Château d’Amboise and Environs

Amboise is a commune in the Indre-et-Loire department in central France. It lies on the banks of the Loire River, 17 miles east of Tours. Today a small market town, it was once home of the French royal court. The town of Amboise is also only about 11 miles away from the historic Château de Chenonceau, situated on the Cher River near the small village of Chenonceaux. Its former name was Ambacia, from the old name of the river and marsh Amasse.

The city is famous for the Clos Lucé manor house where Leonardo da Vinci lived (and ultimately died) at the invitation of King Francis I of France, whose Château d’Amboise, which dominates the town, is located just 1,640 feet away. The narrow streets contain some good examples of timbered housing.

Just outside of the city is the Pagode de Chanteloup, a 144.4 feet tall Chinese Pagoda built in 1775 by the Duke of Choiseul. The Pagoda is seven levels high, with each level slightly smaller than the last one. An interior staircase to reach all levels is open to the public. The Musée de la Poste (in the Hôtel Joyeuse) is a museum tracing the history of the postal delivery service. A 19th-century fountain by John Oswald of a turtle topped by a teddy bear figure, standing in front of the spot where the markets are held.

Clovis I (c. 466–511) and the Visigoths signed a peace treaty of alliance here with the Arvernians in 503, which assisted him in his defeat of the Visigothic kingdom in the Battle of Vouillé in 507. Joan of Arc passed through in 1429 on her way to Orleans to the Battle of Patay.

The Château at Amboise was home to Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots, for much of her early life, being raised there at the French court of Henry II. She arrived in France from Scotland in 1548, aged six, via the French king’s favourite palace at Saint Germain en Laye near Paris, and remained in France until 1561, when she returned to her homeland – sailing up the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh on 15 August that year.

Leonardo da Vinci spent the last years of his life in Amboise. Some of his inventions are still there and have not been removed. The house has lost some of its original parts, but it still stands today and has a beautiful overlook of the Loire River.

The Louvre: A Short History

The Louvre or the Louvre Museum is the world’s largest museum and a historic monument in Paris, France. A central landmark of the city, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the city’s 1st arrondissement. Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 652,300 square feet. The Louvre is the world’s second most visited museum after the Palace Museum in China, receiving more than 9.26 million visitors in 2014.

The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. Due to the urban expansion of the city, the fortress eventually lost its defensive function and, in 1546, was converted by Francis I of France into the main residence of the French Kings. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, a collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. In 1692, the building was occupied by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres and the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, which in 1699 held the first of a series of salons. The Académie remained at the Louvre for 100 years. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum to display the nation’s masterpieces.

The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property. Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The collection was increased under Napoleon and the museum renamed the Musée Napoléon, but after Napoleon’s abdication many works seized by his armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces. Holdings have grown steadily through donations and bequests since the Third Republic. The collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.

Paris: An Overview


Paris is the capital and the most populous city of France. It has an area of 105 41 square miles and a population in 2013 of 2,229,621 within the city limits. Paris is both a commune and department, and forms the centre and headquarters of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an area of 4,638 square miles and a population in 2014 of 12,005,077, comprising 18.2 percent of the population of France.

The agglomeration has grown well beyond Paris’ administrative limits. The Paris unité urbaine is a measure of Paris’ continuous urban area for statistical purposes, including both the commune and its suburbs, and has a population of 10,601,122 which makes it the largest in the European Union. The aire urbaine de Paris, a measure of Paris’ metropolitan area, spans most of the Île-de-France region and has a population of 12,405,426, constituting one-fifth of the population of France. The Metropole of Grand Paris was created in 2016, combining the city and its nearest suburbs into a single area for economic and environmental cooperation. Grand Paris covers 314 square miles and has a population of 6.945 million persons.

Paris was founded in the 3rd century BC by a Celtic people called the Parisii, who gave the city its name. By the 12th century, Paris was the largest city in the western world, a prosperous trading centre, and the home of the University of Paris, one of the oldest universities in history. By the 17th century it was one of Europe’s major centres of finance, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts, and it retains that position still today.

The city is a major rail, highway, and air-transport hub, served by the two international airports Paris-Charles de Gaulle (the second busiest airport in Europe after London Heathrow Airport with 63.8 million passengers) and Paris-Orly. Opened in 1900, the city’s subway system, the Paris Métro, serves 5.23 million passengers daily. It is the second busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow Metro. Paris is the hub of the national road network, and is surrounded by three orbital roads: the Périphérique, the A86 motorway, and the Francilienne motorway.

