Culture

The Love Boat Defies the Wreckers

Posted on Aug 23, 2013 | Comments Off on The Love Boat Defies the Wreckers

ACİF-ROCDALE-ONE-copy

Once the star of television, the Pacific Princess aka “The Love Boat” (TV 1977-87) is proving reluctant to be scrapped. As of Wednesday, August 21, the ACIF (ex SEA VENTURE, PACIFIC PRINCESS, PACIFIC) was still laying at a precarious starboard angle at a scrapyard in Aliaga, near Izmir, Turkey.

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The ship’s list appears to have been arrested and there will be an attempt to right her before scrapping commences.

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Searching for Dragons

Posted on Jun 13, 2013 | Comments Off on Searching for Dragons

The Game of Thrones season finale may mean life feels a little empty but you can cheer yourself up with a trip to Northern Ireland and the dramatic locations where the series was filmed – plus those in Iceland, Croatia and Morocc

The Guardian

Alfie Allen in Game of Thrones Balintoy

Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones

Few things make Game of Thrones fans happier then the chance to get our geek on and argue the finer points of George RR Martin’s world. So it is that I find myself in Northern Ireland‘s picturesque Ballintoy Harbour – used as the landing spot for the windswept Iron Islands in season two – waving my hands around and saying: “Well, you know, I actually feel a little sorry for Theon Greyjoy: he’s generally humiliated at every turn by pretty much everyone he knows and now he’s just spent an entire season being tortured by a nameless sadist. I sort of think the guy deserves a break …”

My fellow Game of Thrones (GoT) fan merely sighs and says, with a shake of the head: “He’s still an idiot, and a pretty ungrateful one at that.”

Balintoy Harbour, Northern Ireland

Ballintoy Harbour, Northern IrelandBallintoy, a short drive from the Giant’s Causeway on County Antrim’s beautiful Causeway Coast, is just one of a number of stops on our bus trip around Northern Ireland, organised as part of a joint initiative between theNorthern Ireland Tourist Board and Northern Ireland Screen to promote tourism within the country.For just as thousands of Lord of The Rings fans flocked to New Zealandeager to pretend they were leaving the Shire like Frodo or battling the dead with Aragorn and Legolas, so the success of GoT has drawn increasing numbers to Northern Ireland. Government-backed agency Northern Ireland Screen admits to being hopeful the series “will deliver the widest media exposure Northern Ireland has received outside of politics and the Troubles”
.Darkhedges
Dark Hedges, on the route Arya Stark, masquerading as a boy, took when when escaping King’s Landing. Photograph: Northern Ireland Tourist BoardIt could be right. San Francisco-based travel company Viator recently added a nine-hour tour of the series’ Northern Irish locations to its list of trips. My taxi driver from George Best Belfast City Airport dwelt at length on how visitors to the city increasingly asked him to “take them to where Game of Thrones was made”, and locals were eager to talk of how Titanic Belfast, the impressive museum and cultural centre that opened last year, and Game of Thrones were gradually changing people’s perceptions of their country
.Dothraki camp
Dothraki camp at Shillanavogy Valley, near Slemish, County Antrim.The GoT bus tour does hammer home just how much spectacular scenery there is in Northern Ireland. Hit it on the right day – when the rain has stayed home and the usually grey skies are blue – and you’ll be rewarded with impossibly green fields, sparkling seas and jaw-dropping mountains from Mourne in the south – near Tollymore Forest park – scene of poor Theon’s desperate bid for freedom this season, to Slemish mountain, supposedly the home of Saint Patrick, which looms over Shillanavogy valley (the Dothraki grasslands, where Dany first learns what being a Khaleesi means)
.Cushendun, northern Ireland
Cushendun, Northern IrelandBest of all, however, is the small coastal village of Cushendun, from which you can see Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre on a clear day. Largely owned by the National Trust since 1954, Cushendun, with its golden beach, great pubs and fantastic self-catering cottages, is the perfect place to while away a couple of days. It’s also home to some fabulously spooky caves, and thus better-known to GoT addicts as the place where dubious Red Priestess, Melisandre of Asshai birthed her murderous shadow baby.It was easy to see why the location scouts chose them. Standing in those caves, with the wind whipping through and the water ominously edging in, it was easy to believe that we were not in 21st-century Northern Ireland but back in Martin’s world – that dark, depressing and dangerous place where the only certainty is that you win or you die.• More information on holidays in Northern Ireland fromdiscovernorthernireland.com. For flight and ferry deals see ireland.com

There’s an exhibition, too …

Game of Thrones exhibition, Belfast

Game of Thrones exhibition, BelfastDie-hard fans desperate for a fix after tonight’s season finale can head to Titanic Belfast, where an exhibition of costumes, weaponry and artefacts from the show runs until 17 June. Among the best bits are the chance to sit on the Iron Throne, to examine Dany’s dragons in model form, and to take part in your very own stimulated Battle of Blackwater. Yes, the fiery arrows are included.

