Tuesday, November 3, 2015

San Antonio's Spanish Missions World Heritage Site

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio’s five Spanish colonial missions – four of them already protected as a national park – are being celebrated as one of the newest United Nations’ World Heritage Sites in a ceremony attended by world dignitaries and local community members. Representatives from the United States, Spain, and Mexico gathered with thousands of San Antonio citizens in a celebration ceremony at Mission San José to formally welcome the San Antonio Missions into the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage List.

A World Heritage designation brings awareness to the “outstanding universal value” and “cultural significance” of these missions as they join the ranks of other important global sites, including the Great Wall of China, Stonehenge, and the Giza Pyramid of Egypt. Designation as a World Heritage Site reflects the global interest in and historical impact of a certain location, which generates an increase in tourism to the site.

Below is a statement from Suzanne Dixon, Senior Director, Regional Operations of the National Parks Conservation Association:

“This celebration ceremony is the culmination of nine years of work by this community and its allies to make this designation a reality. The World Heritage List recognizes the most significant natural and cultural sites on the planet, and our missions have secured this prestigious and well-deserved distinction. The San Antonio missions are the country’s largest collection of Spanish colonial resources. They now stand among Earth’s greatest natural and cultural landmarks.”


About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Luxembourg Palace & Garden, Paris, France

View of the Luxembourg Palace and main fountain and boat pond.

The Luxembourg Palace is located at 15 rue de Vaugirard in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. It was originally built between 1615 and 1645 to be the royal residence of the regent Marie de Médicis, mother of Louis XIII of France. After the Revolution it was refashioned into a legislative building between 1835-1836 it was enlarged and remodeled. Since 1958 it has been the seat of the French Senate of the Fifth Republic. On the south side of the palace, the formal Luxembourg Garden presents a 25-hectare green parterre of gravel and lawn populated with statues and large basins of water where children sail model boats, some of which can be seen in the video below. Source: Wikipedia.

View overlooking the main fountain and central garden

Like many of the other magnificent buildings and palaces around Paris, and indeed elsewhere in France, one can only marvel at the amount of planning, money, labor, and resources that must have gone into erecting this massive palace, and into landscaping and maintaining the stunning gardens on which the palace and other buildings stand.

Today, the palace building is the home of the French senate. During my brief three of four hour visit to the palace grounds, I did not enter the main building itself. In fact, I'm not even sure if the building is open to the general public. However, the beautifully maintained gardens are open, and during my outing they were well patronized by locals and international visitors alike. There is much to see around the grounds including a series of statues of former French queens, saints and reproductions of classical Antiques.
L'acteur Grec (The Greek Actor), by Arthur Bourgeois (1838-1886)

You can wander through an orchard of apple and pear trees, enjoy a performance of the théâtre des marionnettes (puppet theatre), ride on a vintage carousel, enjoy one of the many free musical performances scheduled throughout the summer months, and visit the Orangerie with its displays of art, photography, and numerous sculptures. The grounds of the garden also contain more than one hundred statues, monuments, and fountains scattered throughout the 25-hectares (61 acres), including Frédéric Bartholdi’s first 1870 model for the Statue of Liberty.

Here's a short video compilation of photographs and video footage I put together of my visit:

More Information

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Silver Pagoda, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I visited Cambodia early in 2011 and during my stop in the national capital, Phnom Penh, I paid a visit to the complex housing the Royal Palace and the magnificent ‘Silver Pagoda’ which is located next to the Royal Palace.

Gleaming in gold, the Royal Palace is one of Phnom Penh's most splendid architectural achievements. It is home to His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk and Her Majesty Queen Norodom Monineath. The palace was built in 1866 by His Majesty Prince Bat Norodom, the great grandfather to the current King. The Royal Palace is built on the site of the old town. This site was especially chosen by a Commission of Royal Ministers and Astrologers because it had great geographical significance in relation to the King, who was regarded as a direct descendant of the gods. Credit: Tourism Cambodia… 

Among the images in the video are the Stupa of His Majesty King Suramarit and Her Majesty Queen Kossomak. A stupa (Sanskrit for "heap") is a mound-like or hemispherical structure containing "relics", typically the remains of Buddhist monks or nuns, used as a place of meditation. Most of the images are of the ‘Silver Pagoda’ and some of the monuments surrounding the building.

The 'Silver Pagoda' sits next to the Royal Palace. The Pagoda's proper name is Wat Preah Keo Morokat, which means 'The Temple of the Emerald Buddha.' It has received the common name 'Silver Pagoda' after the solid silver floor tiles that adorn the temple building. The pagoda compound as a whole contains several structures and gardens, the primary building being the temple Wat Preah Keo Morokat and other structures including a library, various stupas, shrines, monuments, minor buildings and the galleries of the Reamker.

The brief video footage shows one of the wonderful Ramayana Frescoes that line the interior of the pagoda compound walls. The murals were painted in 1903-1904 by a team of students working under the direction of artist Vichitre Chea and architect Oknha Tep Nimit Thneak. Over the 100+ years since they were first painted, some sections of the frescoes have become badly damaged and worn. While I was there, a small team of artists were at work on the frescoes conducting the painstaking work of restoring one of the longest murals.



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