed to be a hideout of the local bandits in the past, hidden treasures are occasionally found here. The waterfall falls from a height of 30 meters; the thundering effect of the water hitting the cliffs can be heard from a distance.
Blue Nile Falls
blue nile falls
One of Ethiopia's best-known tourist attractions, the Blue Nile Falls are approximately 40 meters (131 ft) high. They are known as 'tis issat' in amharic, which translates into 'smoking water'. It is situated on the upper course of the Blue Nile river. These falls consist of four streams that vary from a trickle in the dry season to over 400 meters wide in the rainy season. The first stone bridge constructed in Ethiopia, is located a short distance downstream from the falls.
Düden Waterfalls
duden waterfalls
Düden Waterfalls are a group of waterfalls in the province of Antalya, Turkey. The Düden River extends from the Taurus mountains all the way to the Mediterranean, and creates two cascades. The Upper Duden waterfall is 15m high and 20m wide and set in a valley. A natural cave formed behind the falls is the main attraction as one can sit and watch the cascades. The Lower Düden Waterfall forms a spectacular cascade as the Düden River spills off the Antalya City cliffs into the Mediterranean Sea.
Ramona Waterfalls
ramona falls
Ramona falls is a 120 feet long waterfall, that drapes across a stair-stepped cliff of columnar basalt. It is located in Mount Hood wilderness in Oregon, USA. The amazing stair-stepped honeycomb shape that the rocks have are a result of lava eruptions. When lava cools slowly, it fractures into a hexagonal pattern perpendicular to the cooling surface. Later, erosion contributes in forming the unique shape. The total elevation of the fall is 3,560 feet (1,090 m).
Dudhsagar
Dudhsagar, which translates into 'Sea of Milk', is one of the world's most exquisite falls. From a distance, the waterfall appears like streams of milk rushing down the mountainside. It is located near the border of Karnataka and Goa, in India. This waterfall is formed by Mandovi River. This is a four-tiered waterfall with a total height of 310 meters (1017 feet) and an average width of 30 meters (100 feet).
Triberg Waterfalls
triberg falls
Triberg Falls are located in the Black Forest region in Germany. They have a descent of approximately 163 m. At the cascades of the Gutach River in the midst of Black Forest, water tumbles over seven naturally created steps, forming this beautiful waterfall. The small town of Triberg is situated at the end of the valley. The walk on the trails takes the hikers across the tiers of the falls and treats them with fabulous views of both, the falls, and the town down in the valley.
Goðafoss
godafoss
The Goðafoss, that translates into 'Waterfall of the Gods', is a wide 12 m tall waterfall on Skjálfandafljót River. It is located in the Mývatn district of North-Central Iceland. It is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland and has an interesting history attached to it. According to legends, after Christianity had been declared as the official religion of the state, the pagan chieftain Thorgeir threw the wooden images and sculptures of the Pagan Gods into the waterfall.
Interestingly, you might want to know, that meditating while standing under a freezing waterfall is till date, a Japanese tradition. While it may be a bit too much to expect one of us to go stand under a freezing, free-falling mass of water, watching these beautiful creations of nature might just change our mind!

8/12/16

Top Ten Things to Do in Brussels

Source(s):penpaland.com
                 buzzle.com

Chocolates, beer, waffles, art, sculptures, botanical gardens, ancient Gothic-style churches, historical monuments, comics, military museums, art museums... Do any of these interest you? If so, then Brussels is the place to be.

Did you know?
The world's largest chocolate selling point is The Brussels International Airport.

Brussels is home to Nemo 33, the world's deepest indoor swimming pool at 34.5 meters deep.
Brussels (French: Bruxelles), is the capital of Belgium. It is officially known as the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region. It is also the de facto capital of the European Union (UN). Out of all the places, Brussels is the largest urban area in Belgium. Historically, a Dutch-speaking city, Brussels experienced a major shift towards the French form of communication since its independence in 1830. Nevertheless, it has officially been declared a bilingual city.
For the shopper in you:
Brussels is home to Les Galeries Saint-Hubert, Europe's oldest shopping arcade.
For the foodie in you:
On an approximate, Brussels has restaurants per square mile.
For the chocolate-lover in you:
Brussels International Airport is the world's largest chocolate selling point.
For the musician in you:
The most esteemed and most difficult of all music competitions of the world, the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition, was founded in Brussels.
For the lawyer in you:
The largest court of justice in the world, the Palais de Justice or the Law Courts of Brussels, is in Brussels. The building is the biggest construction of the 19th century.
There is a lot more to Brussels than just Brussels sprouts, beer, chocolate, frites and waffles. Go through the following list of 'must-dos', before you plan your trip to Brussels.

