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Rising from the verdant island of Luzon, about 30 miles from Manila, the Taal ranks as the world’s smallest volcano, as well as the Philippines’ second most active, with 33 recorded eruptions.

Daily Escapes!

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The most memorable thing about Essaouira (pronounced “essa weera”) is the one thing you can’t see.

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Photography by Joel Addams / Aurora Photos

Called “As-Sahara al-Kubra” in Arabic, “The Great Desert” of the Sahara stretches more than 3.6 million square miles through North Africa.
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Meander amid the town’s melange of fortified ancient walls, brightly colored houses, round medieval towers and its famous Roman-forged footpath.
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Photography by Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

Visit some of Elvis’ favorite spots on the property, including the Jungle Room den and the Meditation Garden. More »

 

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It’s no “wonder” that Iguazu Falls, located on the border between Brazil and Panama, is greater than its name “Big Water” suggests. More »

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The Obamas arrived in Ireland on Monday, and while the president attended the G8 summit in Belfast, the first lady and daughters Malia and Sasha were able to fit in a 2-day whirlwind tour of Dublin, exploring their Irish roots.

“There’s no one as Irish as Barack O’Bama,” says the web-hit Irish folk song that went viral back in November 2008.  The president’s great-great-grandfather was born in the Irish village of Moneygall, and Ireland celebrates this connection by always extending a warm Irish welcome to the president and his family.

Michelle Obama and daughters learned more about their Irish ancestry with a special tour of Trinity College, where they viewed archives documenting their family’s Irish origins and saw the Book of Kells, a 9th-century illustrated gospel manuscript.

Other highlights of the first family’s trip included a private tour of Glendalough, one of the most famous monastic ruins in Ireland, and a special Riverdance performance at the Gaity Theatre, where Michelle Obama addressed an excited audience.

And talk about a power lunch … the first lady dined on fish and chips in Dublin with the “first rock star of Ireland,” U2 frontman and world humanitarian Bono.

This wasn’t Obamas’ first visit to Ireland. Back in 2001, the president visited his ancestral hometown Moneygall searching for his “missing apostrophe.” On this visit, the president met his 8th cousin, Henry Healy, now known as “Henry the Eighth.”

 

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Soaring more than 1,700 feet into the air, the Sugarloaf Cable Car connects Praia Vermelha (Red Beach) to Sugarloaf Mountain via a 2-part cable car ride. More »

Courtesy of Hearst Castle®/California State Parks

Oh, if these palm trees could talk. Rising out of the hills of the California coastline looms the most famous of America’s castles: William Randolph Hearst’s La Cuesta Encantada. More »

 

Photography by Katie Hards

Today marks the 100 year anniversary of an iconic New York City landmark — Grand Central Terminal. For the past century, it has served as a major hub of transportation for daily commuters coming or going to and from NYC. It also serves as a major tourist destination and is one of the top 10 most visited destinations in the world, according to Daniel Brucker, Manager of GCT Tours. Today, on its official birthday, the Guinness Book of World Records will bestow the building as “The Largest Station by Number of Platforms.” So, besides that, what’s so special about this train terminal?

The building is steeped in the history marked by its technological advancements in transportation, ingenuity in design and architecture and urban development that shaped NYC to be the metropolis we know today. Just think about the stories of the billions of commuters and travelers who have come and gone through the building over the years. Who knows how many hello and goodbye kisses and hugs have taken place within the confines of the building. And we’re sure that even the items in the station’s expansive lost and found room come with their own unsolved mysterious stories, including an urn of ashes or a basset hound that have both, somehow, been left behind. With nearly 700,000 people served daily, Grand Central also boasts an on-time performance of 98%, ensuring everyone arrives safely and promptly at their destinations.

Photography by Katie Hards

Before their centennial celebration, I was able to partake in a very special behind-the-scenes tour to understand what makes this building and its services so unique. From the lowest depths of the building — which is the deepest basement in all over New York City — I, along with other special guests, got a glimpse into the enormous electrical infrastructure, both that power the station.

Prior to 1913, the trains coming to and from Grand Central were powered by coal, making any property along the open air tracks dirty and undesirable. With the introduction of electrically powered trains, the tracks could be enclosed underground, and the land above it (Park Avenue) became ripe for development. This area became, and still is, some of the city’s most lucrative and expensive properties.

Photography by Katie Hards

Photography by Katie Hards

In the upper reaches of the building, we sidled past busy men and women sitting in the Metro North control room. They were guiding train traffic in and out of the station by overseeing blinking lights and numbers on two enormous screens — leaving me cross eyed from its complexity. Luckily, we ducked into a door behind them to scale a couple of rickety ladders that led us to a small room. We found ourselves faced with the most beautiful Tiffany glass clock, which is visible along 42nd street. The “6” on the clock opens up to reveal the street below and Park Avenue leading up to the station. It’s a great view from a unique vantage point. We got another great view from the upper glass catwalks. This perspective allowed us to see the wonderful beaux-arts features of the building and to gaze closely at the ornate constellations painted on the ceiling. Peering down, we gained a birds-eye view of the expansive main concourse to watch the commuters, travelers and visitors from above.

Photography by Katie Hards

Photography by Katie Hards

If you’re planning a trip to the Big Apple before March 15, put Grand Central Terminal on your must-see list. MTA Metro-North Railroad — which operates the Terminal — is celebrating the centennial with an informative exhibit highlighting the history of the building through photographs, architectural drawings and interactive exhibits. You can even download a special app that will guide you through the unique elements of this centenarian landmark. Though you won’t be scaling any ladders or peering down from the catwalks, you’ll gain historical insight and visit some of the other unique features of the building.

Photography by Katie Hards

See what other landmarks, events and cities are celebrating big birthdays this year in our Travel Anniversaries of 2013 slideshow.

- By Katie Hards

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