Among Paris’ important museums and cultural institutions are the most visited art museum in the world, the Louvre, as well as the Musée d’Orsay, noted for its collection of French Impressionist art, and the Musée National d’Art Moderne in the Pompidou Centre, the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe. The Central area of Paris along the Seine River is classified as a UNESCO Heritage Site, and includes many notable monuments, including Notre Dame Cathedral (12th century to 13th century ); the Sainte-Chapelle (13th century); the Eiffel Tower (1889); the Grand Palais and Petit Palais (1900); and the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur on Montmartre (1914). In 2015 Paris received 22.2 million visitors, making it one of the world’s top tourist destinations. and is also known for its fashion, particularly the twice-yearly Paris Fashion Week, and for its haute cuisine, and three-star restaurants. Most of France’s major universities and grandes écoles are located in Paris, as are France’s major newspapers, including Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Libération.

The association football club Paris Saint-Germain and the rugby union club Stade Français are based in Paris. The 80,000-seat Stade de France, built for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, is located just north of Paris in the commune of Saint-Denis. Paris hosts the annual French Open Grand Slam tennis tournament on the red clay of Roland Garros. Paris hosted the 1900 and 1924 Summer Olympics and is bidding to host the 2024 Summer Olympics and thus become the second city to have hosted the Games three times. The 1938 and 1998 FIFA World Cups, the 2007 Rugby World Cup and UEFA Euro 2016 were also held in the city, and every July, the Tour de France of cycling finishes in the city.

Himeji Castle (姫路城)

Himeji Castle is a hilltop Japanese castle complex situated in the city of Himeji which is located in the Hyōgo Prefecture of Japan. The castle is regarded as the finest surviving example of prototypical Japanese castle architecture, comprising a network of 83 buildings with advanced defensive systems from the feudal period.

Himeji Castle, also known as White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo) due to its elegant, white appearance, is widely considered as Japan’s most spectacular castle for its imposing size and beauty and its well preserved, complex castle grounds. The castle is both a national treasure and a world heritage site. Unlike many other Japanese castles, it was never destroyed by war, earthquake or fire and survives to this day as one of the country’s twelve original castles. The castle recently underwent extensive renovation over several years and was fully re-opened to the public in 2015.

Himeji Castle lies at a strategic point along the western approach to the former capital city of Kyoto. The first fortifications built on the site were completed in the 1400s, and were gradually enlarged over the centuries by the various clans who ruled over the region. The castle complex as it survives today is over 400 years old and was completed in 1609. It is made up of over eighty buildings spread across multiple baileys, which are connected by a series of gates and winding paths.

K Coffee – Yamatokoriyama, Japan

K Coffee opened in February 2014. It grew originally out of “Art Festival Hanarart”, an art festival which was held in Yamatokoriyama in 2013 with the aim of using art to bring vitality to the region. During the festival, Mr. Kazuya Mori opened up a coffee shop at the old gas station where the current shop now stands.

The “goldfish phone box” was set up as one of the artworks displayed at the festival. After the art festival was over, there were plans to clear away both the coffee shop and the phone box; however, Mr. Mori had taken a liking to the place, and started direct negotiations to rent the spot. Most people living in the area apparently were of the opinion “a coffee shop will never work in this location”; however, Mr. Mori was determined to take up the challenge. He went ahead with the plan, and K Coffee was inaugurated as an official business.

What makes this literal hole-in-the-wall so well known is their peculiar fish tank out front. It’s an old school phone booth filled to the top with water and goldfish.

Buddha Park of Ravangla

The Buddha Park of Ravangla, also known as Tathagata Tsal, is situated near Ravangla in South Sikkim district of the Indian state of Sikkim. It was constructed between 2006 and 2013, and features a 130-foot-high statue of the Buddha, erected to mark the 2550th anniversary of the birth of Gautama Buddha, as its main attraction. The statue, built of 60 tonnes of copper, is an example of repousse work. Mount Narsing forms the backdrop to the statue.

The site was chosen within the larger religious complex of Rabong Monastery, itself a centuries-old place of pilgrimage. Also nearby is Ralang Monastery, a key monastery in Tibetan Buddhism. Built and installed through the joint efforts of the government and people of Sikkim, the statue was consecrated on 25 March 2013 by the 14th Dalai Lama. The Buddhist circuit of the park was built under a state government project, intended to boost pilgrimage and tourism to the region. The Cho Djo lake is located within the complex, surrounded by forest. The park has a tranquil setting with spacious pathways, and there is a Buddhist conclave, a meditation centre and a museum with a spiral gallery.

Roman Aqueduct of Segovia, Spain

The huge Roman aqueduct built in Segovia, Spain, by the Roman Emperor Trajan (AD 98-117).

