October’s Deep Dive into History: the Beheading of Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette, one of the most famous queens in history, was the wife of the ill-fated Louis XVI of France. During her husband’s reign, the country devolved into the French Revolution, which led to the beheading of the King, and then the Queen, on October 16, 1793.

Birthplace, Hofburg Palace, Vienna, Austria

Born Maria Antonia at Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria on November 2, 1755, Marie Antoinette was the last girl and second to last child born to Empress Maria Theresa of Austria.

The Hofburg Palace was the imperial palace for the Hapsburg Empire, which ruled Austria, Hungary, parts of Germany, and eastern Europe. It is now the official residence and office for the President of Austria. Construction of the palace began in the 1200s and has continued to this day, with additions, enhancements, and upgrades taking place on a regular basis.

Portions of the building are open to the public for tours.

Hofburg Palace (StreetView)
Hofburg Palace

Childhood Retreat, Hetzendorf Castle, Vienna, Austria

Maria Antonia and her siblings spent much of their time at the Hetzendorf Castle, which was a hunting “lodge” in the 1700s outside the capital city. As Vienna grew, it engulfed the former rural land, and the castle is now part of a neighborhood in Vienna.

The castle was enlarged by Maria Theresa, and her children spent time there both in their youth and as adults, when they sometimes were without homes or royal residences.

Hetzendorf Castle (Birds Eye)
Hetzendorf Castle

Versailles, Paris, France

When she was 14, Maria Antonia was betrothed to Louis XVI, the future King of France. Upon her marriage on May 16, 1770, at Versailles, her name changed to Marie Antoinette, and she became known as the future Queen of France.

The couple, along with the entire royal court, lived at or spent much of their time at Versailles, the ornate, elaborate, even excessive palace located just outside Paris, the capital city.

Versailles is one of the most famous palaces in the world, with good reason. It has the famous Hall of Mirrors, with more than 350 mirrors, and was so luxurious that even the chamber pots were made of silver and gold.

Palace of Versailles (Birds Eye)
Palace of Versailles

Bedchamber at Versailles

Among the 2,300 rooms at Versailles is the queen’s bedchamber, an ornate and beautiful room covered with tapestries and gold leaf. However, the room is also full of history, and sadness.

During the time of royalty, it was required that the queen, and any woman of the royal blood, give birth in public. This was to ensure that the child was indeed of royal blood and fit to rule. After eight years of marriage, when Marie Antoinette finally went into labor, being present at the birth was the most important event of the year.

Marie-Antoinette's Bedchamber, Versailles (StreetView)
Marie-Antoinette's Bedchamber, Versailles

Hamlet at Versailles

Marie created a small retreat on the grounds of Versailles called the Queen’s Hamlet, a small but complete working farm. Here, she often retreated from the formalities of palace life, held small gatherings, and spent time with her children.

Hameau de la reine - Marie Antoinette's playhouse (StreetView)
Hameau de la reine - Marie Antoinette's playhouse

Many accused the queen of playing at farm life. Along with the supposed remark to starving people “Let them eat cake,” rumors about the Hamlet fueled her reputation as being out of touch with the people of France.

The Hamlet fell into disrepair after the Revolution, but Napoleon restored portions of the estate, and others helped restore it to its original design in the 20th century.

Queen's hamlet in Versailles (Google Maps)
Queen's hamlet in Versailles

Tuileries Palace, Paris, France

The Tuileries Palace was built in the 1500s as the imperial palace and was the official home of French royalty for three hundred years. Even when the Court was moved to Versailles, the palace in Paris was still an official residence.

Louis VXI and Marie Antoinette, in the heat of the Revolution, were forced to move to the Tuileries, to be watched by Revolutionary leaders. From there, the family tried to escape, but were caught and brought back, facing further punishment.

In 1871, the Tuileries were burned down, and only the Louvre was saved. The gardens and gathering areas still exist, and are some of the most-visited places in Paris.

Jardin des Tuileries (Google Maps)
Jardin des Tuileries

Prison in La Conciergerie, Paris, France

In 1793, the royal family was moved to the La Conciergerie, which was originally a palace, but turned into a prison. Many prisoners of the Revolution were held here before being taken to their execution by guillotine.

Marie was held here for months, with absolutely no privacy or any of the amenities she was used to as a royal. She was tried for various crimes and found guilty.

It was from here that she was escorted to her execution at what is now the Place de la Concorde. On October 16, 1793, the 37 year old former queen of France was forced to ride in an open wagon to her execution. Along the way she was jeered and mocked, but she remained composed until the very end. She was beheaded just after noon.

After her execution, she was placed in an unmarked grave.

La Conciergerie (Google Maps)
La Conciergerie

Tombs at Basilica of San Denis, France

After years of revolution, dictatorship, and chaos, the monarchy was restored. The bodies of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were exhumed and buried alongside other kings and queens of France in the Basilica of San Denis.

This cathedral has long been important to royal France, being where queens are crowned, and royalty have been buried for a thousand years.

King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette of France (StreetView)
King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette of France

While she lived only 37 years, the beautiful, shy, and fun-loving Marie has become one of the most famous, and imitated, queens of all time. Her royal status  belied the struggles of her life: leaving her family as a ten to marry a stranger, giving public birth to an heir, and falling from grace and fortune to nothing.

 

October 8 Bond. James Bond.

The latest installment of the James Bond series, No Time to Die, comes to US theaters on October 8 after three Covid-related delays, and it’s certain to be worth the wait. Daniel Craig leading up the cast for the fifth, and final, time. In honor of the film, let’s take a look at where some of the most exciting and memorable scenes have taken place.

