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  • Nature | United Kingdom
    Updated at Mar 13,2014

    This itinerary can be combined with the Hall Place itinerary. Two, unexpected gems in a full day.

    Orientation: Elegant house, brilliant surrounding. Take the bus to and from the Danson estate from/to Bexleyheath Centre or Railway station.

    Getting there: 15-20 minutes walking from Bexleyheath train station. Ask for Danson Park. The house is five minutes from the Park entrance. From Bexley: buses: 89, 96, 486, B13-B14, B16.

    Opening times: Sunday-Thursday 12.00 - 17.00 Adults - 7 GBP, Concessions - 5 GBP.

    My recommendation: Enjoy Hall Place during the first half of the day and devote your afternoon to the Danson House and Danson Park + the English Gardens. Here, we recommend visiting the House which is the main attraction. Allow 1 hour for Danson House (a gem !) and half an hour for the English Gardens near Danson Park.

    I recommend also sparing 1/2 hour lazy stroll in Bexleyheath Centre:

    Danson House - view from Danson Park:

    Danson park (during the annual fair...):

    Danson House - Traditional Victorian Kitchen  - Tabletop Knife Cleaner:

    Danson House - Dining Room with 17 original wall paintings by Charles Pavillion (French painter) commissioned in 1776 by Sir John Boyd to show his taste and wealth. Danson House was Boyd's country retreat:

    Danson House - Octagonal Salon with Chinese style which was popular in  the mid 1760s:

    Danson House - The Library with Organ Player - "Music among the Bookshelves":

    Danson House - Chinese Fasion in leisure was popular in European Aristocratic circles - Chinoiserie.

    Top floor given over to a Chinese oriented (Chinoiserie) porcelain:

    The English Garden near Danson park and House:

  • Nature
    Updated at Dec 4,2013

    Regent Park, London:

    Start & End: Regent park Station.

    Duration: 3-4 hours. The Park is quite big.It took us 45 mins to walk from one end to the the other in a straight line. Combined with the Zoo - at least half a day (better, 7-8 hours) could be usefully spent on public transportation and on foot,

    You'd never guess this quiet, tranquil park is surrounded by a buzzing city. This park is not packed as other central parks in London. The Regent´s is much quieter and pleasant. It is well used by the locals and tourist alike but is still quiet and relaxing. A nice stroll for a clear day. Even with heavy rain (as was our day there...) and apart from a few dog walkers, there is a feeling of having this huge garden all to yourself: lakes with little scenic bridges going over them, an open air theatre in summer, a boating lake, a separate (and very large) area for people who want to play football and other sports. Perfect for picnics, lazing around reading a book, playing football/frisbee with friends, romantic (or other) walks, walking your dog, jogging, cycling around the rounds that run around the park.

    I liked the formal Queen Mary gardens, near the Cresent entrance. If you're visiting in the summer, the rose gardens are spectacular! Queen Mary's Gardens feature more than 30,000 roses of 400 varieties, Don't forget to visit the Primrose Hill view near the park. Primrose Hill is within walking distance (allow 15-25 minutes) for a great view of London from the top of the hill. A 10-15 min walk gets you to Camden Lock markets from here, which are also worth visiting.

    The gardens, flower-beds, statues and fountains are worth seeking out. The flower beds are lovely at times. There is a nice boating pond which also has ducks and swans. The park is particularly beautiful when the seasons are changing.

    Close to London Zoo, Madam Tussauds and the Planetarium. Camden is very near. In Octobre there is one of the best art fairs in Europe - the Frieze Fair (high entrance fee !).

    No food shops and kiosks nearby. Restrooms in scarce. if you want a proper meal and havent brought a picnic with you, you will have to venture outside of the park to a restaurant or supermarket. In terms of access and amenities, there are two tube stations fairly nearby (Baker Street and Regents Park stations) and there are shops near those stations where you can pick up snacks on the way.

  • Nature | Russian Federation
    Updated at Oct 14,2015

    Tip 5: Summer Garden:

    Summer Garden (Letny Sad) and Summer Palace of Peter the Great - a must see tourist attraction in SPB.

    The gardens are open with FREE ADMISSION. A true escape from the everyday life of the city of St. Petersburg. It's the right place to shelter from the soaring heat. Best time - late afternoon hours.