It’s not just about Northern Ireland

While Northern Ireland accounts for the bulk of Game of Thrones locations, it’s not the only place where the series is filmed. Croatia, Morocco and Iceland also provide otherworldly backdrops to the backstabbing and bribery of Westeros and beyond.

Kit Harrington as Jon Snow on location in Iceland

Kit Harrington as Jon Snow on location in IcelandIceland
Iceland expert Discover The World has a four-night package, Iceland: Beyond The Wall, which allows you to take in the region’s impressive glaciers, volcanic plains and waterfalls. The package includes a night at the Hilton Nordica Hotel in Reykjavik, the base for the cast and crew during filming, and features trips to the Hofdabrekkuheidi area and the Vatnajökull glacier in Skaftafell, both of which featured in character Jon Snow’s epic trek beyond the wall. With optional activities including an Ice and Fire sightseeing flight, snowmobiling on Langjökull glacier and horse riding, it’s available June-August 2013, from £872pp (based on two sharing) including flights, B&B accommodation and car rental.Morocco
This season Morocco has formed the backdrop to Dany’s ransacking of Slaver’s Bay, with scenes shot in Essaouira and Aït Benhaddou near Ouarzazate. Epic Morocco has a 10-day Forts & Kasbahs trip which includes a visit to the Ouarzazate film studios and a three-day stay in Essaouira, for £775pp for 10 days including transport, all accommodation and some meals.Croatia
The plots and politics of King’s Landing are largely filmed in Croatia, with locations in Dubrovnik, nearby Lokrum Island and Novigrad in Istria.Completely Croatia has hotels and packages in both Dubrovnik and Novrigrad. (There is no accommodation on Lokrum, although its lakes and monastery are easily accessible from Dubrovnik with tourist boats making the 10-minute crossing every half hour in summer). US company Viator offers a three-hour walking tour of Dubrovnik.
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Finally: “ready when you are Mr DeMille”

Posted on Jun 4, 2013 | 1 comment

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ARTIFACTS FROM EARLY CECIL B. DeMILLE SET UNEARTHED TO BE DISPLAYED AT

DUNES CENTER

GUADALUPE, CA—“Egyptian” artifacts from Cecil B. DeMille’s elaborate set for his 1923 silent epic “The Ten Commandments” were recently unearthed from towering coastal sand dunes and will now be displayed at the Dunes Center, an educational visitor center related to the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes preserve located in Santa Maria Valley (Northern Santa Barbara County).

Having undergone months of restoration and preservation, the artifacts will be unveiled at a 1920s-themed party happening at the Dunes Center in Guadalupe on June 14 at 6 p.m. (public admission $5), where documentary filmmaker Peter Brosnan will be on hand to discuss years of research that led to this find. An ongoing exhibit will also be open to the public at the Dunes Center, which is open Thursdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. (www.dunescenter.orgwww.santamariavisitor.com).

“This is the only set of its type from early Hollywood that still exists,” said Doug Jenzen, executive director for the Dunes Center, which is located near where the set was recovered. “We’re keeping details about the artifacts a secret until the unveiling.”  He added that one of the set pieces is so large, that it will require removing a railing from the Dunes Center porch in order to bring it inside.

The artifacts will become part of the Dunes Center’s permanent exhibit called, “The Lost City of DeMille,” which currently features some small pieces of the film set that were found years ago, including a bas-relief of a pharaoh’s face, a lion’s paw and wooden hieroglyphs that decorated the city walls. Bits of 1920s-era “litter” left by the actors and film crew also make up a curious part of the exhibit.

Last October the Dunes Center, together with Brosnan, embarked on an archeological excavation to unearth pieces of the movie set from the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes. These findings are the centerpiece of the June 14 event.

The Story of the Lost Hollywood Set

DeMille built a massive Egyptian “City of the Pharaoh” set including 21 five-ton Sphinxes that, over time, was fabled to have been left buried beneath the sand.

DeMille’s original set for his blockbuster included a 720-foot-wide, 120-foot-tall backdrop that required 1,500 workers, 500 tons of statuary, a half million feet of lumber and 75 miles of reinforcing cable. In May and June of 1923, DeMille employed 2,500 actors and 3,000 animals in the film, which was one of Hollywood’s last silent works yet one of its first to be made in “Technicolor.”

