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Great British Castles

Thursday, Jun 7 2018 by

With all the focus on the recent royal wedding between Prince Harry and Megan Markle, it’s a perfect time to take a virtual tour of some of Britain’s amazing castles. There’s Windsor, where Harry and Megan were married, and Buckingham in London, but there are many more castles all throughout Great Britain that can take your breath away.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle, located outside London, is the largest inhabited castle in the world, with a permanent staff in residence since the queen and her entourage stay there most weekends. It was built by William the Conqueror, and has continually been inhabited by aristocracy and royalty since then, making it the longest-inhabited castle in Europe.

It has a classic fortification encompassing 13 acres, complete with a small town, a church, a motte and bailey design, and a keep in the center of the castle grounds.

Windsor Castle (Birds Eye)
Windsor Castle

The King Henry VIII Gate is a prominent and attractive entrance to the lower ward of the castle grounds.

King Henry VIII Gate at Windsor Castle (StreetView)
King Henry VIII Gate at Windsor Castle

St. George’s Chapel has recently gained international fame as the venue for the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Marke in May 2018. The Gothic structure can hold about 800 people for such events. It is the resting place of many kings, queens and other royalty, including Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, George V and George VI and their wives, and it is the planned resting place of the current queen, Queen Elizabeth II and her immediate family members.

St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle (Birds Eye)
St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle

Buckingham Palace

Easily the most famous castle in Great Britain, Buckingham Palace is located in Westminister, a small city within London. It has been the main royal residence since Queen Victoria, and now serves as the administrative center for Queen Elizabeth II.

Buckingham Palace (Birds Eye)
Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace itself is an iconic part of the royal image. Tourists from around the world gather to view the royal residence, hoping to catch a glimpse of Prince William or Harry, and have a little fun thinking about what it’s like to be royalty.

Buckingham Palace (StreetView)
Buckingham Palace

Visitors love to see the changing of the guard, a ritual as famous as the palace itself. The Queen’s Guard, in their iconic red jackets and tall bearskin hats, march back and forth in front of the main gate, keeping the queen safe and tradition in tact.

Changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace (StreetView)
Changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle is an ancient castle originally built at the time of William the Conqueror and reinforced over the next few hundred years as it played vital roles in several wars throughout England’s history. It played a crucial role in the coming to power of the first major royal dynasty, the Plantagenet family.

Warwick Castle (Birds Eye)
Warwick Castle

The castle has iconic medieval features including large towers, the motte and bailey design, and a dungeon complete with torture devices. The castle has daily showcases of castle life including jousting and tournament events. Additionally, exciting amateur but accurate battle reenactments often take place outside and around the castle.

Medieval encampment at Warwick Castle (StreetView)
Medieval encampment at Warwick Castle

Stirling Castle

Anyone who has seen Braveheart or is familiar with Scottish history will know how important Stirling Castle is. Stirling Castle is built on a large hill that has been home to fortifications and settlements since at least the third century CE. Some even believe it is where King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table met.

Stirling Castle (Google Maps)
Stirling Castle

The first castle was constructed around 1110, and was a major center of Scottish government by 1200. Most of the castle structures and fortifications were built in the 1400s and 1500s. Several battles between England and Scotland during the Wars of Scottish Independence were fought here, including the famed Battle of Stirling Bridge where the outnumbered Scots routed the English. However, success was fleeting and the war continued for several more decades. England and Scotland continued to fight one another until their eventual unification in 1707.

Stirling Castle (StreetView)
Stirling Castle

William Wallace, the hero of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, was so famed for his bravery and merciless efforts for Scottish independence that when he was captured by English forces, the King ordered him hanged, drawn and quartered. Wallace is now a Scottish national hero, and the Wallace Monument in Stirling honors his memory.

William Wallace statue (StreetView)
William Wallace statue

Hever Castle

Hever Castle in Kent, England, has been around since the 1200s and was enlarged and enhanced in the 1400s, with a distinct Tudor influence on the design. The strong Tudor influence can be felt throughout the castle and the grounds, including a Tudor style garden maze.

Hever Castle maze (Bing Maps)
Hever Castle maze

However, it later fell into disrepair and it wasn’t until American millionaire William Waldorf Astor purchased it that it was renovated for use as his private residence. It was eventually sold and is now open to the public.