MI6 Headquarters

MI6 is the nickname of the super spy agency, Secret Intelligence Service. Its headquarters in Vauxhall, in London, is a mainstay in the James Bond series plots. It is where Bond works with his supervisor, M, and the super cool research agent Q, who constantly creates amazing spy tools, fast cars, and other gadgets to help Bond always gain the upper hand.

MI6/SIS headquarters (StreetView)
MI6/SIS headquarters

Dr. No’s Lair, Crab Key, Jamaica, Featured in Dr. No

The first James Bond film, Dr. No, was filmed largely onsite in Jamaica. The evil villain Dr. No has a secret lair in Crab Key island, where he tries to use radiation and other tools to try to start a war between the Americans and Russians. Fortunately, Bond is able to overpower the evil scientist and avert a third world war. And at the end of the day, he has a new love interest, of course.

007 Dr. No's Crab Key Island (Google Maps)
007 Dr. No's Crab Key Island

Fort Knox, Kentucky, Featured in Goldfinger

In the third installment of the series, James Bond discovers an evil man running a global gold smuggling ring. Bond tracks Goldfinger, for whom  the film is named, to Fort Knox in Kentucky. Here, Bond fights the evil villain who is trying to rob the gold depository. Bond, along with the troops stationed at Fort Knox, were able to save the day. Later, Bond and Goldfinger fight on an airplane and Goldfinger is tragically sucked out the window to his death before Bond ends the film stranded in the water with the beautiful Pussy Galore.

Fort Knox, U.S. Bullion Depository (Birds Eye)
Fort Knox, U.S. Bullion Depository

Himeji Castle in Japan, Featured in You Only Live Twice

In the fifth Bond film, James Bond is investigating the mystery of a hijacked American spacecraft. Clues lead Bond to Japan, where he crosses the islands on the tail of another SPECTRE villain. On the way, Bond encounters ninjas training at Himeji Castle, which is the largest and most popular castle in the country. Eventually, Bond discovers a secret SPECTRE lair inside a volcano and prevents the US from launching nuclear weapons at the USSR.

Himeji Castle (StreetView)
Himeji Castle

Pyramids of Giza, Featured in The Spy Who Loved Me

In The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond is paired with a Russian spy to track down a missing submarine stolen by an evil businessman and scientist Karl Stromberg. The team travels across Egypt, including to the Pyramids of Giza, as they track down the scientist and search for answers about the submarine. Stromberg wants to start World War III and create an underwater world, but Bond and his Russian spy partner work together and are able to avert nuclear war and kill Stromberg.

Pyramids of Giza (Google Maps)
Pyramids of Giza

The Demilitarized Zone, Featured in Die Another Day

Die Another Day starts with Bond infiltrating a North Korean military base to uncover information about conflict diamonds. He is captured and held as a prisoner by the North Koreans until was to be traded in a prisoner exchange at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. Eventually, Bond tracks the evil villain back to the DMZ. There, it’s revealed the villain, Graves is secretly a North Korean Colonel who is planning to cut a path through the DMZ to allow North Korean troops to invade South Korea. After a high-stakes fight on an airplane, Bond kills the villain and once again saves the day and the world.

Guard Post (OP) Ouellette (Google Maps)
Guard Post (OP) Ouellette

Lake Como, Italy, Featured in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig made his Bond debut in Casino Royale in 2006, and has been the lead in the series ever since. In Casino Royale, Bond travels across Europe playing high-stakes poker and other risky games to track down a man intent on using a planned terrorist attack to make a fortune. After averting disaster but losing his lover, Vesper Lynd, in the process, Bond tracks the evil villain Mr. White to a house in lovely Lake Como, Italy. There, he shoots the villain in the leg and introduces himself as “Bond. James Bond”.

James Bond's House (Casino Royale) (Bing Maps)
James Bond's House (Casino Royale)

Westminster Bridge, London, Featured in Spectre

In the 2015 Bond film Spectre, Bond goes rogue to avenge the death of M, and find a reason for all the suffering he has endured. From Mexico to Austria, to Morocco, Bond is on the trail of SPECTRE once again, only to end up back in London. There, it is revealed SPECTRE is attempting to infiltrate MI6 itself, and only Bond and his trusted team can stop it. After preventing a major catastrophe and murder of his newfound female companion, Bond must fight one more battle against Blofeld, the founder of SPECTRE. Bond bravely shoots down Blofeld’s helicopter, which crashes into London’s Westminster Bridge. Bond ensures Blofeld is arrested, and then leaves with the lovely Swann. He has saved the day once again.

Westminster Bridge (Birds Eye)
Westminster Bridge

Bond has traveled the world countless times as he’s saved the world from nuclear attack, avoided World War III, and prevented terrorists from seizing control of national intelligence, gold supplies, and more. It’s going to be a wild ride from the start in Bond’s newest film No Time to Die, premiering in the US on November 20, 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

Picture Perfect Greek Islands

Greece, a small county on the southern tip of Europe, is a fascinating place full of history, beauty and lore. It is the birthplace of western philosophy, the origin of democracy, the creator of lasting mythology and lore. As we wind down our summer vacations, let’s take a look at some of the islands of the paradise in the Mediterranean.

Parthenon on Acropolis (StreetView)
Parthenon on Acropolis

Even more, it is a beautiful, charming country rich in culture, with amazing food and stunning landscapes from the most ancient temples to modern buildings, gorgeous mountains and vibrant beaches. Tourists who take time away from Athens and the historical sites there to visit some of Greece’s thousands of islands are rewarded with a trip to paradise complete with pristine beaches, stunning water, amazing weather and generous hosts.

Santorini

Santorini has been voted as the “World’s Best Island” several times, and one look is all you need to know why. Because it was formed by volcanic activity, the island juts out of the ocean at a remarkable rate, and towns and villages are built high up on cliffs and mountainsides.