Ten Must-Visit Places in Brussels

Manneken Pis
Manneken Pis
An extremely famous Brussels landmark, the Manneken Pis (Dutch for Little Man Pee) is a 61 cm tall bronze fountain sculpture of a little, naked boy urinating in the fountain's basin. It has been officially declared as the emblem of the City of Brussels, depicting its rebellious spirit. The statuette was designed around 1618-19, and placed on the junction of Rue de l'Étuve/Stoofstraat and Rue du Chêne/Eikstraat.
It is a tradition in Brussels to dress up the Manneken Pis in several different costumes every week. The designs for the costumes are submitted to a non-profit organization, The Friends of Manneken Pis, who then select and produce a few to be used. The dress-up is changed based on a pre-decided schedule. The change of costumes for the Manneken Pis is a huge affair and is done amidst celebrations, accompanied by brass band music. All of its costumes are put up on display for viewing at the Brussels Historical Museum at the Grand Place.

Occasionally, it is attached to a keg or barrel of beer. Instead of water, beer flows out from the statue, which is filled in cups or glasses, and given to the tourists and passers-by. In 1987, Jeanneke Pis, the female counterpart of the Manneken Pis, was erected on the east side of L'impasse de la fidélité (Fidelity Alley), Brussels.

Flower Carpet
Flower Carpet
If you plan to visit Brussels in August, make the most of it by experiencing the spectacular Flower Carpet at the Grand Place. Every two years, the central square on the Grand Place grounds is covered up with more than a million beautiful, colorful, and assorted begonias, to create a 'Flower Carpet'. Such an enormous display was first designed in 1971. The tradition gained immense popularity, and has been followed ever since.
The Flower Carpet is left on display for a weekend only, and the entrance to the Grand Place grounds is free for children and minimal for adults. To take in the entire beauty of this spectacle, climb up a few stories of the Grand Place. The view from up there is breathtaking. The music and light shows during the weekend further scintillate your senses, and make you appreciate beauty in its entirety.
Grand Place
Grand place in brussels
The Grand Place is the central square of Brussels. The architecture on this square is a composition of art from three different eras - Gothic, Baroque, and Louis XIV. This ethnicity and beauty led to the declaration of Grand Place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also known as Grote Markt, the Grand Place is surrounded by the city's Town Hall, the Breadhouse (Broodhuis), and guildhalls. In 2010, this square was declared as the most beautiful square in the world.
The main attractions at Grand Place include the Flower Carpet in August (held every two years), the Electronic Christmas Tree light and music show (every year during Christmas), Meyboom (every year on the 9th of August), and the daily flower market. Sometimes, the place is also used to showcase concerts.

Everard 't Serclaes
Everard 't Serclaes
A war hero, a patriot and a legend, Everard 't Serclaes was very popular in Brussels during the 14th century. The Everard 't Serclaes monument is a shiny bronze statue of the legend, and honors him and his achievements. The monument is very intricately placed beneath the arcades of Maison de l'Étoile in the Grand Place of Brussels.
It is believed that if you stroke the statue of Everard 't Serclaes, especially its arm or the dog's nose, or the shield, it brings you good luck and fortune. A widely believed superstition is that rubbing the statue with your arms will bring you back on another visit to Brussels. Fallen in love with the city and would like to go back? You know what to do.
Royal Palace of Brussels
Royal Palace of Brussels
As the name suggests, the Royal Palace of Brussels is the official building where the King and Queen of Belgium reside. It has been declared as the most beautiful official building in the national capital of Brussels. To be able to witness the beauty of the Royal Palace of Brussels, you need to visit here during the summers, the public is allowed access to the royalty gates only then.
Located opposite the Parliament on the other side of the Royal Park, the Royal Palace of Brussels is not just a royal residence but also a symbol of the nation's system of government. It is also the place from where the king executes his political rights and authorities as the Head of State.
A trip to the Royal Palace of Brussels would get you in touch with not just one or two, but four different types of contemporary art forms. The beautifully done interiors of the palace are adorned with pieces of art from all over the world. The new design of the palace, which still maintains ancient beauty and perspective, is a feast for the eyes.
Law Courts of Brussels
Law Courts of Brussels
Bigger than St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the Law Courts of Brussels or the Brussels Palace of Justice is the biggest building ever constructed in the 19th century. It has 8 huge courtyards spanning a surface area of 6,000 sq. meters, 27 big courtrooms, 245 smaller courtrooms, and other smaller rooms. Its most striking feature, the dome, is 104 meters high and weighs 24,000 tons.
Located atop the Gallows Hill, the building is the most important court building in Belgium, acting as a very important landmark of Brussels. Its construction had begun during the reign of King Leopold II. Towards the end of World War II, the Germans tried to destroy the Palace of Justice by starting a fire while retreating. The building suffered heavy losses and damage thereafter. The start of 2003 saw the start of the ongoing process of redesign, reconstruction, and renovation phase of the building.