Hever Castle (Google Maps)
Hever Castle

It was particularly important in Tudor England, as it is the childhood home of Ann Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII. It was later given to Anne of Cleves, the fourth wife of Henry VIII.

British history is much older and broader than even these castles can show, but they are am important and famous part of the history and country. Anyone who wants to really get a feel for the island’s history must make sure to stop at at least one castle!

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Romantic Cities Around the World

Wednesday, May 30 2018 by

Ah, true love. No matter where you are, when you’re with the one you love, it feels like you’re in paradise. Everyone knows Paris is a great place for lovers, but it’s not the only place in the world that two can fall more in love. If you’re in love, visit one of these cities. Your love will feel even stronger because of the magic in the air.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

With tango as the city’s unofficial pastime, how can Buenos Aires not be on the list of romantic destinations?

Nothing is more romantic than strolling through a beautiful park, and Rosedal de Palermo is one of the best. With a combination of manicured paths, secluded corners, rose gardens and fountains to enhance the romance, this is one place to be when you’re in love.

Rosedal de Palermo (Google Maps)
Rosedal de Palermo

After your stroll, you and your love might spend a romantic evening at the theater. Teatro Colon, built at the turn of the last century, has grandiose chandeliers, raised balconies, vaulted ceilings and beautiful detailing that inspire romance and connection no matter where you sit.

Teatro Colón (Google Maps)
Teatro Colón

Kyoto, Japan

Smaller and more intimate than than Tokyo, Kyoto is the perfect place for lovers because of the unique combination of history, delicate architecture and natural beauty.

Sakura Alley, also known as Cherry Blossom Alley, is a veritable tunnel of trees, especially when the trees blossom in the spring. Imagine two lovebirds walking hand in hand down the lane, blossoms above them, falling from the trees and pooling at their feet. It’s picture perfect!

Sakura (Cherry blossom) alley (StreetView)
Sakura (Cherry blossom) alley

Jishu Shrine may be the most important place for lovers in Japan. Known as “the Cupid of Japan” the shrine has two stones where, if a person can walk from one to the other with their eyes closed, their wishes for love will be fulfilled. It has so much success that there are plaques from grateful couples who have visited the shrine.

Photo Credit: Fast Japan

Marrakesh, Morocco

Located at the feet of the Atlas Mountains, Marrakesh seduces all who visit with it’s beautiful vistas, lush greenery and exotic smells and sounds.

The Majorelle Gardens are an oasis in the desert of Marrahesh. Visitors can experience much of the native flora and fauna, including rare bird species native to North Africa. They can also rest at pools full of beautiful lilies and enjoy the smells of a lush African garden.

Majorelle Garden (Yves Saint-Laurent's retreat) (Google Maps)
Majorelle Garden (Yves Saint-Laurent's retreat)

Jemaa el-Fnaa is the ancient city’s town square and market. During the day, visitors can mix with locals, buy juice or water and be entertained by trained monkeys and snake charmers. In the evening, the market becomes more animated, with food stalls, retail shops, cafes and entertainment taking place all around. The dynamic feeling of the square makes you feel more alive and more in love than ever before!

Jemaa el-Fnaa (StreetView)
Jemaa el-Fnaa

New York City, New York

New York is always the place to be, and there’s no exception for lovers! The energy and spirit of the city can’t help but energize visitors and leave them feeling passionate about life and love.

Central Park is the perfect place for lovers. A refuge in the middle of the city allows lovers to relax, focus on their emotions and make memories among beautiful landscapes. There’s no bad time to visit the park, and couples will always leave with greater passion for one another.

The Blockhouse (Oldest Building in NYC's Central Park) (Google Maps)
The Blockhouse (Oldest Building in NYC's Central Park)

The Empire State Building does love well. Each Valentine’s Day it lights up with a heart to celebrate love.

Empire State Building and One World Trade Center at night (StreetView)
Empire State Building and One World Trade Center at night

Visitors can go to the top and take in the breathtaking views of the city, or they can spy the landmark throughout the city, taking in the building’s grandeur from wherever they are in the city.

Empire State Building (Birds Eye)
Empire State Building

If you’re in love, whether it’s new or old, visiting these cities will be sure to increase the passion, love and companionship that you and your partner share.