Over time, DeMille’s Egyptian masterpiece became known as the “Lost City,” buried by the shifting sands and forgotten by nearly everyone—except for the residents of Guadalupe who worked as extras on the film and knew all along that it had not been dismantled. To locals, it was simply “the dune that never moved.”

However, interest in the set was rekindled when DeMille, via his posthumously published 1983 autobiography, uttered the following cryptic clue: “If a thousand years from now, archeologists happen to dig beneath the sands of Guadalupe, I hope they won’t rush into print with the amazing news that Egyptian civilization … extended all the way to the Pacific Coast.”

Unearthing History and More Films Set in the Guadalupe Dunes

This inspired documentary producer Peter Brosnan and Central Coast archaeologist John Parker to initiate plans for excavation and preservation of the film set, most of which still remains buried beneath the lone dune. Throughout his 30 years of researching the set, which included establishing a location grid via ground penetrating radar back in the 1990s, Brosnan has collected oral histories from longtime Guadalupe residents who worked on the movie.

“These interviews are vital in preserving our community’s history for future generations,” Jenzen said. He added that Brosnan has also written a book on the many movies that have been filmed in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, including the third installment of Disney’s “Pirates of The Caribbean.” Other films that have used the dunes as a dramatic backdrop include “The Son of the Sheik,” starring Rudolph Valentino; “Morocco,” starring Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich; and “The Last Outpost,” starring Cary Grant. More recent films that have shot at the dunes include 2004’s “Hidalgo” and 1997’s “G.I. Jane.”

What Visitors Can Enjoy at this Nature Preserve

The Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve, which is open to the public, lies west of Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County, approximately 150 miles north of Los Angeles and 250 miles south of San Francisco. The preserve belongs to the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Complex, which spans 18 miles of shoreline with 1,400 individual species of flora and fauna, as well as numerous lagoons and lakes. Here, the awe-inspiring mountains of shifting sand comprise the larger of only two coastal dunes complexes in California. They also represent the highest beach dunes in the western United States.

Visitors to the dunes are encouraged to begin their journey at the Dunes Center in the small town of Guadalupe along scenic Highway 1. Exhibits at the Dunes Center include a displays on the extraordinary biodiversity of the dunes; recovered artifacts from DeMille’s City of the Pharaoh; and a short film on the history of the “Dunites”—an “eclectic group of freethinkers, artists, poets and mystics” who inhabited the dunes from the early 1900s to 1973.

The three most popular dunes destinations are all easily accessible from the Dunes Center. Visitors wishing to drive straight to the oceanfront can take Main Street west into the heart of the Guadalupe Dunes Preserve. Nearby Oso Flaco Lake Road leads to a convenient parking area, from where visitors can take a 30-minute stroll along a boardwalk through the dunes and to the beach. And those feeling even more adventurous can hike across the dunes into the heart of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge. Guided hikes focused on varying themes are planned quarterly.

Visitors can find a range of lodging in nearby Santa Maria, which offers a host of additional exciting experiences, from wine tasting to world-renowned barbecue to championship golf courses.

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Original Tolkien ‘Middle Earth’ artwork goes on display in Oxford

Posted on Jun 3, 2013 | Comments Off on Original Tolkien ‘Middle Earth’ artwork goes on display in Oxford

Original ‘Middle Earth’ artwork goes on display

A new exhibition at the Bodleian Library in Oxford opens today featuring unseen manuscripts by JRR Tolkien, and other notable children’s authors.

8:00AM BST 23 May 2013

The new display, ‘Magical Books: from the Middle Ages to Middle-earth’, focuses on five celebrated children’s fantasy authors. As well as Tolkien, it will include work by CS Lewis, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner and Philip Pullman.

Delving into its collection of authors’ papers, the Bodleian display includes some of the original artwork for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, as well as the manuscript of ‘The Fall of Arthur’, a little known Tolkien poem that was unfinished when he died. It is published for the first time today to coincide with the opening of the exhibition.

Other “magical” objects on show include Philip Pullman’s alethiometer (the golden compass from His Dark Material trilogy), and one of Alan Garner’s original “owl service” plates from the book of the same name.

Objects on display include books and manuscripts that describe the myths, magic and legends which inspired the authors. Witches, for example, are represented by a First Folio Macbeth.

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The “Mary Rose” Museum has opened in Portsmouth

Posted on Jun 2, 2013 | Comments Off on The “Mary Rose” Museum has opened in Portsmouth

29 May 2013
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-22639505

The Mary Rose: A Tudor ship’s secrets revealed

Graphic: Cutaway showing the Mary Rose
By Eleanor WilliamsBBC News

More than 30 years after it was raised from the seabed – and almost 500 years since it sank – the secrets of Henry VIII’s flagship, the Mary Rose, are being revealed to the public – along with the faces of its crew.