Santorini (Google Maps)
Santorini

The whitewashed stone structures provide a stunning contrast to the green and brown countryside and blues of the ocean and sky.

Collapsed Caldera of Santorini (StreetView)
Collapsed Caldera of Santorini

The island is known as one of the most romantic getaways in Greece, and has become an international destination for weddings and honeymoons.

Santorini (StreetView)
Santorini

Mykonos

This island is a great tourist destination, and is especially known for its nightlife and being LGBT friendly. Small villages rise almost right out of the ocean, with the whitewashed structures standing out against the blue ocean they border.

Harbor View of Naxos (StreetView)
Harbor View of Naxos

Beaches here are also remarkable, with SCUBA diving and snorkeling and boat tours available for sightseeing and fishing.

Lia Beach (StreetView)
Lia Beach

Because this place is more cosmopolitan than some other islands, it has become a popular destination for celebrities, including the Kardashian clan, who have stayed here for tapings of their television shows.

The Kardashians Mykonos rental villas (Google Maps)
The Kardashians Mykonos rental villas

Kos

If sandy beaches are how you vacation, Kos is the island for you. Remains from ancient Roman settlements and medieval structures are scattered on some beaches and throughout the island, creating a sense of historical significance for even the casual tourist.

Asklepieion (Google Maps)
Asklepieion

Kos has both high end, catered luxury vacations and intimate, low key options available to satisfy a wide variety of tourists, and you can easily get lost on the remote beaches or on the winding alleys of the small villages. Kos is perfect for a summer getaway.

Fortress of Kos (Google Maps)
Fortress of Kos

Rhodes

Rhodes is one of the most important cities of Ancient Greece, and once had the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Built around 300 BC, the 100 foot statue stood watch over the harbor.

Site of The Colossus of Rhodes (Google Maps)
Site of The Colossus of Rhodes

It collapsed in an earthquake not long later and has never been rebuilt, but it is just one of many fascinating things about this island.

226 BCE Rhodes earthquake epicenter (Google Maps)
226 BCE Rhodes earthquake epicenter

There are many historical sites to see, including an ancient acropolis, standing out among the natural landscape and more recent constructions, including beautiful hotels, restaurants, springs and rocky mountainsides. The history and the present are always visible in Rhodes.

Acropolis of Rhodes (StreetView)
Acropolis of Rhodes
The Kalithea Springs (Google Maps)
The Kalithea Springs

Andros

Like other Grecian islands, Andros has the breathtaking vistas, whitewashed villages and stunning beaches. It is famous for the Sariza Springs, as well as great hiking in the rocky mountains and lush valleys.

Agios Petros Beach (StreetView)
Agios Petros Beach

There is even an above-water shipwreck that is visible from a remote beach on Andros. Andros has developed several museums and historical buildings for tourists to learn about and appreciate the island and Greece, their artistry and history.

Shipwreck of the Semiramis (Google Maps)
Shipwreck of the Semiramis

These are just five of the six thousand islands that make up Greece, but they should give any tourist planning a visit to the region a fabulous itinerary. On these islands you’ll be able to relax, enjoy fine dining, party the night away, relax in private, swim, snorkel and sail, learn about ancient history and modern art, all while working on your tan. Opa!

 

The US Open Tennis Championship

The US Open Tennis Championship has been in full swing for nearly two weeks now, and it will wrap up later this week.

As these amazing athletes compete on the court for the last of the annual Grand Slams, let’s take a look at the venues, people, and history involved in one of tennis’s greatest, and most historical, events.

USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, NY

The fourth, and final, Grand Slam, is held annually at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York. There are a total of 22 courts among three stadiums, which are among the largest-capacity in the world. The Arthur Ashe Stadium is the largest tennis stadium in the world, and even features a retractable roof.

The tennis center is named after famed tennis champion and female tennis advocate Billie Jean King. She has long been considered one of the best female tennis athletes of all time.

USTA National Tennis Center (Google Maps)
USTA National Tennis Center

International Tennis Hall of Fame, RI

In 1881, the first national tennis competition in the United States was held at the Newport Casino in Rhode Island. Contrary to what the name implies, the facility was designed as an athletic center for well-to-do residents, rather than a gambling facility.

The nation-wide tennis event was held here until 1914, when the event moved elsewhere. In 1954, the building was turned into the Tennis Hall of Fame. The hall includes 252 inducted members, from 23 countries.

There is a museum dedicated to the game of tennis, retelling the history of tennis from its medieval, royal starts, to today, as well as memorabilia and other interesting exhibits. Fitting in with the modern age, these exhibits are accessible virtually, as well as in person.

International Tennis Hall of Fame (Google Maps)
International Tennis Hall of Fame

Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, AU

The professional tennis season has started with the Australian Open in January or February nearly every year since 1905. The event has been hosted in several Australian cities, and even in New Zealand, but since 1972, it’s been hosted in Melbourne.

It boasts the highest attendance of the four grand slams, with more than 800,000 attending in 2020, and has been held at the Melbourne Park since 1988. The Rod Laver Arena is the largest of the courts, named after a three-time Australian Open winner and world-renowned player. The stadium was the first tennis stadium to have a retractable roof, for indoor play in hot or wet conditions.

Rod Laver Arena (Birds Eye)
Rod Laver Arena

Roland Garros, Paris, FR

The French Open, officially called “Roland-Garros” after famed French aviator Roland Garros, is held in May each year. Roland-Garros is played at the eponymous stadium Rolland-Garros in Paris. The tournament is known as the most difficult of the Grand Slams because it is played on clay, which makes the game more challenging, and because it requires more rounds to the championship, and other reasons.

