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Monday, February 23, 2009

The Historic City of Charleston

Walking through the 300 years old narrow and rough cobblestone streets of this very romantic Colonial port city, you cannot miss the history of pre civil war era that holds on to this Holy City. The history has barely changed here; 73 pre-Revolutionary buildings, 136 late 18th century structures and over 600 others built in the 1840s. You can hop on a horse-drawn carriage or just walk around the downtown to witness the well preserved and revitalized Charleston, one of the oldest cities in America.

Check out the Rainbow Row, once dilapidated slums which were restored to a affluent neighborhood, painted many a time and is a hit with tourists; step back in time watching the ante-bellum buildings that have survived earthquakes, hurricanes and fire. The White Point Gardens (better known as Battery) is the root of the City. Located at the end of the peninsula and facing the Cooper River, it is a nice place to stroll.

A tour of the amazing southern architecture and culture is a must; whether it is a Tea Party tour or Boat tour, a Pirate tour, or for the daring even a Ghost Tour in one of the most haunted cities of America. Get your tickets early online, as they tend to sell out quickly. If you want to save on money then look for free coupons that are widely distributed at many lodgings, the area Visitors Centers and SC Welcome Centers

Don’t miss Fort Sumpter where the ‘War of the States’ started or Fort Maultrie, preserved now as a World War II Defense Fort, apart from military history, the city also has some very amazing beaches tucked away. Charleston’s sails are simply irresistible. Weather permitted, you can reserve for one of the sails and explore the Old Charleston Light House sitting in the water. It is an amazing sight!

The market area in the center of town is unique; affording some good buys on souvenirs. There is also an abundance of good Low Country eateries and drinking establishments in the heart of the city.

Although the high season is in Spring and summers yet thousands come for the Wildlife Exposition in February, the Cooper River Bridge Run and the women's Family Circle Cup tennis tournament in the spring and the Spoleto Festival in May and June. And after a relaxing vacation spent in one of the local historic inns and hotels, they keep coming back year after year. Let the southern charm sweep you off your feet.

Glimmering Skies in Pennsylvania

Glistening in the pristine skies over a promenade of thousands of real stars begin to twinkle through the inky darkness. On a perfect night preferably on a new moon, the spectacular view of the sprinkled Milky Way so splendid it casts a shadow, a heavenly sight for amateur astronomers who look at the glint in wonderment.

And its not just the North Pole that you see twinkling high, you’d see stars hundred times as bright, fading away its glory. Or the Orion, which is so dominant in winters; draw an imaginary line up from Orion's belt and it takes you to Taurus the Bull. Go down through the belt and you come to Sirius, which is the brightest star in the sky. Spotting the Big Dipper, Sagittarius and Cassiopeia among zillions of stars is enchanting.

A 275 mile drive from New York and about 4 hours from Pittsburgh, the observation field at Cherry Springs State Park in remote Potter County, north central Pennsylvania, has become a Mecca for passionate astronomers and star gazing enthusiasts from eastern seaboard and Canada who just want to lie back and ponder over the majestic universe.

Just off the State Route 44, on a high hill, over 50 acre of the main stargazing field with view stretching from one horizon to another, with plenty of low standing pines and earthen berms to block wandering lights that comes from the passing traffic is the pitch black skies, making a natural planetarium of sorts.

In times about 40 years back, when our parents were young, the skies were brimming with stars, in recent times however artificial lights or the light pollution have washed away the natural quaint.

Certified by the International Dark Skies Association for its exceptional nightscape, the park is the scene of star parties and other events summer through fall and rents four small observatories. Just pay a minimal $4 to use the observation field and $20-$25 to use one of three large white domes and a shed at the field that open so astronomers can set their telescopes inside and look at the stars, take photographs without wind affecting them.

For the uninitiated stargazers, Music and Stars programs are available for $10 per person and $17 for families. It includes a concert, hot chocolate and cookies, plus a 10 p.m. tour of the night sky and also offers star talks to private groups.

Only a few rules that is imperative. Only flashlights with red lights were allowed and to be only pointed downward. While leaving the park you are asked to keep the headlights off until away from the dark-sky field and conversations are kept hushed.

Come out of your own little worlds and witness the heavens come down on the rumpled hills that are blanketed with trees.

More Information and Rules can be found at: and

Blue Cobblestones of san Juan

Pristine green beaches, vivid architecture and a visit back in time that’s San Juan for you. On the island of Puerto Rico, you are sure to miss this mesmerizing beauty, as it generally is the dock for most cruises coming to Puerto Rico. Most visitors come here on a day trip, but the old, walled city has much more to offer.

Extremely narrow streets, buildings on both sides painted in a palette of tropical fruit colors with elaborate wooden doors, patios and eye-catching balconies. When you walk the historic district of Old San Juan you cannot help noticing the beautiful blue cobblestone streets. The stones were baked in Spain in the 1800's and brought to Puerto Rico as ballast. They are known as Aquinas for their beautiful bluish gray color. Many of the stones are very worn, which just adds to their charm.

To absorb city’s history and feel it through the cobblestone streets it is best explored on foot. This island has an array of exquisitely preserved architecture, sprawling forts, cruise filled docks, tiny antique shops and art galleries, retaining the old world charm.

Tourists mainly visit the EL Morro Fort, which dates back to 1539, the Cathedral of San Juan, where the island's first governor, Ponce de Leon, is buried and La Fortaleza, the oldest governor's mansion on U.S. soil. Old San Juan also boasts of several colonial plazas; and the triumvirate of Calle del Cristo, Calle San Jose and Calle Fortaleza for shopping. Calle del Cristo, in particular, is chock-full of art galleries, artisan studios and distinctive boutiques.

Duck into a bar for a Pina Colada (it originated here), sample the local cuisines and take some time out for hand carved wooden saints while enjoying the talented street performers. There are tons of shops to cater to everybody’s taste. And while walking through the peaceful buildings, you could capture the lovely view of the sea. Sure enough not to miss the warm sand and waters of the Luqillo Beach. Another treasure that San Juan offers is the La Plaza de las Palomas or the Plaza of the Doves; you cannot see your feet because there are just so many doves.

Just an hour south from the European styled city and you can visit America’s only rainforest, El Yunque. The experience is as breathtaking as the imprints of renaissance in the city. You'll see numerous waterfalls, ferns and wildflowers along the marked trails.

If you are able to get some time off your sail, do enjoy the vibrant nightlife and rum that is produced on this island. Be there to experience it!

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