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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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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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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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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Universal Studios offers 20 Days of “Grinchmas”

Photo courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywod

Photo courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywod

It’s the most wonderful time of the year as Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal CityWalk deck the halls for a wintry calendar of cool holiday activities at The Entertainment Capital of L.A.

A very, merry Grinchmas returns to Universal Studios Hollywood as the theme park celebrates the Who-lidays with The Grinch, his faithful dog Max and a roster of Whos from the town of Who-ville.

“Grinchmas” runs weekends on Dec. 6-7 and 13-14, then continues daily from Dec. 19 through Jan. 3.

The Universal Plaza, an elaborate grand piazza at the heart of the theme park, will serve as the backdrop for the lighting of the towering “Grinchmas” tree – a whimsical centerpiece twisting and spiraling 60 feet above visitors and providing the ideal setting for merry holiday making memories, while The Grinch, his adorable dog Max and the WhovilleWhos entertain guests nearby with fun-filled photo opportunities.

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La Quinta Resort debuts multi-million makeover

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 It’s a new day in the desert as La Quinta Resort & Club, the first resort to debut in Palm Springs, adds another gem to its crown: a multi-million dollar milestone restoration befitting of a legendary classic.

Shouldered by the rugged Santa Rosa Mountains and a storied Hollywood past, the iconic 1926 landmark steps up with fresh, contemporary look while retaining the glamour and architectural elements that anchor what has always been an authentic experience.

Ready for its close up, the resort-wide renovation encompasses upgrades of all guest casitas, starlight villas and suites as well as a re-imagined pool experience. The ambitious project also infuses the resort’s lush 45 acres with a bevy of additional bougainvillea, roses and citrus trees. www.laquintaresort.com.

This signature Waldorf Astoria resort has long been a vortex for the sports- and culinary-minded, a haven for urbanites looking to unplug and refuge for Hollywood’s elite seeking an escape from the limelight.  One can easily decamp here to sketch out a screenplay (as Frank Capra did), drill down a handicap or rekindle a flame.

From the stately Spa at La Quinta® to five championship golf courses including PGA WEST’s® TPC Stadium Course and award-winning Morgan’s in the desert, La Quinta Resort once again sets the stage as California’s top desert retreat.

Drawing inspiration from the colorful desert environs, Los Angeles-based firm Smith & Firestone created a residential-style design featuring custom tile work and wrought iron elements, new furniture, floor coverings and two-toned blocked drapery panels.

The resort’s signature casitas, clustered around 41 showcase pools, are set in a fresh earthen palette of ivory, terracotta and chocolate offset with citrus overtones.

Stylized Palomino textured leather bed benches, crisp hued pillows and throws adorn luxurious Wingback style headboards and contemporary Victorian chairs, while upgraded lighting and blue-sky accessories enhance guest bathrooms.clip_image004

Standout elements include oversized, nail-head embellished headboards flanked by two arched mirrors reflecting the resort’s colorful tile designs.  Rich maple furnishings mirror the stunning geometric floor treatment set in beige and cocoa.

Starlight Casita patios, popular for their stunning mountain views, debut romantic new fire features as well as plush couches and tables for alfresco entertaining.

The custom-designed suites, including the coveted El Presidente with a showcase private pool and spa, share a similar design as well as new landscaping, updated patio furniture and renovated decks.

New amenities include 42- to 47-inch flat-screen high-definition televisions, mini refrigerators, Keurig® coffee makers, charging stations with dual USB ports, upgraded fireplaces and photography inspired by the storied history of the resort and its surroundings.

La Quinta Resort & Club participates in Hilton HHonors®, the only guest loyalty program that allows members to earn Points & Miles® for the same stay and redeem points for free nights with No Blackout Dates at more than 4,100 hotels worldwide.

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San Diego brews up events for Beer Week in November

Building off the success of the past five San Diego Beer Weeks, the San Diego Brewers Guild is preparing for San Diego Beer Week 2014 on Nov. 7-16.

San Diego Beer Week is a ten-day celebration inspiring people to drink local, craft beer and promoting San Diego’s thriving brewing culture with multiple events happening across the county.

San Diego is home to more than 90 breweries and has gained an international reputation for brewing award-winning beers. The city’s breweries brought home more medals at the 2010 World Beer Cup than the traditional beer countries of England, Germany, and Belgium combined and won 20 medals at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival.