Just yards from where it was first constructed from 600 oak trees near Portsmouth’s naval docks in 1510, the wreck of the Tudor warship now stands on view in its new £35m home.

Where once stood a proud, cutting-edge ship built for war, now lies a reconstructed array of wooden decks and pillars, withered by their hundreds of years at the bottom of the Solent.

Standing nearby are some of the men who shared a grave with the ship for hundreds of years, their faces now reconstructed and displayed for the first time.

Viewed through windows on three separate floors, the preserved wreck stands opposite some of its 19,000 artefacts recovered from the depths.

Mary Rose cannonsThe Mary Rose carried both new modern bronze cannons and old medieval wrought iron ones.

Within the exhibition the recreated decks, dimly lit interiors and groaning sounds of the sea outside all combine to give the sense of being on board the 16th Century vessel.

The crew’s quarters are all visible, while rows of cannons line the main deck, pointing out of the open gunports ready to be fired at enemy ships.

It is a Tudor time capsule – dubbed “Britain’s Pompeii” by historian David Starkey – and its custodians cannot wait to show it off.

“What we’re aiming to achieve here is a mirror image of the ship and to show artefacts where they belonged,” explains Nick Butterley, exhibition co-ordinator.

“So many things in this gallery you can immediately look at and understand what they are. That’s one of the real beauties of the collection, how realistic and normal it feels.”

Every artefact on show here is an original piece found with the wreck. Some of the cannons were still sticking out of the gunports when it was discovered in 1971.

The Mary Rose was raised from the seabed of the Solent in 1982, and has been on display before, but it is only now that insights into life on board are being shown to the public.

Forensic scientists, more used to working with murder victims, have recreated the faces of seven of the about 500 men who died when the ship sank in 1545.

The new Mary Rose Museum has been dedicated to them, and it is through them the story of the ship is now being told.

Curators had no list of crew names, just numbers. Only the names of the vice admiral, Sir George Carew, and the master, Roger Grenville, are known.

Maritime archaeologist Alex Hildred was part of the team who excavated and raised the wreck and has since studied the human remains to discover more about the men and boys – whose ages range from 12 to 40 – found on board.

“You’ve got a really good glimpse of Tudor males at a moment in time,” she says. “It’s a healthy, living population, you are not looking at a churchyard.

“They were pretty well fed once they were on the ship – we know that from the diet. But there had been severe famines in the 1520s, so some of their bones have got evidence of vitamin deficiency, such as rickets or sometimes scurvy from the fact that they suffered as children.

“They’ve also got a lot of healed fractures – which is what you’d expect on a warship – a number of broken noses, one arrow wound and some arthritis. These guys were used to lifting heavy things.”

The human remains found are displayed in galleries at the bow and stern of the ship, along with thousands of artefacts.

“This is where we personalise the collection, trying to show that these objects belonged to real people who lived and sadly died on the ship,” explains maritime archaeologist Christopher Dobbs, giving the BBC a guided tour.

Forensic artist Oscar Nilsson explains to Robert Hall how he created a model of one of the sailors who drowned on the Mary Rose

“One thing that’s so powerful about the Mary Rose collection is that we found a number of chests in the ship and they tell us about an individual person, because they contain the objects that belonged to a person.”

He says the master carpenter’s chest, for example, contained three plates, a tankard, a sundial, a book and even a backgammon set – indicating “quite a wealthy person”.

“We also, just outside the carpenter’s cabin, found the skeleton of a dog,” he adds.

“It’s these tiny insights that we’ve got into Tudor life, as well as the obvious things like guns and rigging, that really make our display so exceptional.”

Trapped and drownedWhen the Mary Rose was built, it was part of a new generation of modern carvel-built ships – planks laid side to side – which featured gunports with lids, allowing heavier guns to be carried.

The warship fought its first battle in 1512 against France after King Henry VIII joined Pope Julius II’s Holy League against the French the previous year. It fought many more over the next 34 years.

Mary RoseThe recovered wreck is on show behind glass walls opposite the artefacts

But Mary Rose’s life as a serving Navy ship came to an abrupt end on 19 July 1545, when it sank during the Battle of the Solent while, once again, leading the attack on the French invasion fleet.

Francis I was attempting an invasion of England with 30,000 soldiers and more than 220 ships – much larger than the more well-known Spanish Armada 43 years later.


