Scenic river cruise to Pillnitz Castle in Dresden

Pillnitz Castle, the summer palace of the kings of Saxony. (Photo courtesy of Dresden Marketing)

Pillnitz Castle, the summer palace of the kings of Saxony.
(Photo courtesy of Dresden Marketing)

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

For something different, jump on one of the eight historic paddle steamers owned by the Saxon Steamship Co. It gives you a chance to explore the picturesque Elbe River, which divides Dresden.

Beautiful mansions line the scenic riverbanks, the summer homes of Dresden’s rich and powerful families. Our tour stopped at Pillnitz Castle, the summer palace of the kings of Saxony.

The complex actually has three palaces interlinked. The palaces encircle a wonderful baroque flower garden, while a lovely public park surrounds the grounds.

The castle was originally bought for the mistress of John George IV. When he died, his brother, Augustus the Strong, gave it to one of his own mistresses.

Since it was a warm fall day, we also strolled through the English gardens, Chinese pavilion, conifer garden and orangery.

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The Green Vault is the jewel box of Dresden

The Green Vault in Dresden (Photo courtesy of Dresden Marketing)

The Green Vault in Dresden (Photo courtesy of Dresden Marketing)

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Dresden is literally a jewel box when you visit Grünes Gewölbe, the Green Vault. It is one of the oldest museums in the world, even older than London’s British Museum.

Rulers used it as a private treasure trove in the 17th century. It was opened to the public by Augustus the Strong, who displayed his priceless works of art in gold and silver, as well as fabulous jewelry.

Named after the green-painted bases of its columns, the Green Vault was rebuilt after its destruction during the war, and the treasures were returned to Dresden in 1958 after being taken by the Red Army. In 2004, the New Green Vault opened its collection of art on the second floor of the Dresden Castle.

In 2006, the Historic Green Vault reopened with 3,000 magnificent pieces of jewelry made from gold, silver, amber and ivory. It also has the largest green diamond in the world.

While the new vault can be visited any time, the historic vault requires advance-purchase tickets for a specific time. A limited number of tickets are also sold every morning.

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Universal Studios Hollywood announces ‘Fast & Furious’ ride

Universal Studios HollywoodSM shifts into high gear with the debut of an innovative, national 30-second commercial for its summer 2015 launch of the “Fast & Furious—Supercharged” thrill ride during NBC’s Super Bowl Pre-Game coverage on Sunday.

The gripping spot will jump-start Universal Studios Hollywood’s campaign for the eagerly-anticipated opening of “Fast & Furious—Supercharged,” a high-octane, adrenaline-fueled thrill ride and new grand finale to the world-famous Studio Tour. fast

“What better place is there than the Super Bowl to launch a campaign where millions of viewers huddle for non-stop, edge-of-your-seat suspense,” said Larry Kurzweil, President, Universal Studios Hollywood.  “In just 30, thrilling seconds, our compelling spot resonates with the exhilaration this immersive thrill ride will deliver when it opens at Universal Studios Hollywood this summer.”

“Fast & Furious—Supercharged” will reunite stars from the Fast & Furious series in a groundbreaking mega-attraction, conceived as a new installment to the dynamic film franchise that can only be experienced at The Entertainment Capital of L.A.  FeaturingVin Diesel (Dominic “Dom” Toretto), Michelle Rodriguez (Letty Ortiz), Dwayne Johnson (Luke Hobbs), Tyrese Gibson (Roman Pearce) and Luke Evans (Owen Shaw), “Fast &Furious—Supercharged” will catapult guests into the high-stakes underground world of fast cars in a harrowing escapade to save one of their own from an international crime cartel.

The dynamic hydraulic motion-based ride will tell an original Fast & Furious story that fuses sophisticated hyper-realistic special effects with a state-of-the-art 3D audio system and 3D-HD imagery, projected onto the world’s longest and most expansive 360-degree screen.