    Just an absolutely beautiful garden. Relaxing and awe inspiring thinking of all the work that went into building them. Allow, at least, 2 hours for strolling around. Magnificent grounds and gardens. It is quite extensive so if you cannot walk far this is not for you. Wide and long lanes, many statues, many fountains, frequent artistic displays or performances. However, if you can walk the grounds you will see beautiful landscapes, fountains, statues and flowers. The property also extends to the water. You can see the Finnish Gulf from the outskirts of the gardens. The gardens are kept immaculate and at any given time you can observe an armies of people who are tending the gardens and keeping them clean.

    It's lovely to walk in the garden on a sunny day, quiet and peaceful inside. Amazing fountain displays and guilded sculptures (mostly, copies - not the originals). For truly enjoying the garden experience - make sure the fountains have been turned on for the season. The fountains come on only around 11.00 and turn off at 18.00. The gardens are managed by the nearby Russian Museum, and can be accessed either from the ornate wrought-iron gates running along the Palace (Dvortsovaya) Embankment of the Neva, or from the entrance on ulitsa Pestelya, close to whether the Moika and Fontanka rivers meet (not far from Pantelmon Bridge - see Tip 2).

    The Summer Garden was used as the center for culture and entertainment. The Tsar Peter the Great (Peter I) laid it immediately after the founding of the Northern Capital. The territory of the garden is a monument of culture of the 18th century. This garden is unique in that its entire arrangement has remained virtually unchanged since the time of Peter the Great. The king was fond of this garden where luxurious balls and receptions attended by the most prominent people of St. Petersburg were organized. Peter himself designed the park plan. One of Peter the Great's passions was inspired by Versailles gardens. According to his orders the park was filled with flowers and trees of various species, fountains, wide alleys, pavilions, galleries and ponds with swans and ducks. But the greatest virtue of the garden was becaming a kind of a museum of decorative garden sculptures of the 18th century. By 1714 the Summer Garden had received two-storey Summer Palace of Peter the Great. In 1777 St. Petersburg saw one of the mightiest floods in its history. As a result, the fountains, the grotto, the pavilion and numerous other attractions of the Summer Garden were destroyed. The statues suffered too. In the 18th century the number of statues in the garden totaled around 200. Today, there are less than 90: a part of their number was sent to various museums. Of the surviving copies the most interesting are the sculptures of Alexander the Great, Marcus Aurelius, the Polish King Jan Sobieski as well as the statues symbolizing Architecture, Glory, Navigation, Justice and other characters of Roman mythology. The floods did so much damage (entirely destroying the system of fountains) that the Imperial family stopped using the garden for entertaining, and the fountains were not restored. The garden was left for a daily use of the upper class people.

    The Chess Fountain:

    The Gardens or Neva Fencing: this is the first remarkable feature in this wonderful site. The whole length of the fencing is 232 m. The architect Jury Felten created the project of the fencing. 16 years passed from the decree of Catherine II in 1770 till the overall completion of the work. The project was changed several times. More than ten drafts still remain showing the stages of the work. Bronze gilded decorations enliven the strict look of the Summer Garden grating.  In 1866 the fencing witnessed a historical event of murdering attempt of Tsar Alexander II. A chapel was built on the site of the central gate in commemoration of the good riddance of the Emperor of the mortal danger - but, the chapel had been dismantled in 1930.

    The Summer Palace: NO PHOTOGRAPHS inside the palace. The inside is very ornate with lots of gold, mirrors and chandeliers. Also paintings of family members adorn the walls. As for Summer 2015 - the Summer Palace that lays within the Summer Garden(s) is under massive renovation and is inaccessible for visitors. Regularly, the palace has an entrance fee (higher for tourists).