Christopher DobbsMaritime archaeologist

The English had about 60 ships and 12,000 soldiers, but managed to fight off the French who eventually retreated the day after the Mary Rose sank.

Only 35 men survived disaster, according to contemporary records. Many would have been trapped under the anti-boarding netting and drowned.

Legend has it that Henry VIII watched in horror from Southsea castle along with the wife of Vice Admiral Sir George Carew.

As the ship sank, the cries and screams from the drowning men and boys could be heard back on land. The loss of the ship is said to have affected the king deeply.

Accounts on what happened that day differ, but one survivor claimed the ship had just fired its guns on one side and was turning to fire from the other when the wind caught its sails and plunged the open gunports below the water, which sank it.

French historians claim its forces were responsible for sinking the Mary Rose in battle.

For the next 300 years the Mary Rose – like a snapshot of Tudor military life – lay undisturbed on the seabed.

Even though many items from the wreck were raised by early pioneering divers John and Charles Deane in 1836, the site was then lost again for another 100 years.

It was finally located again in 1971 and, since then, divers have made 27,000 dives to the wreck site outside the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour.

One chest got archaeologists particularly excited when they discovered it had a secret compartment. Mr Dobbs says they thought it may contain something valuable the wealthy owner was trying to hide.

“It was like a time capsule within a time capsule, within a time capsule,” explains Mr Dobbs. “But it only had a pin in it.”

“Maybe this once was used to hold together some important papers that have not survived. We will never know.”

But there are many more secrets the team is still hoping to reveal and the new museum is being heralded as a new beginning for the Mary Rose story.

Many of the items found have still not been identified, but as artefacts go on display the curators hope they are identified by experts in various fields who share their knowledge.

“We had the bishop of Portsmouth here last week and he saw this book cover and pointed out it was probably the ship’s bible cover,” Mr Dobbs adds.

“We are learning more as we go along.”

Sweden’s Vasa ship

The Vasa ship in Stockholm

The only other maritime achievement comparable to the raising and restoration of the Mary Rose is that of the 17th Century Vasa warship in Stockholm in 1961.

The flagship of King Gustav Adolf, it sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 because it had been built top heavy and did not have enough ballast.

Like the Mary Rose, the Vasa lay undisturbed on the seabed for more than 300 years.

In 1956, divers Anders Franzén and Per Edvin Fälting relocated Vasa off Beckholmen. In 1961 it was raised, refloated and moved to a dry dock.

For 17 years the Vasa was sprayed with Polyethylene Glycol (PEG), the same type of wax scientists later used to preserve the Mary Rose.

But the Vasa looks much the same as it did the day it sank because shipworms do not thrive in the brackish water of the Baltic.

Source: Vasa Museum

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Renowned Katz’s ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ New York deli turns 125

Posted on Jun 2, 2013 | Comments Off on Renowned Katz’s ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ New York deli turns 125

history

During its 125 years on New York’s Lower East Side, Katz’s Deli, has been host to politicians, presidents and one of the most memorable movie scenes ever. Few who have seen “When Harry Met Sally” will ever forget Meg Ryan’s very public fake orgasm that was filmed in the E Houston St kosher-style eatery. f you’re in NYC this weekend it’d be worth stopping by to share in the celebrations.
As they say on their website:

“Mind if we drop a few names?

When you’re sitting in front of the best pastrami sandwich in the world, you gotta concentrate on the food. We understand and respect that. But when you’re done noshin’, take a tour around the place and check out our photo gallery. It reads like a who’s who in culture, sports and entertainment—Barbra Streisand Kathleen Turner, Bruno Kirby, Bruce Willis, Dan Aykroyd. And let’s not forget our  political guests. Four U.S. presidents have enjoyed Katz’s hospitality, Vice President Al Gore brought the Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to lunch, and most of the hotshots on New York’s political scene have eaten here.

Katz’s Deli is no stranger to the silver screen either. Remember that scene in When Harry Met Sally where Meg Ryan was, uh, faking it? Yeah, that was at Katz’s. (And we’re not so sure she was really acting. If you’ve had our brisket, you catch our drift.) Or how about when Johnny Depp meets up with his FBI contact in Donnie Brasco? Katz’s again.

You can check out a few snapshots here on the site, but to see the full collection, you gotta come in and eat.”