In order to construct the biggest building of the 19th century, the demolition of a massive part of the Marollen neighborhood was required. This was based on the design submitted by an architect, Joseph Poelaert. Due to the destruction of property in the Marollen neighborhood, many citizens lost their houses, due to which, the Poelaert was heavily criticized and disliked. The dislike grew to such an extent that the word 'architect' was thought of to be an insult and was looked down upon. In spite of all this, the Palace of Justice was constructed and went on to become the most important court building in Belgium. You can visit here anytime of the year, except when a case of particular importance is in progress.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart
Basilica of the Sacred Heart
Situated atop the Koekelberg Hill in Brussels, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart is also sometimes known as the Koekelberg Basilica. The first stone of its foundation was laid by King Leopold II in 1905, to mark the 75th year of Belgian independence. However, due to the immediate outbreak of the two World Wars, the construction couldn't be continued, and was completed only in 1969.
The Basilica is a Roman Catholic Minor Basilica and a parish church in Brussels. King Leopld II's visit to the Basilique du Sacré Coeur in Paris, inspired him to build a similar monument in Brussels. Standing tall at 89 meters, the church is the largest structure of the world built in the Art Deco style, and is a landmark in the Brussels' skyline.
The church can hold 3,500 people at one time, and is so huge that it has found its way into the list of the ten largest (by area) Roman Catholic churches of the world. The colossal stone, brick and concrete construction makes the church stand out against the backdrop of the clear Brussels sky. Apart from Catholic ceremonies and religious services, the area is also used for exhibitions and concerts. Don't forget to hit the green dome terrace of the monument and take in the breathtaking bird's-eye view of the entire Brussels city.
Botanical Garden of Brussels
Botanical Garden of Brussels
If botany interests you, then this is the place you should go to. The Botanical Garden of Brussels was originally founded in 1826. It is located on Rue Royale in Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, which is near the Northern Quarter financial district of Brussels. Le Botanique, or the main orangery (very similar to a greenhouse or a conservatory), consists of rotunda or a dome with two side aisles marked with windows.
Due to financial disabilities, the construction was withheld, until in 1870, when the Belgian state bought the garden and took up the responsibility to enhance its beauty and up its value with respect to art, culture, and heritage. This was done by finalizing contracts of electric lighting, different types of fountains and sculptures depicting various pieces of art.
The Cinquantenaire Arch
The Cinquantenaire Arch
Parc du Cinquantenaire, French for 'Park of the Fiftieth Anniversary', is a recreational park located in the easternmost part of the European Quarter in Brussels. The park was built in 1880 to mark fifty glorious years of Belgian independence. Its main attraction is the triumphal arch which was erected in 1905. Built with iron, glass, and stone to depict the growth and development of the Belgian economy, the triumphal arch adds a touch of royalty to the beautiful park.
When it was first constructed, the place was used to hold exhibitions, trade fairs, exhibitions, national festivals and concerts. Gradually, precisely in 1930, these events were no longer held, and the park was declared a leisure park. However, many museums still hold works of art and history from the Roman, Greek, and Egyptian cultures, as well as artifacts from the military, army, and automobile sectors.
Go here if you want a break from the city's hustle-bustle, and want to enjoy a silent stroll on some quiet streets that are lined with beautiful trees. Connect with the locals of Brussels as you watch dog-owners, corporates on a break, groups playing their favorite sport, and the occasional couple in love, as they take in their moments of peace and happiness.
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
Victor Hugo, one of the many world famous and greatest French writers, novelist, poet, and a dramatist of the Romantic movement, described this monument as 'the purest flowering of the Gothic style'. The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is a Roman Catholic Church located in Brussels at the Treurenberg Hill.
The church was renovated and reconstructed in the Gothic style in the thirteenth century. Exclusive Gothic architecture characteristics like the pointed arch, the flying buttress, and the ribbed vault, make this cathedral stand out, and lend it a distinct sense of powerful beauty and elegant style.
Its location in the national capital makes it a monument of national interest, where many important events like state funerals, Catholic ceremonies, and royal marriages take place. As soon as you enter the gates of the church, you are awestruck by the grand arches, high ceilings, and tall pillars. Watch out for the 'judgment window', which is glass-painted and lights up as the rays of the sun shine through it. A must visit, if age-old, yet modern architecture interests you.
Food/Beverages Not to Be Missed
Beer and Breweries
Two glasses of beer barrel
Did you know that Belgium produces more brands of beer than there are days in a year! According to sources, there are more than 800 different types of beer produced in Belgium. The citizens of Belgium feel that beer is more than just a beverage or a drink to them. Beer is more like a culture to be respected, and a tradition to be followed. So serious are they about their beer, that they have a road running parallel to the countryside named 'Beer Route'. If this wasn't enough, they have special glasses for each type of beer, which may be served in those particular glasses only. This is said to enhance the flavor of the beer, and make it a more enjoyable experience.
Just like a visit to Belgium is incomplete without having Belgian beer, it is just as much incomplete a visit to Brussels without visiting the Cantillon Brewery and Museum. It is the only brewery that has remained in the city of Brussels. Founded in 1900 by Paul Cantillon, the brewery is famous for lambic beers (beer formed by spontaneous fermentation), Gueuze, Kreik, and fruit beers.
Waffles
Belgian Waffles
Waffles. Kid or not a kid, everybody has to love them. Waffles topped with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate or strawberry syrup. Best breakfast ever. The world has a lot to thank Belgians for, as it was them who introduced waffles to the world. It would be the biggest mistake ever to be in Brussels and not have a waffle breakfast. Contrary to popular belief, there is no one identified 'Belgian Waffle'. There are many kinds, and Brussels Waffles is one of them. Brussels waffles are crispy and hard on the outside. Also, they have bigger pockets as compared to the other European varieties, and are lighter, too.

