Tag: World Heritage Sites

Yosemite – John Muir Trail

Yosemite – John Muir Trail

To get away from the crowds in the Yosemite Valley, you need to hike upwards.

We chose a five hour trail up to the Vernal and Nevada Falls. It was wonderful walking with fantastic views across the valley to Half Dome.

The trail started at the Happy Isles area and climbed 1900 feet following the Merced River. The waterfalls were in full flow following the very wet Californian winter.

Yosemite – the Valley

Yosemite – the Valley

After all the Ansel Adams photography, it seemed strange to see this gem of a national park in colour. Temperatures hit the high 80s as we cycled and walked around the Yosemite Valley.

It’s spelllbindingly attractive, but don’t come here if you want to get away from people. And photography is a lot harder than it should be due to the number of cars parked everywhere.

Perhaps the best way to see the Valley is from Tunnel View, see image below – El Capitan is on the left, Bridalveil Falls on the right with Half-Dome far away in the distance.

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If you plan to do this Even on a Monday, we were surprised how busy the Valley was. Unable to book accommodation inside the park, we stayed an hour away from the entrance, and had to get up early to secure convenient parking places. Cycles helped us get around the Valley quicker.

Old Quito – the silent city

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The Old Town from the terrace of our Airbnb

The Old Town in Quito is like a step back in time. It reminded Hilary of La Paz or Kathmandu back in the 1980s.

The Plaza del Independencia is well preserved, together with a wide area of surrounding streets with sublime old buildings. This was South America’s first UNESCO world heritage centre.

The streets were full of Bolivian women selling bags of fruits and vegetables and school children flooded the central square on a day out. Everywhere lots of police, some trying out their brand new Segways, in preparation for expected civil unrest in the next round of the presidential election.

A backdrop of high mountains and mists and the near total silence once darkness descends, make this a very special place.

Colonia del Sacramento

dscf1614We’re doing some rest and relaxation at this tourist destination on the Rio de la Plata. We can also tick off another UNESCO world heritage site; before the arrival of the day-trippers from Buenos Aires we took these photos in the historic old town.

Founded by the Portuguese in 1680, the town then ping-ponged between Portugal, Spain and Brasil so the houses and cobbled streets show a mix of architectural styles. Good to see them preserved.

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Trinidad Jesuit Mission

dscf1553We got to this little-visited UNESCO world heritage site by local bus from Encarnacion. Built in 1709, it’s considered the best preserved Jesuit Mission in Paraguay

For us it was an introduction to the story of the Jesuits in South America.

At least they were not all about subjugating and converting the natives/first nation people. In their self-sufficient Missions the locals – living alongside the Jesuits – saw real improvements to their standard of living and education. But this progress wasn’t allowed to last for long. The Spanish, fearing the power of the Jesuits, expelled them in 1767.

The ruins give a clear sense of how impressive this ‘model-community’ would have been. And in the carvings – especially the heads – we saw the fusion of European and native art.

Ghost towns of the Atacama

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The factory complex at Santa Laura – its production period was from 1916 to 1960

A short bus ride from Iquique are two UNESCO world heritage ghost towns – the Nitrate factories of Humberstone and Santa Laura. We had the eerily preserved schools, theatres, workshops, swimming pools, power rooms etc etc pretty well all to ourselves.

In the first half of the 20th century ‘Chilean Nitrate’ was the in-demand fertiliser for crops all around the world. But then air sourced Nitrates came along and these plants in the desert couldn’t compete any more; both closed in 1960.

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At Humberstone – named after it’s English founder – the workers lived in segregated housing separate from the managers
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The Humberstone factory complex viewed from the waste hill

As examples of our ability to create working communities in the most extreme environments, its great to see these sites listed, but UNESCO views their status as still endangered.

Day out in Valparaiso

img_8848Valparaiso is the biggest port in Chile, so the road from Santiago is dual-carriageway all the way. Took just one and a half hours by luxury bus.

It’s a busy working city and World Heritage Centre all thrown in together. Exhilarating but also very tiring. Famous old ascensores (elevators) take you to the Bohemian hill areas full of painted houses, edgy murals and intriguing alleyways.

And from every view point there’s the Pacific Ocean which we hadn’t seen for years; Hilary some 27 years ago, Roger some 31! Too long and sums up why we are travelling.

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“Theatres of Water” at Tivoli

“Theatres of Water” is how the fountains at Villa D’Este are described.

Villa D’Este is a magnificent villa in Tivoli built between 1560 – 1580 with a series of terraced gardens and magnificent fountains added at many levels. These are a miracle of Renaissance engineering, all powered by gravity, no powered pumps required.

The Fountain of the Organ was built in 1571 by French fountain engineer, Luc Leclerc. Water held in a reservoir, is sent into a cascade, mixing water with air. This is then separated, and the air plays the 144 pipes of the organ which are controlled by a cylinder driven by the water. It was the first of its kind and plays excellent organ music for four minutes. It astonished all who saw it back in the 16th century – when Pope Gregory XII first heard it in 1572, he insisted on opening it up and checking that no-one was playing music within.

The 17th Century apparatus had fallen into decay by the 18th century but was restored to working order in 2003. We can confirm it still plays four pieces of late renaissance music today.

 

Hadrian’s Villa

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Hadrian built a wall in Northern England, but also a vast country villa some 40 km north east of Rome at Tivoli; Villa Adriana (remember in Italian there is no ‘h’)

The AD 118-138 ruins are incredible; much more substantial than anything we have seen before. Baths with high arches, three story libraries and a vast area for hospitality. Shame though that the centrepiece – Hadrian’s inner sanctum, the Teatro Marittimo – is off-limits due to restoration work.

We had a discussion about Ancient Roman sexuality. There’s a temple here to Hadrian’s teenage lover, Antinous, who died in the River Nile when he was 20 years old. There is plenty of interesting speculation as to how and why he died…

The beauty of Paestum

We’ve been to Pompeii before, but never previously heard of the UNESCO World Heritage site at Paestum a bit further south in Campania.

And it’s breathtaking. And the peaceful, beautiful setting – on this December day almost empty of tourists – made it a real highlight of our travels so far. We can’t do better than show you four of our pictures.

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The Basilica is the oldest surviving temple (6th century BC)
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Dating from 450Bc is the mighty Tempio di Neptune
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The Tempio di Cerere is the first temple you see
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And in the museum – the stunning Tomb of the Diver (5th century BC)