KATZ’S DELICATESSEN
205 EAST HOUSTON STREET
NEW YORK CITY 10002
(212) 254-2246
http://katzsdelicatessen.com
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Vivid Sydney Launch

Posted on May 25, 2013 | Comments Off on Vivid Sydney Launch

Amazing time lapse of the Vivid Sydney launch Friday may 24th to 10 June and this year it’s bigger, better and brighter than ever before. The 18-day annual event of light, music and ideas has become Sydney’s major festival in winter attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to signature events such as the Lighting the Sails of the Sydney Opera House and the beautiful, meandering journey around the harbour for the much-loved Light Walk. This year the Light Walk includes exciting new precincts such as Darling Harbour and the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Vivid map

Other major Vivid Sydney precincts are the Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay, The Rocks and Walsh Bay where the world’s best lighting technology is used to transform skyscrapers and heritage sites at night into an amazing colourful canvas. Once again, Vivid LIVE returns to the Sydney Opera House with an extraordinary series of music performances while Vivid Ideas brings creative minds together in Sydney to connect with global leaders in the creative industries from filmmaking to photography, design, technology and gaming.

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51 Buckingham Gate’s 24-Carat Gold Afternoon Tea

Posted on May 22, 2013 | Comments Off on 51 Buckingham Gate’s 24-Carat Gold Afternoon Tea

24 Karat Gold Afternoon Tea 2 sm 

Satiating the UK’s resurgent passion for traditional afternoon tea but going one step further, 51 Buckingham Gate, Taj Suites and Residences and Luxor Champagne have created a 24 Carat Gold Afternoon Tea, which includes edible gold.

The new afternoon tea will feature a half bottle of Luxor Pure Gold 24K Brut Champagne, which includes flakes of 24-Carat Gold and is one of the world’s most prestigious and rare sparkling wines. Produced in the Champagne region, Luxor was created due to founder Jean-Christophe Rousseau’s fascination with gold, and his desire to marry one of the most coveted treasures in history with the most luxurious of drinks. This exclusive Brut is a blend of 90% Pinot Noir, 7% Chardonnay and 3% Pinot Meunier.

London’s Afternoon Tea aficionados can expect a dining experience of unparalleled opulence. Inspired by Luxor, Executive Chef Vikas Milhoutra, has created a series of decadent delights, also made with edible gold. The 24 Carat Gold Afternoon Tea includes a Gold Leaf JellyWhite Chocolate Delight with Gold Leaf and Strawberry Tart with Gold Flakes and is accompanied by a selection of scones and delicate finger sandwiches.

The 24 Carat Gold Afternoon Tea is available at an introductory price of £99 (AUD$154) for two. Booking is required with a 24-hour notice. It includes a range of scones, cakes and sandwiches as well as half a bottle of Luxor Gold Leaf Champagne.

 

About 51 Buckingham Gate, Taj Suites and Residences

51 Buckingham Gate, Taj Suites & Residences, combines the facilities and convenience of a luxury hotel with the space and exclusivity of a private home. 51 Buckingham Gate consists of three individually designed buildings: Kings, Falconers and Minsters. The buildings have been beautifully restored and ’51’ now offers 86 elegant suites each with their own separate kitchen and living area. Located in St. James’s and just minutes from Buckingham Palace, shops and theatres of the West End, the townhouse hotel is an ideal base for a long weekend visit to London. 

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10 things to know before visiting Morocco

Posted on May 20, 2013 | Comments Off on 10 things to know before visiting Morocco

Writers, rock stars and eccentrics flocked to Tangier's cafés in the first half of the 20th century. Cliffside Café Hafa, overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar, was a favorite hangout of Tangier's most famous expat, Beat writer Paul Bowles.

 Writers, rock stars and eccentrics flocked to Tangier’s cafés in the first half of the 20th century. Cliffside Café Hafa, overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar, was a favorite hangout of Tangier’s most famous expat, Beat writer Paul Bowles.
By Lara Brunt, for CNN
May 8, 2013 — Updated 0945 GMT (1745 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cafés are where Moroccan men socialize, gathering to drink sweet mint tea
  • Cumin is used to flavor everything from tagines to mechoui
  • Train company ONCF operates one of the best train networks in Africa
  • Morocco’s souks teem with hagglers, hustlers, mule-drivers and motor scooters

(CNN) — Rainbows of color, spice-market smells, an urban orchestra of sounds: Morocco can be overwhelming at first.

Lying 13 kilometers, or 8 miles, from the coast of Spain, the North African country mixes Middle Eastern magic, Berber tradition and European flair.

Tourism has more than doubled since 2002, to nearly 10 million visitors in 2011. King Mohammed VI wants to increase the annual visitor numbers to 18 million by 2020.

The royal ruler’s strategy is underpinned by infrastructure development, making traveling around the country even easier.

Add to this a program of ongoing social, political and economic reforms, and Morocco is one of the most moderate and peaceful countries in the region.

