Monday, July 29, 2013

Off the Beaten Track in Tuscany's Maremma Region - Seven Reasons to Visit

There are many reasons, including the seven below, why Maremma in the south-west of Tuscany should be included on any itinerary of that stunning region of Italy, including its accessibility from both Florence and Rome.

  1. Physical landscape
  2. Maremma has a wild and diverse natural landscape that includes undulating hills covered in forests of pine, chestnut, beech and oak as well as pristine secluded beaches along its 250 kilometres of spectacular coastline. There are karst lakes with geothermal spouts, salt marshes and estuaries, some preserved as nature parks with a large variety of bird species, and then there are the Metalliferous Hills that ring the Gulf of Fullonica.
  3. Villages and towns
  4. Its tranquil hilltop villages, such as Pitigliano, with their towers, churches, stone houses, winding streets and artistic legacy, evoke the Medieval and Renaissance periods. Along the coastal areas of the turquoise waters of the Tyrrennian Sea are delightful fishing villages like Castiglione della Pescaia and Talamone where time appears to have stood still.
  5. Old traditions
  6. Life in Maremma is simple but rich. It moves to the old rhythms and many of the ancient ways still flourish. One such tradition is that of the butteri, the herdsmen of Maremma. The butteri once managed the area's distinctive long-horned cattle, and one might be lucky to catch a glimpse of them during festivals and on special occasions.
  7. Slow Food
  8. There is an inseparable connection between past traditions, ancient recipes and their slow food specialties like acquacotta, a delicious vegetable soup, and papadelle al sugo di cinghiale, a local pasta and wild boar sauce. The area is also known for its organic beef, caprini goats' cheeses, extra virgin olive oil and honey. The wines of the area have tended to be ignored but local vignerons are now producing some of the most interesting at far below usual Tuscan prices. One to try is Morellino di Scansano.
  9. Festivals
  10. Throughout the year are many historical and cultural festivals. The Balestro del Girifalco is a medieval pageant complete with costumes, banner throwing and a target shooting competition between 24 crossbowmen held on the 4th Sunday of May and the 2nd Sunday of August in Massa Marittima.
  11. Archaeological sites
  12. Maremma is noted for its ancient sites that date from the time of the Etruscans (7th-4th centuries BCE) who gave their name to Tuscany and mined extensively for copper and other minerals. They were known in the pre-Roman era for their towns, expertise in metal products and advanced industrial development.
  13. Recreation
  14. The Maremma offers beautiful beaches as well as plenty of opportunities for the nature enthusiast specially in the 17 000-hectare Parco Dell'Uccellini wher the visitor might happen upon wild boar, deer, buzzards, peregrines and seasonal birds. The Mountain Commission of the area has created a 400-kilometre network of tracks through the Alta Maremma and these allow for trekking on foot, mountain bike and horseback.

The Maremma is a relatively undiscovered part of Tuscany that has much to offer from its wild landscape, architectural and historical gems, farm-fresh cuisine and good wine.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Revel in a Legendary Normandy Vacation

Travelling to France for a Normandy vacation is the epitome of holidays in France. Situated along the coast of the English Channel to the north of France, this region is made up of five distinct counties. Each lends their rich, varied heritage, cultural tapestry and breathtaking landscapes to make Normandy a legendary land with green valleys, meandering rivers, spectacular coasts and lush forests. Holidays in Normandy will enthral you with some of the most beautiful countryside in France, with picturesque Norman villages and unique sites.

Scenic Countryside

Your Normandy vacation would be replete with views of the stunning landscapes, from the rugged cliffs at the coast to the hills to the valleys of the interior. The artistic Romantic movement of the late 18th century drew renowned painters such as Turner to admire the fabulous landscape and produce fantastic masterpieces on canvas depicting the Normandy countryside. His contemporary, Theodore Gericault, from the town of Rouen, was equally inspired by strong emotions evoked from an awe of the forces of nature which he translated into sweeping works of incredible art.

Later artists of great stature such as Claude Monet, the founder of French impressionist painting, further enhanced the general public's appreciation of Normandy scenes with his paintings of water lilies. Monet's water lily garden in Giverny is a focal point for tourists during their holidays in Normandy. All these striking colours, unusual light and dazzling scenery are as beautiful today as they were when first painted in the 19th century. Normandy's artistic heritage is now on public display in museums throughout the world.