The first time waffles were ever showcased was in Brussels in 1958. Waffles were introduced to the Americans in 1962, as Brussels Waffles. The name was later changed to Belgian Waffles, as the American population could connect with a national name. Whether you have them at a roadside stall, or a cafe or a five-star hotel, it doesn't matter. The varieties of toppings are innumerable, and the next one is much better and tastier than the previous one.
Frites
Belgian Frites
Contrary to popular belief, and as misleading as the name may be, French fries weren't a French invention. It was, in fact, in Belgium where the earliest of fries were cooked and tasted. The history of 'thinly cut and deep-fried potato slices' dates back to as far as 1680, when ancient Belgian inhabitants used to substitute fish with potato fries.

Frites in Brussels are more than just potatoes; they are a treat for your taste buds. The best frites are fried in beef or duck fat, for that extra greasiness and flavor, cooled off and fried once again before serving. You would find a variety of accompaniments to go with your frites, like chocolate, salads, mayonnaise, more than fifty types of dips, and the evergreen ketchup. There are more than 5,000 frite vendors and friteries in Belgium, and more than half of them are in Brussels alone. A well-researched suggestion, visit Antoine's, on Place Jourdan, which is known for serving the best frites ever. Don't miss out on the ever-popular local dish of moules frites, a French dish which comprises mussels and frites.
Chocolate
Belgian Chocolate
Belgium is practically the birthplace of the heavenly delicious praline chocolates. Those little treats which are full of flavor, packed with just the right amount of sweetness, bitterness, and nuttiness, come in a variety of flavors and are extremely light on your pocket. To make the most of your trip, visit the Place du Grand Sablon-Grote Zavel Plein, which is a one-stop shop for the best chocolates that you will find in the world. It houses chocolates by Pierre Marcolini, Neuhaus, and Wittamer, each serving their own special delicacies. With a sumptuous spread of cakes, pastries, Belgian chocolates and other chocolate savories, this is the place to be if you are a chocoholic.