Cafes dominate life in Tangier

Cafes are the key place to socialize, for Moroccan men at least. They gather to drink sweet mint tea and watch people as they go about their affairs.

The northern port city of Tangier has a history of literary bohemianism and illicit goings-on, thanks to its status as an International Zone from 1923 to 1956.

The Interzone years, and the heady decades that followed, saw writers, rock stars and eccentrics flock to the city’s 800-plus cafés.

Two must-visit spots: Cafe Hafa (Ave Hadi Mohammed Tazi), overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar, was a favorite hangout of Tangier’s most famous expat, Beat writer Paul Bowles.

Smoky and slightly edgy, Cafe Baba (1 rue Sidi-Hosni) is the coolest spot in the Kasbah. A photo of Keith Richards, kif-pipe in hand, still adorns the grimy walls.

Most mosques are off-limits to non-Muslims

Nearly 99% of the population is Muslim, and hearing the muezzin’s melodic call to prayer for the first time is a spine-tingling moment.

While very few Moroccan mosques are open to non-Muslims, one exception is the towering Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca (Blvd Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah; +212 522 22 25 63).

Located on a promontory over the Atlantic Ocean, the mosque was completed in 1993 and can hold 105,000 worshipers inside and out.

Tradition and technology sit side by side, with colorful zellij (mosaic tiles), intricate stucco and carved cedar complementing the retractable roof and heated flooring.

If you can’t make it to Casa, Marrakech’s 16th-century Ali ben Youssef madrassa-turned-museum (Pl Ben Youssef; +212 524 44 18 93) is open to all and also features impressive Islamic design.

Multilingual Moroccans will put you to shame

Arabic is the official language, but you\'ll also hear French, Spanish, Berber and various dialects.
Arabic is the official language, but you’ll also hear French, Spanish, Berber and various dialects.

Moroccans switch languages mid-sentence, reflecting the cultures — Berber, Arab, French and Spanish — that have crisscrossed the country.

Arabic is the official language, and you’ll hear the Moroccan dialect, Darija, spoken on the street.

French continues to be widely spoken in cities; foreigners are often addressed in this first. Spanish is still spoken in Tangier.

There are also three main dialects spoken by the country’s Berber majority: Tashelhit, Tamazight and Tarifit.

You’ll be able to get by with English in the main tourist hubs, although “La, shukran” (“No, thank you” in Arabic) is one phrase to master.

Don’t get stuck in Marrakech

Marrakech is justifiably popular, but there’s so much more.

Fez tops the list for its maze-like medina, fabulous foodie scene and annual Festival of World Sacred Music.

For a slice of the Sahara, there’s the desert town of Merzouga, near the impressive Erg Chebbi sand dunes, accessible via camel treks.

Active types can hike between Berber villages in the High Atlas or head to the blue-hued Andalusian town of Chefchaouen to explore the Rif Mountains.

Beach bums will love laid-back Essaouira and Sidi Ifni on the Atlantic coast, while surfers often head south to Taghazout.

For quiet contemplation, Morocco’s holiest town, Moulay Idriss, is hard to beat. Plus, you’ll have the nearby Roman ruins of Volubilis pretty much to yourself.

If you don’t like cumin, you may starve

Cumin is one of the main spices used in Moroccan cooking. This pungent powder is used to flavor everything from tagines to mechoui (slow-roasted lamb).

Cumin is used as a condiment on most Moroccan tables, along with salt and chili. It’s also a popular natural remedy for diarrhea.

“Cumin has anti-parasitical properties, so if you’ve got an upset tummy, a spoonful of cumin knocked back with water will help,” said food guide Gail Leonard with Plan-It Fez.

Trains are cheap, comfortable and reliable

First class train travel in Morocco is affordable and worth it. Just be prepared to share your food.
First class train travel in Morocco is affordable and worth it. Just be prepared to share your food.

Train company ONCF operates one of the best train networks in Africa, making it the easiest way to travel between cities.

It’s worth paying extra for first class, which comes with a reserved seat and A/C.

First class carriages have six-seat compartments or open-plan seating. Stock up on snacks, or buy them onboard, as it’s customary to share food.

When it comes to traveling to smaller towns and villages, buses and grand taxis, usually old Mercedes sedans that can seat six (at a squash), are best.

Couscous is served on Fridays

You’ll see it on every restaurant menu, but traditionally, couscous is served on Fridays, when families gather after prayers.

This is because the proper (not packet) stuff takes a long time to prepare.

Coarse semolina is hand-rolled into small granules to be steamed and fluffed three times. It’s pale in color, deliciously creamy and served with vegetables and/or meat or fish.