The now-unique clay court was once a common feature of tennis courts. The courts at Roland-Garros are actually limestone covered with a thin, hard-packed layer of crushed brick, which mimics the natural clay court well without the drawbacks of the old style. The red courts are a hallmark of the tournament, and are important to the identity of the meet.

Roland Garros (Google Maps)
Roland Garros

Wimbedon, London, GB

On the heels of the French Open comes Wimbeldon, the oldest and most prestigious tennis championship. Officially called the “Championships, Wimbledon”, the event is unique because it is the only one of the Grand Slams still played on grass.

The event takes place in late June and early July, and is held at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, in Wimbledon, an area of London. Players must follow a strict all-white dress code, and spectators often dress up. The event has the added prestige of royal attendants, as many members of the British royal family enjoy watching the sport. Prince William and his wife Kate love to attend the event.

The stadium installed retractable roofs in 2009, to allow athletes to compete in inclimate weather, which is a great feature considering the summer weather in England can be rainy.

All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (Google Maps)
All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club

Tennis has a long, and formal history. Knowing a little more about where it came from, and where the athletes compete these days, makes the fast-paced, aggressive sport even more exciting and engaging. Game, Set, Match!

Deep Dive into History: The Life and Death of Princess Diana

In the early hours of August 31, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in a car crash in Paris, France. Her death shocked England and the world. More than 20 years after her untimely death at just 36, she is still a cultural icon known for her grace, class, and charity. She will always be the “People’s Princess.”

Althorp House

Diana was born and raised in Sandringham, but when her father became Earl of Spencer, they moved into the family estate, Althorp House in Northamptonshire. The house was built in 1688, and was a center of British elite entertainment for centuries.

However, in recent decades, it has been a financial burden to maintain the house, and the current Earl, Charles Spencer, has been creative in finding ways to keep the estate functioning.

The home is full of invaluable artwork, ornate furnishings, and impressive decor. Visitors are welcomed during summer months, which helps keep the estate afloat.

Althorp (Google Maps)
Althorp

London Flat

When she turned 18, her mother bought Diana a flat in London’s Knightsbridge area for about $100,000. She lived in the three bedroom apartment for two years with some friends, until her engagement to Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, was announced.

After her engagement was announced, her mother sold the unit for twice what she paid. In 2021, the 1,500 square foot apartment was estimated to be worth about $3.5 million!

Princess Diana's Flat (Google Maps)
Princess Diana's Flat

Highgrove House

While Highgrove House in southwestern England was Diana and Charles’ official home, it was not her favorite place to be. She felt the residence was too close to Charles’ former girlfriend and future wife, Camilla.

The house was built in the late 1700s, a large three-story rectangular stone building. Prince Charles has taken a particular interest in environmental preservation and has created several gardens on the estate.

Visitors can schedule tours of the garden, and more than 30,000 people visit the gardens in a typical year.

Prince Charles' House (Google Maps)
Prince Charles' House

Lindo Maternity Ward, St. Mary’s Hospital

Princess Diana gave birth to her first son, and future king of England, William, in 1982 in the private Lindo Ward of St. Mary’s Hospital. The photos of her shyly holding her newborn son are some of the most famous pictures of a new mom. Two years later, she repeated the process with Henry, much to the joy of England and the world.

Son William and his wife Kate have also stood on the same steps for first photos with each their three children. It’s a fitting, unspoken tribute to Diana, even after her death.

Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital (Royal Birthing Wing) (Birds Eye)
Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital (Royal Birthing Wing)

Kensington Palace

After their wedding, Diana and Charles moved into Kensington Palace, and after their divorce, Diana stayed on in the apartments.  After her death, hundreds of thousands of well-wishers left flowers and other signs of condolence for weeks and weeks.

The palace was built in 1605, and brought into royal ownership in 1689. It was actually hit by a bomb during the Blitz of World War II. The location, in the center of London, and close to Hyde Park, is ideal as a local official residence for active royals, including William and Kate, who have the largest space available. Staff also have residences, and even regular people can rent units in the sweeping estate.

If you can’t marry a royal, and you can’t afford the rent, you can still go on a public tour of the facilities, the state rooms, and the palace grounds.

Kensington Palace (Birds Eye)
Kensington Palace

Alma Tunnel, Paris, France

After years of problems, Charles and Diana finally divorced in 1996. She began seeing Dodi Fayed in 1997, and the two vacationed in France that summer. On August 31, while in Paris, the couple left the Hotel Ritz, on their way to his father’s house. Hounded by paparazzi, the driver was speeding through the narrow downtown streets.

As the car entered the Pont de l’Alma Tunnel, it clipped a wall, and spun out of control. It crashed into a pillar, a total wreck. Dodi Fayed and the driver died on the scene, and Diana’s bodyguard survived with massive injuries.

Alma tunnel where Lady Diana died (Google Maps)
Alma tunnel where Lady Diana died

Burial Place, Althorp Estate

The entire world mourned the loss of “England’s rose” and her funeral on September 6 was a global affair that many still remember. It had a somber feeling, with Princes William and Henry walking in the procession.  More than 30 million watched the funeral in the United Kingdom, and hundreds of millions more watched it around the world.

Diana was laid to rest at her family estate, Althorp. Her final resting place is on an island called the Oval, in a garden lake on the estate. She was buried with a rosary given to her by Mother Theresa, who happened to have died the day before the funeral.

Visitors can pay to tour the Althorp Estate grounds, which includes an exhibition dedicated to Diana.

Burial place of Diana, Princess of Wales (Google Maps)
Burial place of Diana, Princess of Wales

Memorial to Diana in Hyde Park

Decades after her death, the memory of Diana is still treasured in the UK and around the world. In 2006, Queen Elizabeth II opened a memorial fountain in Hyde Park, London. The fountain is designed to be peaceful and symbolize some of Diana’s positive qualities.

