Saturday, September 13, 2008

Introduction to New York City, NY

The most beguiling city in the world, New York is an adrenaline-charged, history-laden place that holds immense romantic appeal for visitors. Wandering the streets here, you'll cut between buildings that are icons to the modern age – and whether gazing at the flickering lights of the midtown skyscrapers as you speed across the Queensboro bridge, experiencing the 4am half-life downtown, or just wasting the morning on the Staten Island ferry, you really would have to be made of stone not to be moved by it all. There's no place quite like it.

While the events of September 11, 2001, which demolished the World Trade Center, shook New York to its core, the populace responded resiliently under the composed aegis of then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Until the attacks, many New Yorkers loved to hate Giuliani, partly because they saw him as committed to making their city too much like everyone else's. To some extent he succeeded, and during the late Nineties New York seemed cleaner, safer, and more liveable, as the city took on a truly international allure and shook off the more notorious aspects to its reputation. However, the maverick quality of New York and its people still shines as brightly as it ever did. Even in the aftermath of the World Trade Center's collapse, New York remains a unique and fascinating city – and one you'll want to return to again and again.

You could spend weeks in New York and still barely scratch the surface, but there are some key attractions – and some pleasures – that you won't want to miss. There are the different ethnic neighborhoods, like lower Manhattan's Chinatown and the traditionally Jewish Lower East Side (not so much anymore); and the more artsy concentrations of SoHo, TriBeCa, and the East and West Villages. Of course, there is the celebrated architecture of corporate Manhattan, with the skyscrapers in downtown and midtown forming the most indelible images. There are the museums, not just the Metropolitan and MoMA, but countless other smaller collections that afford weeks of happy wandering. In between sights, you can eat just about anything, at any time, cooked in any style; you can drink in any kind of company; and sit through any number of obscure movies. The more established arts – dance, theater, music – are superbly catered for; and New York's clubs are as varied and exciting as you might expect. And for the avid consumer, the choice of shops is vast, almost numbingly exhaustive in this heartland of the great capitalist dream.

Information by Rough Guides

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bahamas Nassau - New Providence

Bahamas NassauOriginally a harbour base named Charles Town, NASSAU is the modern-day face of the Bahamas, visited by most everyone who comes down this way, not least for its service as a transport hub. Though dingy in parts, enough historical flavour has been preserved to make such a stop here worthwhile. Much of this atmosphere comes from its development during the so-called Loyalist period from 1787 to 1834, when many of the city's finest colonial buildings were built. Before this build-up, Nassau had largely been a haven for pirates, privateers and wreckers, situated as it was on key shipping routes between Europe and the West Indies.

But it was really the development of the tourist industry here that put Nassau firmly on the map. After alternating periods of decline and prosperity in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the spike in trade and construction that followed World War II led directly to Nassau's emergence as a global centre for tourism and finance. By the mid-1950s, with the dredging of the harbour and the construction of the international airport, Nassau began to host more than a million visitors a year, and a decade later, after the construction of the Paradise Island Bridge and the development of Cable Beach, the city was receiving twice as many more.

Information by Rough Guides

Introduction to Madrid Spain

Madrid became Spain's capital simply through its geographical position at the centre of Iberia. When Felipe II moved the seat of government here in 1561 his aim was to create a symbol of the unification and centralization of the country, and a capital from which he could receive the fastest post and communications from each corner of the nation. The site itself had few natural advantages – it is 300km from the sea on a 650-metre-high plateau, freezing in winter, burning in summer – and it was only the determination of successive rulers to promote a strong central capital that ensured Madrid's survival and development.

Nonetheless, it was a success, and today Madrid is a vast, predominantly modern city, with a population of some three million and growing. The journey in – through a stream of concrete-block suburbs – isn't pretty, but the streets at the heart of the city are a pleasant surprise, with pockets of medieval buildings and narrow, atmospheric alleys, dotted with the oddest of shops and bars, and interspersed with eighteenth-century Bourbon squares. By comparison with the historic cities of Spain – Toledo, Salamanca, Sevilla, Granada – there may be few sights of great architectural interest, but the monarchs did acquire outstanding picture collections, which formed the basis of the Prado museum. This has long ensured Madrid a place on the European art tour, and the more so since the 1990s arrival – literally down the street – of the Reina Sofía and Thyssen-Bornemisza galleries, state-of-the-art homes to fabulous arrays of modern Spanish painting (including Picasso's Guernica) and European and American masters.

As you get to grips with the place you soon realize that it's the inhabitants – the madrileños – that are the capital's key attraction: hanging out in the traditional cafés or the summer terrazas, packing the lanes of the Sunday Rastro flea market, or playing hard and very, very late in a thousand bars, clubs, discos and tascas. Whatever Barcelona or San Sebastián might claim, the Madrid scene, immortalized in the movies of Pedro Almodóvar, remains the most vibrant and fun in the country. The city is also in better shape than for many years past, after a £500-million refurbishment for its role as 1992 European Capital of Culture and the ongoing impact of a series of urban rehabilitation schemes – funded jointly by the European Union and local government – in the older barrios (districts) of the city. Improvements are also being made to the transport network, with extensions to the metro, the construction of new ring roads and the excavation of a series of road tunnels designed to bring relief to the city's overcrowded streets. The authorities are even preparing a bid for the 2012 Olympics.

Information by Rough Guides

Related Information
Popular Attractions in Madrid

* Museo Nacional del Prado (Prado Museum)
* Plaza Mayor
* Palacio Real (Royal Palace)
* Parque del Buen Retiro
* Estadio Santiago Bernabeu (El)
* Puerta del Sol
* Cibeles (La)
* Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
* Biblioteca Nacional
* Torres KIO (Puerta de Europa)

Popular Hotels in Madrid

* The Westin Palace Madrid
* Tryp Ambassador
* Villa Real Hotel in Madrid
* Best Western Hotel Carlos V
* Occidental Miguel Angel Hotel & Urban Spa
* Sercotel Liabeny
* Hotel de Las Letras H&R
* InterContinental Madrid
* Gran Hotel Conde Duque
* Best Western Hotel Atlantico

Popular Cities near Madrid

* Barcelona
* Valencia
* Bilbao
* Malaga
* Ibiza
* Seville
* San Sebastian
* Marbella
* Salamanca
* Granada