    The Summer Palace (Летний дворец) is the residence of Peter the Great that was built in 1710-14 in his new capital, St. Petersburg, in what is now the Summer Garden. It stands very close (west) to the Fontanka river and very close (south to) the Neva river. An incredible location ! The design was by Domenico Trezzini. This simple Dutch-style (Petrine Baroque) mansion contains just 14 main rooms. The mansion was designed as an entertainment pavilion and was intended for warm weather use only. Peter moved into the partially completed palace in 1712 and spent summers here until his death in 1725. He occupied the lower level while his wife Catherine preferred the upper rooms. Peter's daughter Elizabeth Petrovna had her own Summer Palace built on the Field of Mars slightly to the west. The older palace has stood untenanted since the 1840s. The Summer Palace - a witness of Peter the Great life - has remained without any radical changes up to the present day. The evidence can be found both in historical plans of the Summer Garden of the first half of the 18th century and in the sketch from year 1727. Thus, the Summer Palace is not only one of the first stone buildings in St. Petersburg, but also a unique sample of the architectural work of its founder reflecting the peculiarities of Peter's character. In the early 19th century the Summer Palace served as a Dacha (summer house) for high ranking state officials. The museum was founded in 1903, the year of the 200 anniversary of St. Petersburg. After 1917 the Palace was kept as a historical and architectural monument. In 1934 the memorial museum of history and art was opened in the Summer Palace of Peter I (the Great). Its oak interiors were reconstructed in the early 1960s. The house was open to the public as a branch of the Russian Museum until it closed down for repairs in 2009. Nowadays it houses a museum with some of Peter the Great’s personal belongings and furniture plus some stuff that was simply made in the era when he lived. Also on the grounds are the 1826 Coffee House, designed by Carlo Rossi, and the 1827 Tea House, designed by Ludwig Charlemagne, where you can still enjoy refreshments and beverages everyday.

    In the 19th century the garden received new pavilions: the "Coffee House" (Kofeinyi Domik), built by Carlo Rossi in 1826 and the "Tea House". The "Tea House" resides behind the monument to the fabulist Ivan Krylov (see below), south of the Summer Palace. The Tea House (Chayniy domik) is a simple Neoclassical pavilion built by the architect Charlemagne in 1827:

    Ivan Krylov Monument: The statue stands between the main alley and the Tea House. Krylov, the famous fables-teller drew heavily on the works of Aesop and Jean de la Fontaine, adapting them to satirize the peculiarities of Russian life, and especially the country's bureaucracy. Most of his tales had animals as main subjects. Baron Pyotr von Klodt, whose most famous works are probably the magnificent horses on Anichkov Bridge, is also the sculptor of this charming monument to the much loved stories author. The pedestal of the monument is decorated with bas-reliefs depicting the of Krylov’s fables. From the Neva River side the Summer Garden is fenced with the laced gilded lattice, a real masterpiece of decorative art. This lattice is so beautiful that it become one of the symbols of St. Petersburg:

    Vibraphone player - in front of Krylov Monument:

     

    There are cafe and restaurant inside the gardens. Of course there is a gift shop and vendors on the grounds.

    You can leave the Summer Garden through its southern entrance or exit - near the point where the Moyka and Fontanka rivers meet each other (see Tip 2). We recommend leaving the garden through the northern entrance (the one we entered through, opposite the Neva river). From the northern, main, entrance on the Palace Embankment, turn RIGHT (east), walk 150 m. until you arrive to the Fontanka river. Head south on nab. Reki Fontanki (наб. реки Фонтанки), 650 m. Turn right onto Pantelmon Bridge (мост. Пантелеймоновский), 80 m. Here, find a bus heading to Nevsky Prospekt or walk to Nevsky Prospekt via the Spilled Blood Cathedral (see Tip 2). Along this itinerary - you see marvelous sights of the cathedral - glowing under the sunset rays:

    Mikhailovsky Castle in sunset - on our way back from the Summer Garden to city centre:

  • Nature | France
    Updated at Mar 2,2016

    Monaco - part 3: Exotic Garden (Jardin Exotique), 62, Bd du Jardin Exotique, 98000 Monaco.

    Duaration: 1/2 day. Weather: Sunny day. If you visit here in summer, please drink plenty of water. It is scorching hot and gets really hotter than other places in Monaco. A word of caution: The gardens are extremely hilly, and once you walk down, you do need to walk back up, so not advised for people with limited mobility. Public transport: Bus No. 2 arrives to the Exotic Gardens (final stop). There are actually many public lifts for a free use in Monaco, you can always check at any bus stop station - the public transport network displays also where the lifts are. Sometimes it is a bit difficult to find them as they can be hidden between buildings but look for street signs to guide you.