The memorial is a great way to honor Diana: it is accessible to all people, aims to give new life, is beautiful and peaceful, and feels like a place the People’s Princess would enjoy.

Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain (Birds Eye)
Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain

On this 24th anniversary of Princess Diana’s untimely death, the best way to remember her and honor her legacy is to serve others, be kind to those less fortunate, and give back to the community around you. This way, Elton John’s lyrics ring true: Her candle’s burned out long before her legend ever will.

June’s Deep Dive into History: Remembering Anne Frank

Annelies “Anne” Frank was born on June 12, 1929. She started out as every other youth, carefree and full of dreams for her future. But by the time she died before her 16th birthday, she had gone through what no one should have to. Because she wrote down her experiences, as well as her thoughts, dreams, and fears, the world knows more about the Holocaust.

Let’s take a deep dive into Anne’s life, and learn more about how the world can be torn apart by hate, and that each person matters.

Frankfurt, Germany

Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on June 12, 1929. She had a happy childhood, in spite of the tumult developing in her native country.

The Frankfurt Cathedral in downtown Frankfurt is near the clinic where she was born. The famous cathedral is a central landmark of the city, and has played an important role both religiously and culturally for eight hundred years.

The church’s 328 foot tower was added in the 1500s, and is one of most striking architectural features in the city. Visitors can climb the 328 stairs to the top, to enjoy a vista of the ancient German city.

Frankfurt Cathedral (Birds Eye)
Frankfurt Cathedral

Amsterdam, Holland

Due to political unrest in Germany and increasing hostility against Jews, the Frank family fled to Holland, now known as the Netherlands in 1933. Otto, Anne’s dad, was able to start a business, and the family settled into their new lives.

Close to Otto’s business and in the heart of downtown, the Royal Palace is a major landmark. It was built in the 1600s, and turned into a palace by Napoleon’s brother, King Louis Napoleon, in 1809.

Those who visit and enjoy the architecture and beauty of the palace and adjacent Dam Square can think that Anne may have walked the same streets during happier days in Amsterdam.

Royal Palace of Amsterdam (StreetView)
Royal Palace of Amsterdam

The Secret Annex, Amsterdam, Holland

In July 1942, Anne and her family were forced to hide in a hidden apartment in the building of her father’s business. For the next two years and one month, the family of four, plus four others, were crammed into a 450 square foot area.

There, Anne wrote in a journal she’d received for her birthday. Her thorough document what it was like as a Jew under Hitler’s rule, and about life in hiding. She also wrote eloquently about her dreams of being a writer, as well as other feelings about boys, love, and life in general.

On August 4, 1944, the entire group was discovered and arrested, along with the people who helped them on the outside.

Anne Frank's House (Former) (StreetView)
Anne Frank's House (Former)

Camp Westerbork, Holland

After being discovered by the Nazis, Anne and the other hiding with her were taking to Camp Westerbork. The camp had originally been created to house Jewish refugees coming into the Netherlands. However, it was taken over when the Nazis invaded.

The camp was used as a transit camp, taking Jews captured in Holland and preparing them to be shipped to other concentration camps throughout conquered Nazi territory.

The camp had a hair salon, school, restaurants, and other facilities designed to give the Jews  a false sense of security and make them easier to control as they were selected to be sent to work camps or death camps. Over the course of the war, nearly 100,000 individuals passed through the camp, nearly all of them sent to their eventual death at a concentration camp.

Westerbork Concentration Camp (Google Maps)
Westerbork Concentration Camp

Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland

On September 3, 1944, Anne and the others arrested from the Annex were put on trains and shipped to Auschwitz-Birkenau. When the group arrived in the camp, they were separated, tattooed, and put to work doing hard labor for the Nazis.

Auschwitz was a group of more than 40 camps divided into work and extermination camps, and were the site of more than one million deaths at the hands of the Nazis. They were opened in 1940, at the start of Hitler’s attack on Jews, Roma, homosexuals, and those who didn’t conform to his fascist policies.

The camps were liberated on January 27, 1945, by Soviet troops. But by that time, most of the prisoners, including Anne, her sister Margot, had been moved to other camps to keep working for the Nazis. Anne’s mother, Edith, passed away from starvation at Auschwitz on January 6, just days before the camp was liberated.

Former Nazi German Concentration Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau (Google Maps)
Former Nazi German Concentration Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau

Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, Germany

Anne and Margot were shipped to Bergen-Belsen in northern Germany. It was originally a prisoner of war camp, but turned into a concentration camp as the war progressed.

Anne and Margot were forced to live in unsuitable conditions and work as slave labor. Margot and Anne died in February 1945, likely of typhus, which was raging in the camp at the time. Their actual death dates and causes of death are not known, but speculated based on interviews with friends and bunk mates.

Only two months later, the camp was liberated by British soldiers, on April 15, 1945.

Bergen-Belsen concentration camp (Google Maps)
Bergen-Belsen concentration camp

Memorial at Bergen-Belsen

There is a memorial to Margot and Anne Frank at Bergen-Belsen. It is in the shape of a tombstone, with their names, and birth and death years.

The memorial is covered with small stones, which is meaningful in the Jewish tradition. Putting stones on the grave is a way of helping the soul find rest, and reminds the world that, although one is dead, they will not be forgotten.

Anne and Margot Franks Memorial Stone (StreetView)
Anne and Margot Franks Memorial Stone

After the war, Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam and collected the few belongings that had been saved after the raid on the hiding place. Among the items was Anne’s diary. Otto published the journal in 1947.

“The Diary of a Young Girl” has done more to educate people about the Holocaust than perhaps any other piece of work. Published in more than 70 languages, it also fulfilled Anne’s childhood dream of becoming an author and journalist.