Spanning nearly 400 feet in length to encircle Studio Tour guests within a newly constructed 65,000-square-foot structure on the legendary backlot, the sprawling custom-built screen will employ 34, 4K projectors and a sophisticated projection configuration system to fully envelope guests in unprecedented realism.

Coupled with an intense blend of thrilling visceral effects, “Fast & Furious—Supercharged” will take guests on a wild ride that begins the moment they board the Studio Tour.

Exclusive interstitial content, filmed with the cast members, will be featured on the tram monitors highlighting interactions as they engage guests en route to the ride’s climatic scenes.  Along the tram route and featured at the ride, sightings of numerous prop cars from the Fast & Furious series, including Dom’s iconic Dodge Charger, will enhance the story.

The adventure will culminate with spectacular action sequences that send guests careening through the streets of Los Angeles—at perceived speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour—aided by the elite team of unforgettable heroes.

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Dresden Frauenkirche rises from ashes of WWII

 

Dresden Frauenkirche, the Church of Our Lady,  (Photo courtesy of Dresden Marketing)

Dresden Frauenkirche, the Church of Our Lady, (Photo courtesy of Dresden Marketing)

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

The Dresden Frauenkirche, the Church of Our Lady, is perhaps the city’s diamond. Settling in for an evening musical performance, we felt transported back in time to when Dresden was indeed one of the cultural capitals of the Old World.

The majestic music floated up through the grand space. It’s hard to believe this stately church was destroyed in the Allied bombing.

Though the church withstood two days and nights of bombing by British and American bombers in February 1945, temperatures reached 1,832 degrees from the 650,000 incendiary bombs dropped on the city.That heat is what destroyed much of the area.

They say the church’s pillars glowed bright red before shattering, dropping 6,000 tons of stones through the floor.

Only the altar, with its depiction of Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, and the chancel were left standing.

The blackened stones sat in the city center for the next 45 years.
Residents balked at removing the ruins for a parking lot, and it became a war memorial. In 1982, the ruins became part of the peaceful protests against the East German government.

By 1989, tens of thousands of protesters toppled the Communist regime, bringing down the Iron Curtain to reunify East and West Germany.
Using the original plans, Dresden began reconstruction of the Church of Our Lady in 1993.

The famous landmark was finally finished in 2005. Today, the blackened stones stand out against newer stones.

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Dresden is the jewel box of Saxony, Germany

Dresden is a jewel on the Elbe River in Germany. (Photo courtesy of Dresden Marketing)

Dresden is a jewel on the Elbe River in Germany. (Photo courtesy of Dresden Marketing)

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Dresden has long been considered the jewel box of Saxony, Germany, with its many baroque and rococo buildings.

This gem was destroyed in the controversial Allied bombing that took place during the last months of World War II. An estimated 25,000 residents died in the attack, which leveled the city center.

It also lost some of its luster under the Communist regime of East Germany.

But the capital city of the state of Saxony, located near the border with the Czech Republic, is shining brightly once again.

Most of the historic downtown has been rebuilt, much of it from the original plans, restoring the unique culture and architecture of this city of 2 million on the Elbe River.

Take your time strolling through the clean streets, and savor the jewel box built by the wealthy kings and electors of Saxony. They brought artists, architects and musicians from across Europe to Dresden and the stunning results can be seen everywhere.

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Palmdale teacher wins London’s Guest of Honour

The Palmdale winner of an international search to find London’s Official Guest of Honour, who will embark on a unique two week trip to the city packed with a series of extraordinary experiences, says winning is like a dream come true.

The campaign, which has captured the imagination of people across the world, will see 24 year-old Adaeze Uyanwah travel to London next month to enjoy a once in a lifetime trip, during which she will be hosted by some of the capital’s most famous residents at the city’s most iconic visitor attractions.

Adaeze, 24, a substitute teacher and freelance writer, who is dreaming of waking up at Buckingham Palace, has described the chance of coming to London as like winning the magic ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Last year a record 16.8 million international visitors came to London but the new figures put the city on course to top this number. US visitors are coming to London in increasing numbers.

