The Christ the Redeemer statue is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. Standing high atop Mt. Corcovado, this 98 foot tall statue of Jesus watches over and protects the people of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With his arms open wide, it also stands as a symbol of Rio’s warm hospitality, welcoming visitors from all over the world.[Read more…]
With so many low-cost flights to Tenerife, there’s never been a better time than now to soak up the sun in the Canary Islands. There are also plenty of attractions to explore, from awe-inspiring natural wonders to historic sites and hair-raising watersports. For those planning to visit for the first time, this handy guide is here to help you out. [Read more…]
The Roman Pantheon is arguably the most important building in the history of architecture. It’s magnificent dome has served as the inspiration for many other buildings, including the Florence Duomo, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the U.S. Capitol Building. The building itself is almost entirely intact, allowing modern visitors the opportunity to experience the grandeur of Ancient Rome from over 2,000 years ago. [Read more…]
The Italian Renaissance brought about an explosion of great art, cultural change, and new ideas. Nowhere was this more present than in Florence. Through the backing of the wealthy Medici family, Florence produced such great artists as Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo, and Botticelli. Still, no artist is more celebrated than Florence’s favorite son, Michelangelo. His greatest work, the statue of David, remains in Florence to this Day. [Read more…]
Who on Earth would want to see a giant pile of rocks?
Stonehenge is probably the most famous prehistoric site on Earth. Show anybody a photo of this sacred place, and they’ll immediately know what it is. Still, until you grasp some basic Stonehenge facts, you’ll probably just think that its just a bunch of cool looking rocks. But once you understand what it’s all about, visiting Stonehenge will be an awe-inspiring experience. [Read more…]
For centuries, the Island of Capri, Italy has been the playground for emperors and billionaires alike. And, it’s easy to see why. With its turquoise waters, dramatic cliffs, and breathtaking views, Capri is easily one of the most beautiful places in the world. The fresh scent of lemon groves fills the air, while movie stars and business moguls move around without so much as a second glance in their direction. But Capri isn’t just for the wealthy. This island of pleasure makes a perfect day trip for any traveler near Rome or the Amalfi Coast.
One spot on my bucket list is definitely the Great Wall of China. Not only is it mentioned in one of my favorite books of all time, 50 Places to See Before You Die & 50 Places That Are a Lot More Fun (What, isn’t that everyone’s favorite book for making travel plans? Psht. Fine. Stick to Frodor’s, although, FYI, they mention the Wall too.), it is also at the epicenter of the plot of The Great Wall. The film still in development, but it will be the weirdest sci-fi thrillers ever made about one of the world wonders upon its release.
I also find it delightful that, for years, people actually believed one of the major components keeping the wall together was sticky rice soup mixed with slaked line and limestone.
Sorry, were you looking fun Great Wall of China facts? I keep giving you fictions. Let’s move on to some nifty facts about the only man-made object visible from space… just kidding, that’s a myth too. [Read more…]
If you have always dreamed about traveling to Greece, you probably picture seeing the beautiful white and blue buildings dotting the side of a sea front cliff while sipping on a cool glass of ouzo. Luckily, touring the Greek Islands of Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete will give you that very picturesque view and a most memorable experience. There are many inclusive tours available today, making it easy for travelers with all kinds of budgets to touch, taste, and see the natural beauty of this Mediterranean gem. [Read more…]
One of the best parts about being a former circus employee was getting to know all the different people from around the world who were also working on the show, and the show I worked on had a lot of Brazilians. I’d never thought much of Brazil before working with all of them, but it turns out it is a really amazing place with a lot more to see than just Rio.
One of these spots is Ouro Preto, a former mining town up in the mountains. Ouro Preto is a World Heritage site, and its name translates to Black Gold.
Ouro Preto is an excellent example of Baroque Portuguese colonial architecture. Why Portuguese? Because Brazil was actually under Portuguese rule for three and a half centuries, starting in 1500 A.D. An interesting tidbit of history is that in 1789, about 35 years before independence was achieved, a failed attempt to rise up against the Portuguese started in Ouro Preto. It didn’t work out, and the leader, Tiradentes, was beheaded as a warning.
All that gore aside, several of the churches in the city are built in the Baroque style and are equally famous for their religious art. Honestly, the churches are the highlight of the city. Two churches not to miss areMatriz NS daConceicao de Antonio Dias and the smallerCapela do Padre Faria. However, Brazil’s most important piece of colonial art, The Prophets in Congonhas, found in Igreja de Sao Francisco de Assis, and the church of Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Pilar are the area’s crown jewels.
Ouro Preto also has several mine tours. As the center of Brazil’s gold rush in the 18th Century, this isn’t surprising. The most popular of these tours in the Mina do Chico Rei near the sanctuary of Nossa Senhora de Conceicao. The tour there is self-guided and not for the faint of heart. You have to wind your way through several very tight passageways, but you’re rewarded with a stop in the mineral room where you can see what hides under the ground in Ouro Preto.
The mine is named after a local folk tale about a slave from the Congo, Chico Rei. He worked in the mine, trying to buy his freedom, and snuck gold out of the mine every day by hiding it in his hair. He would then go to the Church of Santa Iphigenia and wash his hair in the font, retrieving his gold and appearing extremely pious to the town folk. Supposedly, near the end of his life, he managed to save up enough money to buy his freedom but also to buy the mine. From that point on, the mine thrived.
Mining continues to be a way of life in Ouro Preto even today. Although the gold has largely been exhausted, the mines still hold impressive stores of minerals like marble, iron, pyrite, topaz and soapstone. Ouro Preto is also the only place in the world where you can find imperial topaz.
While most people think immediately of Rio for Carnaval, it’s actually a countrywide celebration. Ouro Preto is no exception. Starting the Saturday before Lent and ending on Ash Wednesday, the streets of Ouro Preto become overrun with costumes and music, featuring parades by two different groups: the samba schools and the blocos.
So head if Rio is a bit too crowded for you, head to Ouro Preto for Carnaval…and stick around to check out the fine examples of Baroque colonial architecture and their mines!