If you somehow, don't get a chance to visit any of the chocolate shops or confectioneries (which I think would be highly impossible), don't worry. When you leave Brussels, you can shop for chocolates at the Brussels International Airport, which is the highest chocolate selling point in the world. Things made so much easier, no?
Other Places to Visit
Atomium
Atomium in brussels
A structure constructed out of inter-connected steel spheres, such that it looks like an atom, the Atomium is a landmark of Brussels in itself. Named as 'Europe's Most Bizarre Building' by CNN, the shape of the Atomium is that of a unit cell of an iron crystal, that has been magnified 165 billion times. The nine spheres connected by twelve tubes are entirely habitable. You can actually walk through the connecting tubes, or else use escalators which are enclosed within the building. The view from the topmost two spheres is amazing, and should not be missed at any cost.
Mini Europe
Mini Europe
A miniature park located at the foot of the Atomium in Brussels, Mini Europe showcases a display of imitations of Europe's most attractive monuments and places of interest. A tour around Mini Europe will show you more than 80 cities and 350 buildings, that have been represented in the most intricate and beautiful way. Apart from gardens, buildings, sculptures and art, these representations include live models as well. Some of them are that of trains, cable cars, volcanic eruptions, etc. Don't miss the 'Spirit of Europe' exhibition at the end of the tour. It gives an interactive overview of the European Union in the form of multimedia.
Belgian Comic Strip Museum
Belgian Comic Strip Museum
Tagged your kids along with you and not sure what would keep them entertained while in Brussels? The Belgian Comic Strip Center is your savior. Watch your kids squeal with joy as they come across life-sized statuettes of cartoons like Tintin and The Smurfs, among others. The museum covers an entire range of comic art that includes fiction, science, politics and crime, apart from showcasing comics and cartoons as well.
Other attractions to keep your child entertained are the Aquarium of Brussels and The Toy Museum.
Brussels Beach
Although it doesn't have a coastline, every year, the banks of the Brussels channel are covered entirely with real sand, and the place is transformed into a real beach. The beach is set up every year during the summer, and can be accessed for a month, generally between the 15th of July and the 15th of August. Make sure you visit here if you travel to Brussels in the summer, and experience a day at the artificial but amazingly beautiful beach cum holiday resort.
Brussels is a haven not only for foodies, but also for travelers, historians, architecture fanatics, and world heritage and culture lovers. It has something on offer for everyone. Go ahead, visit Brussels, and find out what intrigues you the most... the beer, the chocolate, the churches, the waffles, the sculptures, the heritage, or the entire City of Brussels itself!

8/10/16

Best Cities to Visit in China

Source(s): penpaland.com
                   buzzle.com
Think China, and what springs to mind is its magnificent rural and forested landscape. But this Buzzle article has shifted focus to the cities that reflect the hippier, glitzier side of China. Take a closer look at the changing face of urban China, right here.

Not 'Forbidden' anymore
Despite being the origin of the ancient Silk Route, modern tourism in China only began in the late 1970s. With a mere 230,000 international tourists coming here in 1978, the number had risen to a massive 57.7 million in 2012.
China, especially after the culmination of the Beijing Olympics, has certainly seen an upswing in the number of international visitors. For years now, China was mostly seen as a business hub by most foreign travelers, considering its standing as the world's largest importer and exporter.

Most of China's millions of tourists are more or less interested in viewing its cultural heritage up close, which isn't surprising―the country is full of incredible historic treasures and stunning landscapes. Which is the reason why we're urging you to take a look at its cities. Vibrant, bustling, and full of life and character, one shouldn't just view them as gateways to China's ancient historical glory.