Anne’s journal helps us all to never forget the tragedy of the Holocaust. It is only by remembering that we can ensure that it will never happen again.

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect Places for a Destination Wedding

June is wedding month, and nothing says love like a destination wedding.

Let’s take a look at some of the most gorgeous, romantic, and awesome places you can tie the knot!

Four Seasons Bora Bora

If you’re going for a high-end, picture-perfect beach wedding that no one will ever forget, you can’t go wrong with the Four Seasons Bora Bora! Considered one of the most beautiful places on earth, the Pacific island is perfect for an intimate wedding and honeymoon, or a grand celebration of love with your friends and family.

The Four Seasons was completed in 2009, and has established a wonderful reputation as a five-star resort where all your needs are catered to and every experience is perfect. But, it does come with a hefty price tag, since even the simplest bungalow at the resort will set you back a few thousand dollars a night. But it’s worth it to get married in paradise, right?

Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora (Google Maps)
Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora

Tunnel of Love, Las Vegas, NV

If Bora Bora’s perfection doesn’t appeal, or isn’t in your budget, you can always head to Las Vegas. With plenty of Elvis impersonators ready to marry you, or just serenade the happy couple, it’s a memorable place to say “I do”.

The Little White Chapel has been marrying people for at least seventy years, and has married the likes of Britney Spears, Frank Sinatra,Judy Garland, Michael Jordan, and about 800,000 other happy couples.

They have even tapped the market of express weddings. If your wedding is just a stop on the way to the destination, you can get hitched at the Tunnel of Love.

Tunnel of Love: Drive-thru Wedding Chapel (Birds Eye)
Tunnel of Love: Drive-thru Wedding Chapel

Hotel Ritz, Paris, France

Paris is known as the world’s most romantic city, so a destination wedding to the City of Lights is perfect. The Hotel Ritz in downtown Paris is known as one of the world’s most luxurious hotels, and has been since it was created in 1898. It was one of the first hotels in Europe to have electricity, indoor, in-suite bathrooms, and in-room telephones.

With marble, gold, and crystal finishings, this hotel is pure elegance. If your heart is set on an unforgettable, chic, and elegant wedding and reception, and you can afford the best Paris has to offer, you should book the Ritz for your destination wedding.

Hôtel Ritz Paris (Google Maps)
Hôtel Ritz Paris

Kinnity Castle, Ireland

Ireland has a long reputation of being a romantic, idyllic country that evokes feelings of love, happiness, and peace. Kinnity Castle in central Ireland was originally built nearly a thousand years ago. It has been destroyed and rebuilt and added onto over the centuries, and is a romantic, magical place for a couple in love.

The four star hotel loves to host weddings and receptions, with a view that will take your breathe away. The wedding photos will be phenomenal with a gothic castle, green hills, and gorgeous blue sky to accent the happy couple. The evening ceremony and reception will be unforgettable with fine china, candles flickering, and gorgeous stone walls to emphasize the momentous day.

If you want to start your union with the luck of the Irish, Kinnity Castle should be your destination.

Kinnity Castle (Google Maps)
Kinnity Castle

Biltmore Estate, North Carolina

If you love the idea of a castle wedding, but want to get married in the United States, you should put the Biltmore Estate on your list. Constructed for American “royalty” George Vanderbilt, it remains the country’s largest private residence.

Couples are able to reserve space in one of the many ballrooms, reception rooms, or outside venues across the estate’s 8,000 acres. Some have an elegant and stated feel, while others highlight the mountain setting while still providing an elegant, full-service event fit for anyone wanting to live like royalty for a day.

Biltmore Estate (StreetView)
Biltmore Estate

Disney World, Florida

If you’re fun-loving, young at heart, and feel like your love story is a fairy tale, what better place to marry your own Prince Charming than at Disney World?

Disney has a reputation for catering to your every fantasy, and getting married at the Magic Kingdom is no exception! Whether it’s an intimate ceremony or a large celebration, Disney will not disappoint.

One of the highlights of  a Disney wedding is that you can be Cinderella in your own ornate carriage, with footmen to make sure you feel like the princess on your special day. Often, weddings are marked by a private fireworks display; how cool is that!

If you choose to host a destination wedding at Disney World, or any of their resorts, it will be a perfect way to start your “happily ever after”.

Disney World's Cinderella Castle (Birds Eye)
Disney World's Cinderella Castle

These are just a few places that are famous for making saying “I do” feel special, but anywhere there are two people who love each other and are willing to pledge their loves to one another is as magical as any castle, as special as any five star resort, and as memorable as any big reception. After all, love is all you need.

 

Shipwrecks!

There’s something fascinating and otherworldly about shipwrecks. We think about how the ship went down, the people that went down with it, and sometimes, buried treasure. Here are some famous, and sometimes tragic, stories about shipwrecks around the world.

RMS Titanic

Quite possibly the most famous shipwreck of all time, the Titanic disaster was particulaly shocking because the ship was heralded as “unsinkable” and had among its passengers some of the wealthiest and most influential people in the United States and Europe. On its maiden voyage, the ship sank on April 15, 1912, after being hit by an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland. More than 1,500 of the 2,250 individuals perished, with much of the blame on the lack of preparation and inadequate lifeboats on board.

For many years, the ship’s exact location was unknown, but relentless searching led to it’s location in 1985. Since that time, multiple plans were made to raise the ship, but all have been abandoned. Portions of the ship and items from the ship’s wreckage have been removed, and scientists and explorers continue to visit the site. James Cameron’s blockbuster movie Titanic used actual footage of the wreckage, and the investigation and preservation of the site has become a pet project for Cameron.