Now, Guest of Honour Adaeze will visit some of London’s world famous attractions and immerse herself in the vibrancy and diversity of the city. Visitlondon.com, in partnership with VisitBritain and the UK Government’s GREAT Britain campaign, will be rolling out the red carpet for Adaeze who will;

  • Visit the Science Museum with renowned physicist Professor Stephen Hawking.
  • Have afternoon tea at Lord’s Cricket Ground with Downton Abbey’s butler Carson – actor Jim Carter
  • Take a behind the scenes tour of the Houses of Parliament with Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP
  • Open Tower Bridge, the most famous bridge in the world
  • Have a meal cooked by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton at his flagship restaurant, Pollen Street Social
  • Be taken on a tour of the Royal Opera House by world-famous singer and conductor, Plácido Domingo and British ballerina and Strictly Come Dancing judge Darcey Bussell,
  • Take a VIP tour with former tennis star Tim Henman of the All England Tennis Club, which hosts The Wimbledon Championships.

During her two week stay in London, Adaeze is particularly looking forward to visiting the Houses of Parliament but will also be venturing outside of the capital including a trip to Wales.

Adaeze, who will travel to London with her mum, Faye, and stay in a luxurious suite at the Radisson Blu Edwardian, Mercer Street, said: “I cannot express how excited and happy I am to be coming to London! Winning this competition feels like a dream come true – like something out of ‘Charlie and The Chocolate Factory’.

“I have been in love with London and the UK ever since I can remember and I am so grateful that I’m able to bring my mother and share all of these incredible experiences with her – we are beyond excited!”

“I’m confident Adaeze will take away amazing memories and encourage her American friends to join the millions of international visitors enjoying London’s rich culture, events and iconic landmarks every year,” said Mayor of London Boris Johnson

Over 100,000 people registered on the Guest of Honour website and 10,000 people submitted entries which included a short film and in 70 words described their perfect day in London.

“First, I’d wake up at Buckingham Palace if possible. Then I’d go for a full English breakfast at a traditional English pub. I’d then take a tour of Parliament and see a show in the West End. I’d end the day on the London Eye, overlooking the city. There are so many more things I’d love to do in my favourite city! Not enough hours in the day,” Adaeze said

Adaeze, who is a big fan of Harry Potter, added: “Ever since I was a toddler, all I’ve heard about is London.  It’s got so much culture, so much tradition, that I’m just not used to… It’s beautiful, in my opinion, I love London so much.”

Great things for 2015 include Hamlet at the Barbican, with Benedict Cumberbatch, a new Damien Hirst Gallery in Lambeth, Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A, Prudential Ride London, the Rugby World Cup, a new Shrek visitor attraction on the South Bank and dozens and dozens more.

To find out more go to www.visitlondon.com/guest or follow Adaeze’s journey live @LondonGuest

 

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Celebrity offers So Cal residents $1,000 in savings

As the Southern California economy rebounds and residents increase their travel to destinations, a great deal is still a great deal. How about the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska and Asia? Celebrity Cruises offers Southern California residents a deal with savings of up to $1000 per stateroom.

WHO:         Celebrity Cruises

WHEN:        Departures from January through July, 2015

 BOOK BY:      January 23, 2014        

COST:              Cruises start at $299 per person for inside staterooms, plus port fees and taxes for a 4-night Caribbean cruise

WHERE:         4-night Caribbean cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette with ports of call in: Cozumel and Ft. Lauderdale

7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard Celebrity Summit with ports of call in: Bridgetown, Barbados; Castries, St. Lucia; St. John’s, Antigua; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas and San Juan, Puerto Rico

                          14-night Italy and Croatia cruise about Celebrity Constellationwith ports of call in Koper, Slovenia; Zader, Croatia; Split, Croatia; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; Naples, Italy; Catania, Sicily, Italy; Ravenna, Italy and Venice, Italy

Call your local travel agent or Celebrity Cruises at1-888-283-6879

www.celebritycruises.com/socal;                  Twitter:  www.twitter.com/celebritysocal Instagram:  CelebrityCruisesSoCal

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Win a wintercation along Oregon Coast

This winter, take advantage of one of Oregon’s best-kept secrets — winter on the Coast. This is the season that the Coast reveals some of its most beautiful treasures.