Golfing Haven

The charming countryside is enhanced with world class golf courses that are spread all across the region. When you're embarking on golfing holidays in France, a Normandy vacation will bring you to some of the most striking courses in the land. Combine your golf with culture as you visit the numerous Abbeys, chateaux and cathedrals where you can enjoy the brilliant artistic and architectural legacy of Normandy. You can tee off in a golf course in Rouen, famous for its 100 bell towers and as the city in which Joan of Arc was martyred. You can later sample the Normandy haute cuisine with its predilection for apples, cider, shellfish and pommeau.

While you spend your holidays in Normany, you may want to stay in gites in Normandy. These are quaint cottages that are rented out by the owners for tourists and travellers. Fully furnished and equipped with all the modern conveniences, gites offer complete privacy in a self contained and self catering establishment. You can even keep in regular contact with your friends and loved ones through broad band internet access in many facilities.

When planning your Normandy vacation, make it a point to experience authentic French hospitality, generosity and warmth in villages and towns that dot the countryside. Your holidays in France will be filled with exquisite memories of the tranquil yet awe inspiring natural beauty of Normandy. Relax in premier gites in Normandy at Le Manoir Nezemet.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Land As a Historical Legacy

Land is indeed a historical legacy as it signifies the heritage from the past. Land has always been the major cause of wars among nations as it represents power. Its possession is highly esteemed since it entails a propagation of one's values, culture and religion through control of land Thus land has acquired historical legacy as it has been conquered by different people.

With the historical aspect to land its value only increases. People also buy land according to its historical value. Land is protected too and considered as national sites by governments to preserve its historical legacy. America was discovered by Christopher Columbus and the vast territory of the country has been subject to conflicts and wars with the Indians in the past. It can be said that land has a memory of its own. The state of Washington for example is named after General Washington who was commander in chief in 1770's in military campaigns for American Revolution. Since many battles have been fought and many lives lost to achieve Declaration of Independence, land's value has soared dramatically.

America has made the nation by an act of their own free will to liberate themselves from British colony. The aggregate area under the sovereignty of the jurisdiction of the united state is 9, 06500 km. Thus, this vast area has an ancient heritage of struggle and desire for freedom. Land in America is symbolical of liberty and if one owns land it is even more valuable. The history of America is one denoting autonomy and freedom from bondage. Visionaries found in this land a place for virtuous life to help the oppressed of all lands. People across the world still view America as a land where they can fulfill their wishes. This is also known as the American Dream. This intrinsic concept of land as liberty has appreciated its value. Immigration to America is one of the great migrations of human history. Thus, the land was highly prized and still is. Land is mostly needed for production and the limited portion is filled with people in crowded cities like New York and Los Angeles.

In the past, the American Indians have occupied almost the entire landscape of North and South America. Since their economy was mostly based on intensive cultivation of domestic plants, this has safeguarded land from pollution and destruction. Land was not used for industrial purposes by these people. They principally lived on farming before European contact. Precisely because land is a precious natural asset, many battles have also been fought to appropriate the plains and acquisition of territory in North America. Although land was frequently obtained through agreement, force was also used. The Anglo-American campaign against the Indians had a momentous effect on land expansion as these lands were needed for widening plantations. In 1830, the Indian Removal Act called for the transfer of all Indians east of Mississippi to lands west of river. In 1900's, an Act allowed president of U.S to parcel tribal land called allotments. It was a mechanism to acquire more Indian land Thus we can see that land is at the center of much conflict as it cannot be dissociated from its historical side which only highlights its worth.

Land represents its people, customs and above all its history. Whenever people buy land they are eager to know about its history so as to live in harmony. The past defines the nature of the land Without history, a land is barren. So, by preserving land history is perpetrated and along with it the financial value of terrain.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Legacy of Operation Ajax

Iran has always played a pivotal role in world politics. It was once a world-class empire, it is strategically located at a crossroad between Europe, the Near East, and Asia, and it has the world's second largest petroleum reserves. In the 18th and 19th Century, it was the battleground between imperial rivals Russia and Britain in what came to be known as "The Great Game". In both World Wars, Iran held a strategic position and was pivotal to the Allies' victory. In 1951, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) controlled Iranian petroleum production. Little of the company's profits went to Iran and the AIOC's Iranian workers were severely mistreated and underpaid. On April 30, 1951, everything changed. The Iranian parliament, with the support of Prime Minister Mossadeq, voted to nationalize Iran's oil. The following years would change Iran, America, and the world forever.
In Stephen Kinzer's book All the Shah's Men, the author prefaces the book with the discourse of an Iranian woman,

'Why did you Americans do that terrible thing?' she cried out. 'We always loved America. To us, America was the great country, the perfect country, the country that helped us while other countries exploited us. But after that moment, no one in Iran ever trusted the United States again. I can tell you for sure that if you had not done that thing, you would never have had the problem of hostages being taken in your embassy in Tehran. All your trouble started in 1953. Why, why did you do it?'