Titanic location (Google Maps)
Titanic location

USS Arizona

Part of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet in the lead up to World War II, the USS Arizona was sunk by an early morning air raid of Japanese bombers at Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. Because a bomb struck in or near the powder magazine, the ship sank rapidly, taking over 1,100 of the 1,500 crewmen to their death. The ship now rests at the bottom of the harbor, with the crew still onboard and with it’s silhouette still visible under the water.

The USS Arizona Memorial was created in 1962 to honor, commemorate and remember those who died on board the ship and at Pearl Harbor during the attack.  Oil leaks constantly from the wreckage, and some refer to it as “black tears” rising from the war grave. Surviving crew members of the attack are permitted to have their ashes interred within the ship’s wreckage. Crew members who survive the attack on other ships are permitted to have their ashes scattered above their respective ships in the harbor.

USS Arizona (BB-39) Memorial (Birds Eye)
USS Arizona (BB-39) Memorial

Vasa

The Vasa was a Swedish warship completed in 1628, intended to be a large battle ship to compete with other European powers vying for military supremacy in the 1600s. The ship’s design was new and largely untested as it marked a transition in the use and type of warship of the period. Therefore it’s weight, balance and design were largely untested, making it vulnerable to capsizing.

Swedish warship Vasa (StreetView)
Swedish warship Vasa

The ship left the harbor of Stockholm to great fanfare on August 10,1628,  but a strong gust of air pushed the ship onto the side, allowing water to enter the hull and quickly sinking it in front of thousands of shocked onlookers gathered for the celebratory departure.

The ship remained at the bottom of the Stockholm harbor until September 1956 when an archeologist discovered the wreckage and resurfaced the ship. Great measures were taken to preserve the ship, including the construction of a special museum, but due to multiple factors, it is slowly deteriorating in spite of great efforts to preserve the ship.

Vasa Museum (StreetView)
Vasa Museum

H. L. Hunley

The H. L. Hunley was one of the earliest submarines, designed by the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. The was vessel was small and cramped, fitting eight crew members who rowed the submarine and guided it manually under the water. On February 17, 1864, the Hunley sneaked up to the USS Housitonic in the Charleston Harbor, and manually rammed a bomb onto the hull of the Union ship. The bomb exploded and sunk the Housitonic, but the Hunley never returned to shore.

On September 13, 1976, the Hunley was discovered near the larger wreckage of the Housitonic. All eight crew members were still on board the submarine, and their bodies were given full military burials. The Hunley was excavated, but remains in water while it is studied and preserved. If it were to be removed from the water, it would rust and dissolve so fast that it could not be saved.

Civil War Submarine H. L. Hunley replica (StreetView)
Civil War Submarine H. L. Hunley replica

These are just a few of the many shipwrecks both found and still unfound, throughout the world. Along with their wreckage are untold stories of bravery, tragedy and drama that will never be told.

 

 

Let’s Celebrate Earth Day

It’s Earth Day! Let’s celebrate our planet and work to protect it for the future by taking an environmentally-friendly, virtual tour of some of the most beautiful, breathtaking, and unique places on the planet.

Sequoia National Park

In central California, Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park are home to some of the world’s oldest, and biggest, trees. These sequoia trees, related to the redwoods of northern California, can grow to 250 feet high and 30 feet wide.

The forests are large, cavernous, and quiet. It feel almost hallowed, being among some of the oldest living things on earth. These trees need to be seen to understand their size and massive presence. There are many options to visit the area, you can take a day trip or plan a longer trip, camping or staying in nearby hotels as you take in the remarkable beauty of the large forests.

General Sherman (StreetView)
General Sherman

Amazon River Basin

It wouldn’t be a fitting review of the Earth’s wonders if we didn’t include the Amazon, the world’s second longest river, and largest by volume. It stretches from western South America in Peru, across all of Brazil, and empties into the Atlantic Ocean.

The river, and the surrounding rain forest, are some of the most important lands on the planet. More than three million animal species and 2,500 tree varieties spread across the land. The region provides about 20 percent of the world’s clean water, produces 20 percent of the earth’s clean air, and is the most important carbon sink.

Adventurous travelers can take a guided cruise along the river, or stay in a jungle lodge in the Amazon rain forest. Make sure you pick one that is sustainable and treats the native people, plants, and animals with respect and  consideration.

Amazon River (StreetView)
Amazon River

Mount Danxia, China

As the second largest country on earth, China is certainly going to have some breathtaking sights, and the Danxia range in Guangdong tops the list. Mount Danxia was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, as part of the overall land form.

The colorful sandstone and conglomerate rocks have been worn in unusual and uneven fashion, leaving jutting columns, interesting holes, and gorgeous naturally-occurring rainbow rock forms. With places named Red Cliff, Sleeping Beauty, and Father Stone, you can tell the place is a unique and breathtaking place to visit.

Mount Danxia (StreetView)
Mount Danxia

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

One of the largest waterfalls in the world, the amazing Victoria Falls on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, is a truly remarkable site to behold. Rainbows from the massive mist are visible constantly, and during full moons, you can even see a “moonbow”!

More than a mile wide and 354 feet deep, it is a global tourist attraction. There’s a “Devil’s Pond” right near the edge of the falls where brave visitors can take a dip in the Zimbabwe River right at the point of no return.

Visitors often come to the falls as part of a safari, but be sure to plan at least a day or two to take in this most memorable natural wonder.

Victoria Falls (StreetView)
Victoria Falls

Bora Bora

Bora Bora is a small group of islands in the Pacific Ocean that make up part of French Polynesia. The islands formed from now-extinct volcanoes, and jut out of the ocean to more than 2,000 feet high. At the center of the islands is a lagoon created by the volcanoes, which is always calm, peaceful, and breathtakingly beautiful.