Catch sight of great gray whales on their southern migration from the Bering Sea to the warm waters of Baja. Look for spouts from 24 designated whale-watching spots staffed with volunteers during Whale Watching Week in December.

Winter is also storm-watching season — time to curl up by the fire and catch the tremendous wave show going on outside. The calm weather that follows is perfect for agate hunting and beaching combing on freshly scoured sands.

Try your handcrabbing from the dock during Dungeness season, which peaks in December, or purchase a freshly caught crustacean from a Coast fish market.

Get out on the water and explore miles of kayaking trails. Winter’s higher water levels on Coast rivers, bays and estuaries make for great wildlife- and bird-watching from the boat. And for some indoor pleasure, warm up inside with a pint of Oregon craft beer from a growing number of fine Coast breweries.

Want to win an Oregon Coast Wintercation of your own? Enter to win a trip for two on a guided whale-watching charter from Newport Tradewinds, $100 to spend at Rogue Ales and a stay at the Elizabeth Street Inn. We’re also including tickets to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, Ripley’s Believe it Or Not, Undersea Gardens and Wax Works, and a couple of bowls of clam chowder at Mo’s.

Get inspired: Read more about some of our favorite Oregon Coast Wintercations.

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Legoland California offers Holiday Snow Days

Celebrate the holidays with us at these Special Events! Winter Nights festivities at 5-7pm every Saturday in December, plus December 22-23, 26-30. Nightly Tree Lighting at 5pm, now through December 25. Holiday Fireworks at 7pm on December 26-30. Kids’ New Year’s Eve celebration from 11:30am-6pm on December on December 31.


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Christmas markets entice visitors in Ireland

Christmas markets in Dublin and Belfast are bursting with unique gifts, festive spirit, fantastic craic, and adventure-shopping.

Fall under the spell of spicy mulled wine, the scent of gourmet food, Christmas carols and the spirit of jolly shoppers. Dublin is a magical place at Christmas.

The first city-center Christmas Market on St Stephen’s Green promises to be the jewel of Dublin’s festive calendar through Dec. 23.

More than 60 traditional wooden chalets line St Stephen’s Green Park, next to the famous Dublin shopping mecca of Grafton Street – itself a great Christmas destination – offering a unique selection of quality goods.
There’ll be everything from handcrafted gifts, spices and chutneys as well as gourmet crepes, bratwurst, chocolate fountains, Glühwein and other seasonal non-alcoholic drinks to enjoy. Entertainment from local choirs and carollers add to the festive spirit.

There‘s an amazing amount of events around Dublin too, everything from the Peter Pan panto at the Gaiety Theatre to Ireland’s largest Christmas ice rink at Christmas Wonderland to a Live Animal Crib and Carols by Candlelight at Christ Church Cathedral.

In Belfast, there’s the huge, lively Continental Market that transforms the City Hall lawns into a bustling village.
Almost 100 European traders offer something for everyone, including a wide selection of food, unique gifts, drinks and entertainment.

Everyone comes to chill out in the onsite bars serving the best local and European brews, and to sample exotic tastes like ostrich burgers and eggnog.

The Victorian-vintage St George’s Market was voted the UK’s Best Large Indoor Market 2014 by the National Association of British Market Authorities.

It runs an annual Christmas Craft Fair and opens for additional days during the Christmas period. Enjoy the experience of being at St George’s Market at Yuletide.

Rediscover the adventure of real-life market browsing.

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