This woman's statement gives us a glimpse of Iranian sentiment regarding American involvement in the 1953 Coup, codenamed Operation Ajax; an event that to this day few Americans know about. Are her statements accurate? Did the United States really destroy a democracy? Examining her claim will show that her views hold some truth, and that her sentiments reflect a deep resentment among Iranians. This examination will summarize the Iranian-American interactions that culminated in Operation Ajax, examine the effects of the 1953 Coup, and determine that the Coup was detrimental to Iranian-American relations; specifically, the Coup hurt American credibility, resulted in anti-American sentiment, and directly led to the Hostage Crisis of 1979.

A Brief Look at the 1953 Coup

In 1950, Iran's economy was in a state of depression. Contrarily, the flourishing Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was pumping oil from Iranian soil with the help of Iranian workers, yet it was the United Kingdom who benefited the most. The company paid the British government more in income taxes than it paid Iran in royalties. According to Pollack, "[The AIOC] lied and manipulated its books to underpay the Iranian government to the tune of billions of dollars...violated the terms of the 1933 concession...paid [workers] 50 cents per day...[while workers had] no vacation, no sick leave, and no disability compensation." The anger and resentment over the AIOC, as well as Mohammad Reza Shah's attempts to centralize authority in his hands led to the establishment of the National Front.

The National Front's confrontations with the Shah, and later the British government, led to the American involvement in Iran that culminated in the events of August 1953. There were two different presidential administrations in America during the time period of the National Front, and while these administrations held the same ideology, they undertook different policies towards Iran. The Truman administration's black-and-white image of the Cold War led to its support of the National Front and Mossadeq's efforts. He was worried that British demands would lead to the Iranians turning to the Communists for help. Furthermore, Truman recognized that the National Front was a nationalist movement, a not a Communist movement. This mentality led to closer relations between Iran and the United States during this period of the Nationalization Crisis, including defensive pacts, monetary aid, and more pressure American on the British government to compromise with the Iranians.
In 1950, ARAMCO, an American oil conglomeration, agreed to a 50-50 profit split between it and the Saudi government. At this point, the Iranian parliament, known was the Majles, attempted to workout a compromise with the British. The British refused. This refusal, coupled with ARAMCO's deal, eliminated any moderate solution and led to the drive for nationalization, resulting in the Majles's nationalization legislation, which was passed on April 30, 1951.
The British were furious. Their government plotted attacks as well as a coup attempt in Iran, but the Americans once again stepped in supporting the Iranian cause, as fears grew that a British invasion would lead to a similar Russian invasion. Yet, regardless of America's pro-nationalist stance, Mossadeq denounced any American intervention in Iranian affairs.

Britain then attempted to take the nationalization issue to the United Nations. Mossadeq's speech to the world community in defense of his actions was compelling and he won the admiration of the American people and the United Nations. The United Nations declared then that the nationalization crisis was an internal issue. This was one of Mossadeq's greatest victories. Yet the British felt humiliated and were still unwilling to compromise.

At this point, an internal power struggle in Iran led to Mossadeq's de facto control of the government, and the Shah's defeat and escape to Rome. It was now that the British attempted a compromise, but Mossadeq was unwilling, making him seem stubborn, particularly in the eyes of newly elected President Eisenhower.

One of the turning points of this conflict came with Eisenhower's inauguration as President of the United States. Mossadeq thought that Eisenhower would be even more sympathetic to his cause, but he was mistaken. Eisenhower also took a black-and-white approach to the Cold War, much like Truman, but the discrepancy can best be summarized by the phrase, "you're either with us, or against us." As far as John Foster Dulles, the Secretary of State (whose brother, Allen Dulles was the head of the Central Intelligence Agency) and President Eisenhower were concerned, Mossadeq was against them. Initially, Eisenhower was sympathetic to Mossadeq, but Secretary Dulles convinced him otherwise. The issue was exacerbated by Mossadeq's threat to side with the Soviets if the British-Iranian dispute were not resolved.

On August 15, 1953, the CIA, operating from the American Embassy in Tehran, underwent its first operation: Operation Ajax. The undertaking sought to depose Mossadeq and re-install the Shah as the autocratic leader of Iran's government. Through the dispersion of money and the gathering of crowds, the operation was successful, and Mossadeq was defeated.