    Walking from the railway station: From the Monte-Carlo railway station choose the "Monaco Ville" exit. Take the elevator to floor 2. Turn LEFT Blvd. Renier III. Take the first turn to the RIGHT (stairs) (there is a sign pointing to the Exotic Garden) Chemin de Revoires. You arrive to a sign: right - walk on foot to the gardens, left - elevator. Take the left direction, and, immediately right there is another elevator with the "Blvd. de Belgique" indication. A long corridor leads to very clean and posh restroom. Take this elevator to its most upper floor (press 0) and, after exiting the elevator, cross the road (Avenue Crovetto Frères). Before crossing the road - you have a splendid view of the Prince's Palace and a nice building with round terraces:

    You turn right and climb up the Avenue Crovetto Frères. On your left another nice park: Parc Antoinette. After climbing 200 m. up - you have a gorgeous sight of the Prince's Palace and olive groves:

    We continue climbing and the road changes its name to Boulevard du Jardin Exotique. On our right - a high-rise building - Villa Paloma:

    On our left is a branch of the Nouveau Musee National de Monaco, Boulevard du Jardin Exotique # 56. At last, the entrance to the gardens is on our left (you see many buses around).

    Immediately near the cashier - there is a terrace with beautiful sights of the Prince Palace:

    and Port de Fontvieille:

    and Monaco Ville:

    The entry ticket includes visits to the Exotic Garden, the Observatory Cave and the Prehistoric Anthropology Museum. Adults: €7. 20, Children (4-18 years’ old): €3.80, Students (with card, under 30 yrs old): €3.80, Senior (+ 65 yrs old): €5.50. Dogs (of any sizes) are not allowed in the Exotic Garden, a free kennel is provided. Opening hours: The Exotic Garden of Monaco is open all year except for the 19 November (Fête Nationale) and 25 December. January: 9.00 - 17.00, February to April: 9.00 - 18.00, May to September: 9.00 - 19.00, October: 9.00 - 18.00, November to December: 9.00 - 17.00.

    Near the entrance:

    We chose the Jardin Exotique for the morning hours, but, the BEST are the afternoon hours - for having magical views from the garden over the Monaco old town, the harbour and the bay - with the sun on your back. The views are really spectacular. Another reason is to avoid midday sun in the summer months when the light is too harsh and the sun too strong. Towards sunset the quality if the light improves considerably.

    There are THREE main reasons to vistit the exostic garden of Monaco: 1) The exotic garden, which is a series of cactus plants based on a one-way system slope, you have to WALK down AND COME BACK up A LOT of steps. Visitors who have limited mobility maybe shy away from this. 2) The views from the garden are lovely. The gardens are perched right at the top of the hill behind Monaco, which makes the views over the Principality absolutely stunning. 3) The Observatory caves are quite interesting, especially if you like history/geology. The caves are humid and warm so it really takes it out of you coming back up. You must be in good condition enough to add over 300 steps to climb back when finishing your visit of the caves and the lower levels of the garden. You may remain at the very high levels - it is, still, a beautiful sight to see the Mediterranean and the Royal Palace.

    Fontvieille Stadium from the Exotic Gardens:

    Fontvieille Port from the Exotic Gardens:

    Condamine from the Exotic Gardens:

    Le Rocher (Rock) of Monaco Ville from the Exotic Gardens:

    Monaco Ville from the Exotic Gardens:

    The garden is set on a perfect place, with a great view of 180' degrees over Monaco. The garden itself is for Cacti lovers. It provides plenty of photos opportunities. The garden brings together a wide variety of plants known as ‘succulents’ in outstanding open-air surroundings. Succulent plants are ones that have adapted to dry climates in various ways, the most spectacular being the possession of a hypertrophied organ (leaf or stem) to stock water reserves. Cacti (or cactus) make up the most representative family of this group. Wonderful terraces of cactii clinging to the cliff face. They stand out by their absence of leaves, replaced by thorns. Succulent plants from all destinations worldwide, in a micro-climate that favors all the cacti and other fleshy plants. The plants acclimatized in this garden come from various far-away dry zones (hence the term ‘exotic’): the South-West of the United-States; Mexico; Central and South America for cacti and agaves; South Africa; Eastern Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula for the other succulents. In spite of their extravagant shapes, they are plants in their own right, regularly producing flowers in order to reproduce. The flowering period is spread over practically the whole year depending on the place of origin of each species: winter for Aloes and African Crassula, spring and summer for most cacti. This one is much larger than the Jardin Exotique in Eze Village.

