Friday, July 4, 2014

#654 Dublin, Ireland

The Spire of Dublin, officially known as the
"Monument of Light".
Walkable, pretty, clean, modern, connected, historic -- fantastic! Big enough to be interesting and have more than one downtown area, but small enough to get around easily and to know it intimately.

It has an amazing university (Trinity College, part of the University of Dublin), a busy main avenue (O'Connell Street), along with the pedestrianized-for-shopping Henry and Grafton Streets, Liffey riverside wanders, the Temple Bar touristy/nightlife area, shows like Riverdance, Dublin Castle and live music that rivals anywhere.
I love the story of Ha'penny Bridge, a small pedestrian-only bridge in the middle of Dublin where the owner charged a ha'penny to cross between 1819 and 1919 as an alternative to ferry crossings.
Trinity College - home of the famous Book of Kells, a circa 800 A.D. illuminated manuscript.
Art market around St. Stephen's Green
The doors of Dublin!!! I could make an enormous collage for all the door photos I took, and the closeups of door knockers. The colors varied but the style didn't change enormously. They are just one of the charming architectural features seen while wandering the streets!
Henry Street
Dublin Castle - dating from 1204 it was the seat of the British government in Ireland until 1922.
Temple Bar was not subject to Georgian reconstruction and thus retains much of its medieval character
Dublin only became Irelands premier city after the Norman Invasion, although it has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Its name means 'Black Pool' (Dubhlinn), and in modern Irish it is known as Baile Átha Cliath, which means town of the hurdled ford. It was briefly Scandinavian, Viking, Norman, and of course, for much longer, British. Economic strengths have included transport and shipbuilding, the linen cloth industry and of course Guinness since 1759.
O'Connell Street has several large theatres and most of the bus routes end here.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

#655 Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Have spent the day in Amsterdam - what a great city! Historic and picturesque canals, but a living modern city at the same time. A plane full of bachelor party-goers, many shops filled with raunchy sex images and strong red light district contrasted with hundreds of toddler bicycle seats, children enjoying ice creams everywhere and child-friendliness and safety being the vibe.

One of my favorite thing were the buildings, or more precisely the very apparent age of the buildings - many tilting over! I love all of the crane hooks at the top of the buildings because so many were used as warehouses.
I've had a whole evening filled with glorious Dutch cheeses, and of course I had to try the Dutch Meatballs (Gehaktballen).

Other attractions include the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh museum, Anne France House, the Hermitage Museum, the Amsterdam Museum, the Stedelijk Museum and of course its infamous red-light district.

The Netherlands is known for their flowers, especially the tulips, and this flower market was full of bulbs and seeds for everything from azaleas to geraniums to dahlias. There are even special 'For the USA' packages.

Don't forget the cannabis shops! It's even available in your corner shop.

Deriving its name from Amstelredamme, literally a dam of the river Amstel, it began as a fishing village in the 12th century, and reached a peak during the Dutch Golden Age (of trade) in the 17th Century, where it was a hub for diamonds and finance; in fact, it has the world's oldest stock exchange. The floods of 1170 and 1173 brought about the damming, but compared to other cities in the Netherlands like Nijmegen, Utrecht and Rotterdam, it is relatively younger, and its city rights were not granted until 1300.
The canal district surrounding the old city is a UNESCO World Heritage monument, which was built to expand Amsterdam's port city at the end of the 16th Century, and involved moving the city's fortified walls (the Singelgracht), draining the swamps and building an intricate system of canals and filling the spaces with gabled houses and monuments. Contrary to expectation, it was not built from the centre outwards, but from west to east. The three canals residential canals known as the Grachtengordel can be translated as 'canal of the ruling lords' (Herengracht), 'emperor's canal' (Keizersgracht), and the 'prince's canal' (Prinsengracht). Singel is the oldest inner canal, but the collective name for all the canals is Singelgracht, which is also the name of the fourth and outermost canal. What a great way to meet the needs of defense, water management and transport all at once, and the city did not grow outside this structure/these borders for two centuries.