The best months to visit urban China are March/April and October/November as a result of good weather and marginally fewer crowds. May to October is the local and international tourist season in China, as the winter months from November to February can be distinctly chilly. The maximum crowds flock here in September and early October, which translates to jostling crowds and rate hikes for possibly everything. Chinese cities have gained notoriety for their sky-rocketing pollution levels; though the government is taking steps to keep things under control, you'll find almost all urban areas shrouded under a blanket of smog all year round.
Shanghai
Shanghai City
Shanghai is China's largest city, whose dazzling bright lights keep reminding visitors of the fact that this is where the real action is. A sprawling metropolis, Shanghai is not just about the sky scraping towers―it's got Art Deco structures, Buddhist temples, cathedrals, synagogues, shopping, street food, gardens, art galleries, street performances, and more.
Getting here and around
The Shanghai Pudong International Airport serves the city, whereas the Hongqiao Airport handles domestic traffic. Getting around in Shanghai is akin to traveling in any other major city of the world―the cabs are great, but too expensive, and you can never hail one during rush hour. The local bus service has nothing to tom-tom about, but can be quite crowded. Taking the subway is your best option, as they are efficient and affordable.
How to rock Shanghai
The Bund shanghai city
The Bund is Shanghai's premier haunt for both, tourists and locals alike. The area is home to the city's most exclusive retail stores, restaurants, and hotels. It is also a fabulous place to admire Shanghai's neon-blitz landscape at night.
Shanghai Museum
Shanghai Museum is the best place to experience the country's rich heritage come alive. The structure of the building itself resembles a Chinese ding vessel, and houses the Ancient Chinese Sculpture Gallery, Chinese Calligraphy Gallery, displays of ceramics in the Zande Lou Gallery, along with paintings, seals, jade, Ming and Qing furniture, ancient coins and costumes.
Yuyuan Garden Shanghai
The Yuyuan Garden is an excellent example of the Ming garden design. Summer and spring is the best time to be here, with the fragrant Magnolia grandiflora in full bloom. The gorgeous cherry blossoms also mark their presence in these seasons, with thousands flocking to the garden on weekends to witness the glorious sights. The Huxinting Teahouse, one of the most famous in Shanghai, is also in the vicinity.
Beijing
Beijing City In China
Beijing is a mellifluous amalgam of the old and new, where the Forbidden City and the Olympic Village stand close, with hundreds of years separating them. It's amazing and exciting to be in a city that has a never-exhaustible supply of attractions for those who come to visit it.
Getting here and around
Beijing Capital International Airport is the main international airport serving the city, and is located 20 miles northeast of Beijing's city center. Beijing Subway and Beijing Bus (including the trolleybuses) bear the brunt of passenger traffic. These are a great way to move within the city, but be pre-warned about the massive crowds.
Unraveling Beijing's secrets
Forbidden City
The Forbidden City owes its name to the bizarre regal protocol which kept it sheltered from the bourgeois for no less than 500 years. Located in Beijing's city center, the complex was home to the mighty Qing Emperors. Inside you'll find China's largest complex of ancient buildings, replete with modern restaurants, ATM's, and cafes, all of it perfectly blended to suit the modern traveler's needs.
The Great Wall of China
Beijing's history can be traced back up to three millennia, and its many ancient structures stand testimony to this fact. The Great Wall of China passes through the city's northern periphery, and most tourists religiously make the trip from the city's urban center to view this magnificent marvel up close.
Beijing's other notable attractions include the Tiananmen Square, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China, the Monument to the People's Heroes, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, along with several temples, and over a hundred museums.
Tianjin
Tianjin In China
As one of China's (internationally) lesser-known cities, visitors usually tend to give Tianjin a complete miss. In fact, it doesn't even show up on most tailored itineraries. Agreed, it does lack the punch of Shanghai, but isn't any less interesting. Tianjin's European fingerprint dates back to the 19th century, when the British established a naval base here to profit their opium trade. Then came the French, followed by the Germans, and finally the Italians, who stayed a little beyond the culmination of WWII.
Getting here and around
Tianjin is just an hour away by train from Beijing, located on the northern coast of China. Keeping with the European imprint, this was the first Chinese city to have a tram service, which was withdrawn for a while, but is operational now. There is a Metro line as well, but it is recommended that you rent a car to get around, or even explore the city on foot.
When in Tianjin ...
Liberation Bridge
... you have to learn to enjoy the subliminal. This is where you'll find the cityscape dotted with exemplary models of European colonial architecture. Yes, the skyscrapers are there too, since the city majorly pulled up its socks before the Olympians landed in Beijing.

The Italian Concession is the Italian version of the western Chinatown. The locals tend to throng here, feasting on European fare, and probably imagining they're actually in Europe.