With the popularity of craft beer on the rise, San Diego is poised to be the capital of craft beer tourism in the United States.

Scenes from the 2011 Beer Week

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Las Vegas gears up for Halloween

With boozy concoctions and a sinful nightlife scene for naughty nurses and devilish doctors and attractions and indulgences for loyal minions and adorable Elsas, there’s no doubt Las Vegas is one of the best places to celebrate the ominous occasion.

Attractions for Creatures Big and Small

  • The world-famous dance crew JABBAWOCKEEZ will celebrate Halloween with a special 4 p.m. matinee performance of “PRiSM” at Luxor Hotel and Casino on Friday, Oct. 31. Locals are invited to take advantage of a “Buy One, Get One Free” ticket offer. Complimentary candy will be provided to guests who arrive in costume as well as JABBAWOCKEEZ T-shirts awarded to the best costumes. And this year, Nevada Day falls on Halloween, so the kids are out of school!
  • At Shark Reef Aquarium’s Haunted Reef inside Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Halloween and Dia de los Muertos come together for a frighteningly good weekend. On Friday, Oct. 31 the Haunted Reef will host its annual community day. Kids ages 12 and under who dress up in a Halloween costume, as well as any adults who donate blood at the designated United Blood Services booth, will gain free admission to the aquarium. The weekend will continue with trick or treating, decorations and events that pay tribute to Dia de los Muertos.
  • Fright Dome at Circus Circus Las Vegas instills fear into the hearts of everyone brave enough to enter one of the nation’s top-ranked haunted attractions. This year’s theme, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, has guests screaming as they step into scenes from the iconic film to fend off attacks from the notorious Leatherface. As if it couldn’t get any more terrifying, Fright Dome double-dog dares guests to enter “Isolation,” a haunted house for those bold enough to brave the traps and crazed inhabitants alone. This is the first year guests can experience the newest roller coaster, El Loco, under the darkness of the haunted attraction. El Loco is an adrenaline-pumping adventure complete with G drops, gravity-defying turns and over-the-edge twists. Fright Dome is open 7 p.m. – midnight, through Oct. 31 on select nights.
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Tucson Tales: Historic downtown area welcomes visitors

 

Downtown Tucson

Downtown Tucson


By Chris Ledermuller, Staff Writer

The civic and commercial heart of Tucson is also its soul, with SunLink running right in the middle of the action. Tucson grew upward and outward from this compact district east of the Santa Cruz river, and it was establishing its stature as a place of consequence for a couple of centuries. Culture, commerce and conflict shaped the city, its people and its urban form.

Native American nations tamed the unforgiving desert climate and thrived on agriculture and artisanship in the pre-modern era. Tucson still has one of the largest urban Native American populations in the U.S., with the Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui having deep roots in southern Arizona.

Tucson’s urbanization began in earnest before the Declaration of Independence, with the Spanish establishing a presidio in 1775. Spain, and then Mexico after its independence, influenced southern Arizona even after the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, making Arizona a U.S. territory.

The territorial period put Tucson in the path of the frontier tidal wave and its place in the myth and reality of the Old West. Tucson found its solid economic footing by the time Arizona achieved statehood a century ago, with the biggest boom yet to come in the mid-20th century with the Interstate Highway System and air conditioning creating growth previously unimaginable.

They are all visible in a downtown that’s, surprisingly, an urbanist’s dream come true. Tucson, like most Sun Belt cities, absorbed a large population of aspiring suburbanites who wanted their place in the sun. Tucson, unlike most Sun Belt cities, managed to preserve its downtown from the depredations of post-World War II life: wide roads, constant air conditioning, strip malls and chain stores.

Tucson saved many of its old buildings from being clear-cut for garages, or worse, surface parking lots. Businesses did not turn their store entrances away from the street. Also, much of urban Tucson was platted out on an orthogonal grid of long blocks and wide boulevards.

Downtown maintained its teardrop-shaped boundary and its disharmonious clash of narrow, short-block streets. These are not conducive to fast, efficient movement for motorists — but do create a safe, fun environment for pedestrians — and now, SunLink riders.

Tucson’s civic leaders and downtown business community pursued a concerted historic preservation policy, all of which bear fruit in an attractive, fun and enjoyable atmosphere for workers, visitors, shoppers and anyone in between. This is how the heart of a city should be, complete with a healthy beat.

 

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