Bread is the staple carb and is served with every meal, except couscous.

It’s baked in communal wood-fired ovens, one of five amenities found in every neighborhood (the others being a hammam, or bathhouse; a drinking fountain; a mosque and a preschool).

Riad rooftops rock

The traditional Moroccan house (riad) is built around a central courtyard with windows facing inwards for privacy.

They’re decked out with elaborate zellij, stucco and painted cedar and are easily the most atmospheric places to stay.

While Moroccans tend to use their rooftops as clotheslines, a riad roof terrace is the place to be come sunset.

In Marrakech, Italian-designed Riad Joya (Derb El Hammam, Mouassine Quarter; +212 524 391 624; www.riadjoya.com) has prime views of the Koutoubia Mosque minaret, while five-star La Sultana (403 rue de la Kasbah; +212 524 388 008;www.ghotw.com/la-sultana) overlooks the Atlas Mountains.

Top picks in Fez are the bohemian Riad Idrissy (13 Derb Idrissi, Sieje, Sidi Ahmed Chaoui, +212 649 191 410; www.riadidrissy.com) and its suntrap terrace, while Dar Roumana (30 Derb el Amer, Zkak Roumane; +212 535 741 637; www.darroumana.com) has sweeping views of the world’s largest living medieval Islamic city.

When you hear balak!’ watch out

The narrow streets of Morocco\'s souks are filled with hagglers, hustlers, mule-drivers and motor scooters.
The narrow streets of Morocco’s souks are filled with hagglers, hustlers, mule-drivers and motor scooters.

Morocco’s souks are not for the faint-hearted. The narrow streets teem with hagglers, hustlers, mule-drivers and motor scooters.

Rule No. 1 is to step aside when you hear “Balak!” It means there’s a heavily laden handcart or mule bearing down on you.

You’ll inevitably get lost, as maps don’t usually include the warren of small alleys that make up the medina.

A guide can help you get your bearings and fend off touts, but be aware that anything you buy will have his commission built in to the price.

Alternatively, taking snaps of landmarks with your smartphone can help you find your way back to your accommodation.

It’s not weird to be bathed by a stranger

There are plenty of posh hotel hammams, but nothing beats a visit to a no-frills public bathhouse.

Spotting the entrance can be tricky, as most signs are written in Arabic. Look for a shop selling toiletries or a mosque, as these are usually nearby.

It’s advisable to stock up on black olive oil soap, ghassoul (clay used as hair conditioner), a kiis (exfoliating glove) and a mat to sit on. Visitors need to take their own towels, comb and flip-flops.

Women strip to their knickers (no bra), and men wear underpants. Then you’ll be steamed, scrubbed and pummeled until you’re squeaky clean.

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A bus tour of Pope Francis’ Buenos Aires

Posted on May 18, 2013 | Comments Off on A bus tour of Pope Francis’ Buenos Aires

New 'Pope' tour of Buenos Aires launched
Passengers on the first tour of Pope Francis associated sights Photo: Getty Images
Telegraph.co.uk

Friday 17 May 2013

The Papa Tour of Buenos Aires includes stops at the pontiff’s childhood home, the plaza where he played football, and the school he attended.

The three-hour bus tours are being offered by the country’s Tourism Ministry, and while it had anticipated taking fewer than 100 people each week, on just two tours, more than 5,000 have already signed up to take part. It has since adjusted its schedule to meet the demand.

The 43-seater bus made its first foray onto the streets of Buenos Aires yesterday. A total of 21 sites were visiting, many in the Flores neighbourhood, where the pontiff was born.

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“Jorge Mario Bergoglio [now Pope Francis] was born in Flores – on calle Membrillar (it’s house no 531, by the way, for the true pilgrims) – in 1936, when the area was favoured by the middle classes for its fresh breezes wafting in from the pampas.

“Like many residents he grew up supporting the local football team, San Lorenzo de Almagro (pictured below), whose nickname is The Saints. Their rivals, Independiente, are known as Los Diablos: The Devils. The stadium, El Nuevo Gasómetro, is just round the corner from the priest’s house.”

Another stop on the inaugural tour was the Metropolitan Cathedral, where he used to say mass as archbishop.

“There has been a church at this spot since Buenos Aires was founded in 1580,” said Chris Moss. “The current cathedral dates from the 18th century, though the façade is a harsh-looking 19th-century Neoclassical affair. The national “Liberator”, José de San Martîn, is buried there.”

The bus also called at St Joseph’s Basilica in Flores, where Jorge Bergoglio had a spiritual awakening that led him to the priesthood as a child.

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