The Myth of the 1953 Coup

"At a time when America is telling the world its aims are to bring democracy to the whole plant, the Mossadeq era proves all of America's protestations to be a long lie." - An Iranian Blogger

Many Iranians denounce America's involvement in the 1953 Coup, but did the event destroy a democracy and is the United States to blame?

First, it is important to note that Mossadeq had a near autocracy during his rule. After the deposition of the Shah, Mossadeq was given near-autocratic powers by the Iranian Majles. Second, the United States had previously made efforts to help the Iranians, but Mossadeq seemed unwilling to reciprocate. Finally, it was Iranians who carried out the Coup with CIA support; it was not an exclusively American undertaking; there was then a great deal of disaffection with Mossadeq in Iran, particularly among Iran's political elite. In terms of CIA involvement, the Americans only used $100,000 and British intelligence to engineer the Coup.

Mossadeq was certainly not a perfect leader. He possessed many character flaws that hurt his cause. His antics may have been received with favor in Iran, but internationally, they made him a spectacle and a laughing stock. Mossadeq also became increasingly isolated and trusted no one, particularly his fellow Iranians. This led to his denouncement of those who voiced any opposition to his plan as traitors and British conspirators, thereby deepening his opposition base. Mossadeq was also uncompromising; he was unwilling to broker a 50-50 deal with the British, a deal which Truman appealed to Mossadeq to accept. His inflexibility particularly after this incident led Eisenhower and his administration to believe that the only solution to the Mossadeq situation was to depose Mossadeq and place a more easily influenced leader in Iran.

While there is a great deal of evidence and claims that the Coup was not solely fueled by the CIA, the organization did act as a catalyst and was responsible for placing the Shah in power after Mossadeq's fall. Keddie states that "the coup could not have succeeded without significant internal disaffection or indifference, but without outside aid it would not have occurred." The CIA unified Mossadeq's opposition and armed them with money and information, allowing the Coup to take shape. As opposed to restoring power to the Iranian parliament after the Coup, the CIA supported a more malleable figure: the Shah, thus guaranteeing that Iran would become an authoritarian state. This later came to be seen as evidence that America did not want democracy for the Middle East, but rather wanted to control the region.
Regardless of the truths and myths of the Coup, the sentiments of the Iranian people determined the event's impact on Iranian-American relations. Neither the realities nor the actualities of the events of August 1953 matter when dealing with such an emotional issue. While many argue that it was not solely the actions of the CIA that led to Mossadeq's toppling, the myth and political folklore created from the event tell a different tale. Many Iranians regard Mossadeq as "an uncorrupted modernizer and democrat who defied the imperialists." Iranians also conclude that Iran would be a democracy today were it not for the events of 1953. While the idea seems far-fetched, as Mossadeq was a near autocrat during his rule, he was still democratically elected and his powers were derived from the Iranian parliament. The emotional nature of the incident led to the status of Mossadeq as a martyr and a symbol of American treachery. Among the burgeoning Iranian blogs, many place pictures of Mossadeq without any text on significant dates associated with the popular leader as a show of morning over a lost opportunity. The caption of one blogger read, "In honor of Dr, Mossadeq, a man who never betrayed his own people..."