The Treaty Port area was the erstwhile British Concession. This is where you'll get some sterling views of the city's skyline reflecting in the waterfront. Take an evening stroll on the Liberation Bridge to enjoy it best.
Chongqing
Chongqing
Chongqing sits pretty, mostly under a thick blanket of fog, on the steep hills overlooking the confluence of the Yangtze and Jialing River. But the urban Chinese trademark of neon-blingyskyscrapers lights up the evenings, and slips you back into reality. Its proximity to Sichuan means that the spicy cuisine culture has seeped into the city. Chongqing is where most tourists begin their Three Gorges cruise from, and inevitable bypass exploring the city. Here's what they miss.
Getting here and around
Chongqing is central China's urban hub, located at a distance of around 1000 miles south west from Beijing. Jiangbei Airport is the airport closest to the city. Internal transport in the city is fairly good, with most tourists preferring to rent cars to get around. While there are 10 bridges that help you cross the Jialing and Yangtze rivers, you'll also find cable car lines that serve the purpose.
Checking out Chongqing
The Chongqing Museum is China's premier underwater museum. Tourists coming here can go down to the underwater channel which has sight-seeing windows and enjoy the Baiheliang inscriptions through the glass porthole.
Great Hall of the People
The Great Hall of the People is a large complex that encompasses a grand auditorium, the People's Square, and the People's Hotel―all of which are inspired by the traditional Chinese architecture of the Ming and Qing dynasty. Besides being a central attraction in Chongqing, it is a venue for political conferences and traditional operas.
Xian
Xian
Xian is a symbol of China's fairy tale past; much before the spotlight shifted to the starker Beijing. The Xian of yore was all about kings and courtesans, poets and monks, caravans and trade―and speaking of trade, it was the starting point of the Silk Route. Today's Xian has a few bearings left from its glorious past; from the Terracotta Army to its Muslim Quarters.
Getting here and around
Xian is located in northwestern China, about 440 miles from Chongqing and 670 miles from Beijing. Xian Xianyang International Airport is the largest in the region, located 25 miles from the city center. Locals prefer traveling by buses within the city, and electric bikes are a popular option among the youth. Xian's Metro service began in 2011, and is currently being built.
Xian takes you back in time
Terracotta Army
Xian's biggest attraction is obviously the Terracotta Army, along with the First Emperor's Tomb. It is believed that the vast nation of China was unified under the reign of Emperor Qin, whose capital city was Xian. The Emperor's tomb lies alongside his massive army of soldiers, and remains China's biggest attraction after the Great Wall.
Guangzhou
Guangzhou bridge
You may know it as Canton, home of the delicious Cantonese cuisine. True to its name, Guangzhou has the most number of restaurants per capita in the entire nation. But the city is not just about its lip-smacking food culture. It also happens to be one of China's biggest center of industrial and foreign trade.
Getting here and around
Guangzhou is southern China's largest city, about 1340 miles from Beijing, and 100 miles northwest of Hong Kong. Also known as the 'mask city', its hot and humid weather is conducive to mutations that cause viral infections each year. The Baiyun International Airport that serves the city is the second busiest in China. Internal transport is quick and easy, with an expansive metro and bus service. Around 85% of buses and taxis in Guangzhou are LPG-fueled, making it the highest number in the world.
Making the most of Guangzhou
Guangzhou's humid climate is conducive to the growth of flowering plants that bloom here, all year round. No wonder then, that the city was bestowed the fitting epithet of the City of Flowers.

The Temple of Six Banyan Trees is another favored attraction in Guangzhou, with the complex including a towering pagoda, lush green trees, and other historical relics.
Chengdu
Chengdu
As one of China's most livable cities, Chengdu has a lot going for it. And like most other cities in China, it is in the throes of a major makeover. Currently stuck in a pimply-teenager phase, you'll find sparkling high-rises amidst traditional wooden houses; a weird mish-mash indeed. But we aren't really here to gawk at the city, are we? No we're not.
Getting here and around
Chengdu is about 1200 miles from Beijing and 300 miles northwest of Chongqing. Its airport, the Chengdu Shuangliu International, is located 10 miles southwest of the city center. The city is bicycle-friendly to a great extent, as the flat terrain makes for some easy routes. Besides, there is a decent bus service in place, and you always have the option of renting a car.
Discover Chengdu's charms
Giant Panda
The Giant Panda Breeding and Research Base is located further north from the city center. This is the residence of China's most precious treasure―giant and red pandas. The purpose of the center is to "encourage" breeding among these famously reclusive creatures, along with providing top-notch care for these endangered beauties.
As vast as China is, you ought to make multiple visits in order to completely experience what the country has on offer. So when do you make a visit? Well, China is a country for all seasons, so right about now seems like a good time.