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Female Icons and Their Amazing Homes

Thursday, May 10 2018 by

Many people dream of making it big in fashion, music or entertainment, but having success in these careers requires a lot of hard work, dedication, talent and luck. These women have worked hard and achieved lifelong dreams of success and influence, and have luxurious lifestyles and amazing homes to show for it.

Meryl Streep

Well-known and regarded as the best actress in a generation, Meryl Strep has been active in Hollywood for more than 40 years, earning a record 21 Academy Award nominations and three Oscars. She has countless other nominations and awards to her credit as well. Her reputation is iron clad, and she has used her reputation to advocate for pay and publicity parity among men and women in Hollywood.

She and her family have primarily resided in a private estate in Salisbury, Connecticut since 1985, where her sculptor husband has a large studio for his work and where they could raise their four children.

Meryl Streep's House (Birds Eye)
Meryl Streep's House

Anna Wintour

Anna Wintour, fashion influencer and icon, was born and raised in England, and started her fashion journalism career there under the tutelage of her father. She moved to New York City and worked for several magazines and publications before settling in at Vogue as the creative director and eventually it’s editor. Since then, she has been a major figure in New York fashion circles, with her signature bob and sunglasses. The book and film The Devil Wears Prada was based on her and the magazine.

Anna was married for about 15 years, and has two children from the marriage. She has long owned a townhouse in an exclusive enclave in Greenwich Village.

Anna Wintour's House (StreetView)
Anna Wintour's House

She also owns a home in Mastic Beach, on Long Island. She has said the community is “white trash” but loves the area regardless.

Anna Wintour's house (Birds Eye)
Anna Wintour's house

Beyonce

Beyonce rose to fame as part of the music group Destiny’s Child, and has since become one of the biggest superstars of all time. She has a successful acting career, as well as fashion lines, music management and her success as a solo artist. She has become a crossover influencer, with devoted fans across the globe nicknamed the BeyHive. She is one of the best selling artists of all time, the most-nominated Grammy artist, and even has college courses taught on her music, cultural influence and impact on society.

She married fellow musician Jay-Z in 2008, and while their relationship has been mostly private, the powerhouse couple have ruled over the music industry for a decade. They have three children, and several homes across the country.

After leasing several homes in and around Los Angeles, the couple bought a mansion for nearly $90 million in 2017. It has 30,000 square feet of interior space, a spa, many luxurious amenities and four outdoor pools.

Jay-Z and Beyoncé's House (Google Maps)
Jay-Z and Beyoncé's House

Also in 2017, Beyonce and Jay-Z purchased a $26 million home in East Hampton, NY. The 100 year home sits on two acres. The previous owner rotated the entire home 90 degrees so the living room overlooks the pond and is perfect for sunset viewing.

Jay-Z and Beyonce's House (Birds Eye)
Jay-Z and Beyonce's House

Oprah Winfrey

There’s no one category to hold Oprah Winfrey: Television host who defined and redefined the concept, actress, producer, media mogul, and all over media icon.

Oprah rose to prominence as a daytime talk show host in the 1980 and became famous for her personable and frank interviews, openness with her audience and charisma. Her book club became so popular it would rocket authors to the best seller list overnight. Appearing on her show had the potential to create lasting fame and success for her guests, like Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz, who have gone on to have successful television careers of their own.

She has also starred in, produced and backed several box office and critically successful films. She ended her talk show in 2011, but has continued to produce, sponsor and support television and film projects, as well as run a monthly magazine.

Oprah has a 65 acre estate named The Promised Land in Montecito, CA. She has renovated and expanded the estate since purchasing it in 2001. The mansion itself is over 23,000 square feet.

Oprah Winfrey's House (Google Maps)
Oprah Winfrey's House

Not to be outdone by her California home, Oprah has a 163 acre estate in Kula, on the Hawaiian island Maui. In addition to a lovely white mansion, she has an expansive garden that grows over 100 types of organic fruits, vegetables and herbs. It is truly a paradise.

Oprah Winfrey's House (Bing Maps)
Oprah Winfrey's House

These icons have shown how it’s done-find something you love, something you can do better than anyone else, and work harder than anyone else is willing to work. If you do that, you too can reach the pinnacle of success in your area of expertise. And maybe, you too can own a piece of your own personal paradise.

 

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