The Legacy of the Coup

"...Operation Ajax has left a haunting and terrible legacy." - Stephen Kinzer

The Coup has had many repercussions on American-Iranian relations, reaching from anti-American ideological positions to historical occurrences, such as the Hostage Crisis.
The ideological products of the 1953 Coup include anti-Americanism and an obsession with foreign intervention in Iran. The ideologies did appear before the Coup, but they were strongly reinforced and solidified by the events of August 1953.
First, the anti-Americanism found in the Iranian Revolution and during the Shah's time can be attributed to the actions of the CIA and the Coup's placement of the Shah as despot of Iran. While it is important to acknowledge that the British were involved in the Coup, not only did the Iranians think very little of the British, but also the United States was "seen as a betrayer and not just an old enemy." Prior to the Coup, the United States was very popular in Iran. But because the Americans were responsible for the Shah's dictatorship and for supporting him throughout his reign, the blame for the Shah's actions fell on America. The Shah thereby became a symbol of America's intervention in Iranian affairs. The conspiracy theories that Iranians had perpetuated turned out to have truth behind them: "...the United States did help to overthrow Mossadeq, and it was culpable in the establishment of the despotism of Mohammad Reza Shah that succeeded him." The event led to a lot speculation about how Iran would have been without Mossadeq's removal. It became commonplace for Iranians to claim that were it not for the 1953 Coup perpetrated by the Americans, Iran would be a flourishing democracy, an economic powerhouse, and even an American ally. Furthermore, the Shah's atrocious repression of any opposition, as well as his corruption are blamed largely on the United States. The Shah's actions were so horrific that in 1976, Amnesty International stated "no country in the world has a worse record in human rights than Iran." In 1977, Jimmy Carter came to Iran supported the Shah, proclaiming that Iran is "an island of tranquility in a sea of turbulence." America's support of the Shah regardless of his actions was a sore point that Iranians did not forget.
Second, the Iranian focus on imperialist intervention can be attributed to Mossadeq's obsession with foreign involvement in Iranian affairs. The Coup proved the presence of foreign collusion in Iran, an obsession that would blind politicians and Iranians from the political and economic woes of Iran. The paranoia it created acted as a unifying force against the meddling foreigners, particularly the US and Britain. While Iranians had previously held such ideas, the Coup confirmed those notions. Furthermore, the events of 1953 taught Iranians that taking an extreme position would be the most successful method of action. Even though Mossadeq's extreme position led to his downfall, he achieved the status of a martyr, being even more popular after his downfall than before. Khomeini adopted this technique during the Revolution of 1978-79.

The historical products of the 1953 Coup are key to Iranian-American relations. Much of the anti-American and anti-Western activities carried out by Iranians before and after the Revolution can be attributed to what is seen as America's act of betrayal. Specifically, the 1953 Coup is responsible for the Hostage Crisis. The hostage-takers' capture of the American Embassy in Tehran was an attempt to stop history from repeating itself, as the 1953 Coup's base of operations was the American Embassy. The Iranian students who stormed the Embassy did not want to be subject to further actions against their best interest. Massoumeh Ebtekar, the spokesperson for the hostage takers said, "In the back of everybody's mind hung the suspicion that, with the admission of the Shah to the United States, the countdown for another coup d'├ętat had begun. Such was to be our fate again, we were convinced, and it was to be irreversible. We now had to reverse the irreversible." The students who stormed the embassy allegedly had copies of the memoirs of Kermit Roosevelt's (a key operative of the Coup) called Countercoup during the time of the hostage-taking. Furthermore, the students also believed that the hostages could be held as collateral to insure that the Americans would not engage in another coup attempt. The Coup's creation of the Hostage Crisis showed the lasting impacts of August 1953.
Operation Ajax initiated a shockwave that changed the Iranian landscape greatly. The deeply rooted anti-American sentiment of the past and of the present is fueled by the 1953 Coup, and the Hostage Crisis was a direct attempt to stop a repeat of Operation Ajax. The installment of the pro-American Shah following the Coup may have seemed to create stability in the Middle East, but in the long run, a deep-rooted distrust of Americans was created; a distrust that is proving hard to overcome.


"Operation Ajax taught tyrants and aspiring tyrants there that the world's most powerful governments were willing to tolerate limitless oppression as long as oppressive regimes were friendly to the West and Western oil companies. That helped tilt the political balance in a vast region away from freedom and toward dictatorship" - Stephen Kinzer

In All the Shah's Men, Stephen Kinzer gave a review of what a handful of American historians said regarding the Coup. Mark Gasiorowksi said, "U.S. complicity in [the Coup] figured the anti-American character of 1978-79 revolution, and in the many anti-American incidents that emanated from Iran after the revolution, including...the embassy hostage crisis." Mary Ann Heiss stated that the Coup showed the United States' lack of interest in what is best for Iranians. Keddie stated, "...However exaggerated and paranoid some charges by Iranians may be, suspiciousness and hostility have their roots in real and important occurrences."
Indeed, the American deposition of one of Iran's most popular figures, and Time Magazine's Man of the Year in 1951 (beating out the likes of Winston Churchill, President Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower), provides evidence of the self-advancing position of the United States and the disinclination towards policies that would benefit the people of the world.
It is important to take some lessons from the 1953 Coup. For one, foreign intervention in internal affairs rarely produces positive effects; it destroys the credibility of foreign governments and further pushes a country into isolation. A regional or global hegemony must be mindful of the people's perceptions of its actions. What one government may declare as the only rational option, others may consider a gross injustice.


BP, BP Statistical Review of World Energy. (2005, June), 8.

Stephen Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons, 2003), ix.

Nikki R. Keddie, Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003), 123-124.

Kenneth M. Pollack, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America (New York: Random House, 2004), 52.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 53.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 55.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 56.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 57.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 59.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 63.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 63-64.