The green plant-covered mountains create a stunning contrast to the crystal blue water and brilliant white sand beaches that many consider to be the most beautiful place in the world.

People who visit Bora Bora plan a trip of relaxation in luxury hotels designed to integrate the beauty of the island into every feature of the rooms, stretch out on the gorgeous beaches, and spend lots of time SCUBA diving or snorkeling in the unequaled blue waters. But visitors need to make sure their activity on the island doesn’t negatively impact the island, preventing it from being appreciated for years to come.

Hilton Bora Bora Nui (StreetView)
Hilton Bora Bora Nui

These are just some of the many, many beautiful places around the world. But, you don’t have travel across deserts, mighty rivers, or great mountains to appreciate our planet. Today, and every day, you can step outside, appreciate the world around you, and vow to do something to preserve it for yourself and the future. Happy Earth Day!

Deep Dive into History: The Sinking of the Titanic

Everyone has seen the movie and knows the story about the sinking of the Titanic, but few know the details about the ship’s creation and journey before it hit the fateful iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean on April 14, 1912.

Construction in Belfast, Ireland

The ship was dreamed up as the world’s largest ship, a luxury liner to move people between Europe and the United States in style. It was commissioned by the White Star Line of Britain, and built in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

When the Titanic and her sister ship the Olympic were built, no slips were big enough to build them. The ship was plagued by tragedy from the start, as eight men died during construction, which took nearly five years and cost $400 million in today’s dollars.

For years after the tragedy, Belfast did little to acknowledge the amazing ship or the tragedy of its sinking. However, the shipbuilding area was redeveloped as part of the city coming to terms with its history, and was turned into an area called Titanic Quarter.

Site of the slipways where Titanic and Olympic were built (Google Maps)
Site of the slipways where Titanic and Olympic were built

Titanic Belfast Memorial

Shortly after the sinking, the people of Belfast raised funds to erect a memorial to the souls who perished on the ship. The memorial was moved in time for the centennial commemoration of the tragedy to the Titanic Memorial Garden. It includes the names of 22 men who perished on the ship.

Titanic Memorial (Belfast) (StreetView)
Titanic Memorial (Belfast)

Titanic Belfast Monument

After decades of downplaying the ties Belfast had to the doomed ship, the city opened a monument to the ship on the centennial of its sinking on the site of the old shipyard where the Titanic was built.

The monument building has more than 130,000 square feet of floor space covered with galleries, community facilities, and stories related to the construction and sinking of the ship.

'Titanic Belfast' by Todd Architects (StreetView)
'Titanic Belfast' by Todd Architects

Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland

The Titanic left its origin point in Southhampton, England on April 10, and made a few stops before heading into the Atlantic Ocean. It first sailed across the English Channel to Cherbourg, France. They picked up a few hundred passengers, and then sailed to Queenstown, now Cobh, in Ireland.

Here, the ship took on 123 more passengers. The Titanic then set sail for New York City on April 11. There is a memorial in the city to the tragedy, which lists the names of the passengers from Queensland; 79 perished and 44 were saved.

RMS Titanic memorial in Cobh (StreetView)
RMS Titanic memorial in Cobh

Wreckage in the Atlantic Ocean

Four days into the journey, the Titanic began to receive warnings from other ships that large icebergs were sighted in the area. That evening, the ship hit an iceberg and began to sink. No more than two hours and forty minutes later, the ship had gone down.

Of the 2,224 passengers and crew on board, only 338 survived. More than two thirds perished by drowning or going down with the ship. The ship remained unmolested at the bottom of the ocean for more than 70 years.

In 1985, the ship was recovered by an expedition, and since then, renewed interest in the Titanic and the people who were on her maiden voyage has increased significantly.

Titanic location (Google Maps)
Titanic location

Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Right away, efforts to gather the dead and provide them proper burials was undertaken by the ship line. While many people were buried at sea, at least 209 bodies were taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Those bodies who made it to Halifax were buried in cemeteries around the city.

Fairview Cemetery (StreetView)
Fairview Cemetery

More than 100 passengers were buried at Fairview Cemetery in a special section dedicated to the sunken ship. About one third of the bodies were not identified, and their markers have only their number and the date of the sinking.

There is a touching memorial to the “unknown child” who was later identified by DNA to be an 19-month old child who died along with his entire family.

RMS Titanic Victim's Graves (StreetView)
RMS Titanic Victim's Graves

“Unsinkable” Molly Brown

The Titanic was billed as a luxury cruise liner, but the ship was also used to ferry immigrants and laborers to the United States. In fact, the majority of passengers were second and third class passengers. Shockingly, the majority of those who survived were first class passengers. The disparity in survival caused an international uproar, and the insufficient amount of lifeboats led to international regulations that provided for safer shipping and emergency procedures.

One passenger who survived, and added fame and interest to the event was Molly Brown, a self-made millionaire and philanthropist. She worked to help people evacuate the sinking ship, and eventually got into a lifeboat. She attempted to get the lifeboat captain to pick up survivors, but he refused for safety reasons.

Once the rescue ship RMS Carpathia made it to port in New York City, Molly Brown was given the nickname “Unsinkable Molly Brown”. This moniker stuck with her her entire life, and she was memorialized in a play, movie, and as a character in the 1997 film Titanic.

Molly Brown ("The Unsinkable Molly Brown") House (Birds Eye)
Molly Brown ("The Unsinkable Molly Brown") House

These are just a few sites related to the tragic sinking of the Titanic. Even though it was more than 100 years ago, the event still resonates with many people. While many people died in the tragedy, it did have positive impacts on shipping travel. Regulations about lifeboat safety, evacuation protocols, and other safety measures are now a routine part of ship travel, saving countless lives over the years.