One of the best preserved Roman engineering works, the structure was constructed from approximately 24,000 dark colored Guadarrama granite blocks without the use of mortar. The above ground part is 2,388 feet long. And it consists of approximately 165 arches that are more than 30 feet in height.

The Inga Stone

THE INGÁ STONE

Located in Brazil. It is over 6,000 years old and has hundreds of strange symbols.

The archaeological site of the Ingá Stone, also known in the Tupi-Guarani language as the Itacoatiara do Ingá and Pedra do Ingá in Portuguese, is near the town of Ingá in northeast Brazil. The meaning of the carvings remain uncertain, but may allude to astronomy, animals and fruits.

The site was one of the first monuments of protected rock art in Brazil, exceptionally recognised for its artistic and historical importance. The Ingá Stone site consists of multiple basalt stones covered with glyphs. The main outcrop, featuring the three main rock art panels, forms a wall 24 metres long and 3.5 metres high at its highest point.

The engravings are generally non-figurative, and created using a technique of pecking at the stone and then polishing the grooves. Some of the figures also retain traces of pigment, suggesting they may have been coloured.

The first reports of rock art in the state of Paraíba were made by European settlers in the 16th century. The rock art at Ingá are the most representative group of a particular type of engraving tradition in Brazil.

Austrian-born Ludwig Schwennhagen, studied Brazilian history in the early twentieth century and found strong connections in appearance from the Inga symbols to not only the Phoenicians but also the demotic writings (linked more closely to business or literary document-style writings) of the ancient Egyptians. Further groups found a remarkable similarity of the carvings of Inga to the aboriginal artwork found on Easter Island.

The Missouri Compromise

By 1819, the population of Missouri had grown to the point where it was ready for statehood. Ten thousand slaves already lived in Missouri. As such, It was assumed Missouri would become a slave state. On February 13th James Tallmadge, a Congressman from Poughkeepsie, New York, introduced a resolution in Congress making two modifications to the Missouri Enabling Act (The Enabling Act would give Missouri statehood). This act would ban any further importation of slaves into Missouri. It would also set in motion the gradual emancipation of the slaves currently residing in Missouri. Raising these modifications, a one term Congressman began a battle over slavery that was only ended by the Civil War. Obviously the Tallmadge amendment was not acceptable to the Southern states. The Congress was deadlocked until a compromise could be found. That compromise became known as “The Missouri Compromise”. Under the terms of the compromise, Missouri was to be admitted as a slave state, while Maine was admitted as a free state. The rest of the territory acquired from France (north of the latitude 36’30’) would be free states, while south of that point would be slave states.

The Missouri Compromise (1819) set a number of precedents. First, states would enter the Union in pairs– a slave state and a free state. This compromise helped the Southern states, as they were often admitted to the Union sooner than they would normally have been admitted (in order to keep the balance). Second, the Missouri Compromise delayed the sectional breakup of the Jefferson’s Republican party. The battle over Missouri signified a solidification of the Southern opposition to the eventual emancipation of the slaves. Until the fight over Missouri’s admission to the Union, there was some hope the South would follow the path indicated by many of the founders; a path leading to the eventual voluntary emancipation of all slaves. By the time the Missouri Compromise was reached, it was clear this was not meant to be.

What are Pork Rinds? Cracklin?

Pork rinds are pork skin that have been dehydrated and deep-fried (or baked) until puffy and crisp. They have a deeply savory, pork flavor and eat like a bacon-flavored chip. Several cuisines feature pork rinds, though they go by different names and vary slightly.

In Central and South America, pork rinds are called chicharrons, and often have some meat attached to the skin as well, often pork belly. They’re eaten as a snack and can be served with dips, salsas and tortillas. In the Philippines, the food goes by the name of chicharron, and can be made by frying pork skins or pork belly strips to be consumed as a snack or main meal, respectively. In Thailand, deep-fried pork rinds are called kaeb moo; they can be made with just pork skin or pork skin with a bit of fat attached.

In the American South, pork rinds are called cracklings, or cracklins, and have a bit of fat and meat attached. Because they have some fat attached, it prevents the pork skin from curling when it puffs. You can find cracklings at gas stations and grocery stores in a variety of flavors, at barbecue joints or in contemporary American restaurants where they might accompany pimento cheese or smoked fish dip. In the U.K., pork rinds are called pork scratchings, where they are a popular snack served at pubs alongside pints of beer. Pork rinds have found their way onto restaurant menus here too, where they add savory crunch and bacon-esque flavor to dishes ranging from roasted vegetables to desserts.

Source: Food Network