    Exhibition of CHARMING paintings in a small museum inside the gardens:

    One of the attractions inside the garden is an underground grotto, but there are 300 underground steps on the way down, and 300 back up again. Every hour guided tour of the cave is included in the price of the entrance ticket. Might be a bit slippery for children and elders. 30 - 40 minutes' guided tour leaving every hour. Free entrance (included in the gardens' ticket price). You can enjoy the view of hundreds of stalactites and stalagmites. The caves themselves are breathtaking. Our only problem was that the tour guide did the tour completely in French. So we only really benefited from it visually. The guide also seemed to take the tour very speedily. The caves were discovered during the years 1916-1920:

    Some of the plants are really lovely and the place was well tended and cared for. We had a lovely walk and the views are really spectacular. Definitely worth a visit !

  • Nature | South Africa > Mossel Bay, Western Cape, South Africa > Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary, Mossel Bay, Western Cape, South Africa
    Updated at Jun 23,2013

    The next day when we finished folding the tent, a nice old elder approached us and asked us when we're going and weather we needed a ride. We were very happy!

    So he dropped us right at Jukani. We paid 95 rand entrance fee and directly from the gate we saw a white lion. The park tour was really interesting. We sat plenty of wildlife: lions, white lions, cheetas, tigers, tigrises, white tigreses, jaguars, wild dogs, hyenas, black panthers and foxes. There was also a room filled with South Africa's snakes. 

  • Nature | Slovenia > Predjama Castle
    Updated at Jun 23,2013

    From there we drove to the Predjama Castle, which is carved into the rocks and offers a great view, but after the hike in the cave I was too tired for another trek. The road continued along the Soča River, and we were mesmerized by its turquoise color at first sight. We stopped on each and every bridge to admire it.

  • Nature | Slovenia > boka
    Updated at Jun 19,2013

    We continued in the car with the Soča River as our companion and after Zaga, across the bridge over Soča River, stood tall the spectacular Boka Waterfall. There is a bicycle trail leading up to it, but we didn’t have the strength or the bicycles. We continued to Vrsic pass which is a road with 50 sharp curves one after the other. We stopped to take some pictures of the pointy mountains, and we could still see some snow on the peaks. The Vrsic pass is 1,600 meters above sea level.

  • Nature | Slovenia > Vogel
    Updated at Jun 22,2013

    We reached the top of Vogel Mountain with a gondola lift, which cost €13 per person. The gondola was spacious and the view of the Lake from above was spectacular. The sun was rising and the mountains around us were snowy. We sat down for a cappuccino and admired the view. 

  • Nature | Ecuador > Puerto Lopez
    Updated at Jul 1,2013

    On the main street there are plenty of agencies offering whales tours, which usually came combined with snorkeling - it's up to the weather and your mood. A tourist guy will take you from the agency to the beach - walking distance - and there you my be shocked. The beach is packed with everyday routine life of the city, which is first, a fishermen city. They bring from the sea all kinds of odd fish, including huge swords fish, and many birds flying in packs above to catch the small fish the kids are throwing to the air. In all this mess, there are loose dogs and fruit peddlers with packs of watermelon and pineapples on their head. The professional photographer was shooting like mad there, and so did I. 

    Eventually, it was time to fold the pants and disembark. The moment we could we settled on the boat's roof, and it was an experience on it's own - the amazing speed, the jumps of the waves, the cold spray of water, and of course we could see the whales without anyone to block our sight. 

    We saw them from a distance - random fins waving hi above the gray water, or half a heavy body just showing up with a pink belly turned upward and immediately disappearing in the abyss. Every time the captain wanted to go back to shore, another show started - these are of course male whales trying to make a point to the females. 

  • Nature | Australia > Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve
    Updated at Jun 9,2013

    "Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is at the outskirts of Canberra. The road leading to the park is very beautiful, and it took us straight to the biggest mountain range in Australia – The Great Dividing Range. Inside the park we walked around for a couple of wonderful hours in an area with lots of animals. Best of all were the koalas. Every morning, the rangers mark the trees where the koalas are, making the search an easy one. We saw two of them, adorable, captivating, and, naturally, sleeping. We had luck with one, as it was sitting, unusually for a koala, only 2 meters above the ground. The strange marsupials of Australia are very beautiful and special – kangaroo, koala, wallaby, opossum, echidna, platypus, wombat… usually it’s no problem seeing them in nature. We met them everywhere".