Nasrin Alavi, We Are Iran (New York: Soft Skull Press, 2005), 37.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 68-69.

James L. Gelvin, The Modern Middle East: A History (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 279.

Moyara de Moraes Ruehsen, "Operation 'Ajax' Revisited," Middle Eastern Studies 29, no. 3 (1993): 8-9.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 63.

Keddie, Modern Iran, 130.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 69.

Alavi, We Are Iran, 35.

Alavi, We Are Iran, 36-37.

Mostafa T. Zahrani, "The coup that changed the Middle East: Mossadeq v. the CIA in retrospect," World Policy Journal 19, no. 2 (2002): 1.

Kinzer, All the Shah's Men, 215.

Keddie, Modern Iran, 131.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 68-69.

Gelvin, The Modern Middle East, 281.

Gelvin, The Modern Middle East, 282.

Alavi, We Are Iran, 40.

Alavi, We Are Iran, 36.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 70.

Zahrani, "The coup that changed the Middle East," 4.

Gelvin, The Modern Middle East, 280.

Zahrani, "The coup that changed the Middle East," 4.

"How to Change a Regime in 30 Days," The Economist, August 14, 2003, 1.

Kinzer, All the Shah's Men, 204.

Kinzer, All the Shah's Men, 213.

Kinzer, All the Shah's Men, 214.

Kinzer, All the Shah's Men, 214.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Follow In the Pioneers' Footsteps On Everest Base Camp Trek

Mount Everest, the tallest peak in the world at 8,850 metres above sea level, has become one of the world's most legendary adventure holiday destinations. Every year brings new stories of personal triumph from those who have shown the determination and resilience it takes to journey through the region, whether on an Everest Base Camp trek or an attempt on the summit itself. But several decades ago it had never been ascended successfully, and only a century earlier than that it was barely known to the outside world. The summer of 2013 sees the 60th anniversary of the historic ascent of Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, who reached the summit on May 29 1953, and those who visit the region during this time can trace the legacy of that legendary journey in a number of locations. Here are some of them.

Namche Bazaar

The communities that travellers pass through on the Everest Base Camp trek route are understandably proud of their region's grand heritage, and for those who take the time to search them out while making the trek, there are plenty of reminders of that heritage. In Namche Bazaar, the Khumbu region's unofficial capital, where trekkers traditionally spend at least a day resting and acclimatising before continuing on their way, the history of Sherpas who have climbed Mount Everest can be traced at the Mount Everest Documentation Centre. Connected to the illuminating Sherpa Culture Museum, the centre presents images and press clippings about the individual Sherpas who have reached the great mountain's summit - starting with Tenzing Norgay himself.


Another favourite destination to visit while making an Everest Base Camp trek is Thyangboche Monastery, a site made famous by its stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains - and its part in the Everest legacy. Tenzing Norgay was born in the vicinity of the village of Thyangboche, and during his teenage years was sent to the monastery to become a monk. Had he stayed, the history of Everest exploration might have gone very differently, but he found that the monastic life was not the path he wished to follow, and became involved in mountaineering instead. Because of its connection to the region's mountaineering history, and its position on the route to Base Camp, the monastery has become a popular place for hopeful mountaineers to make offerings and appeal to the local deities for a successful journey.

Khumbu Icefall

Higher up on the Everest Base Camp trek route, the villages and monasteries give way to a landscape of rock and ice, but even these seemingly stark environs offer a glimpse into the challenges faced by the early Everest climbers. Khumbu Icefall, an awe-inspiring sight about a seven-hour trek from Base Camp, presented one of the most dangerous obstacles to those hoping to tackle the mountain's summit: a constantly flowing cascade of ice from the Khumbu Glacier. Seeing it up close and knowing that is a challenge for even today's climbers makes it all the more impressive that Edmund Hillary successfully crossed it in 1953.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Credible Rajasthan Tours in Incredible India

Once known as 'Rajputana', Rajasthan embodies Orientalism to the hilt. The sustained influence of Rajput dominance in the region since 700 AD has left an indelible impression on the culture and traditions of Rajasthan. The largest state of India with the Pink City of Jaipur as it's capital, Rajasthan is mostly a desert state and covers most of the Great Indian Desert or Thar Desert.

The glory and richness of its colorful traditions and customs and spectacular monuments are evidences of the royal patronage that was once extended to arts, crafts, literature and architecture in all their forms in this region.

A perfect tourist destination, Rajasthan has immense tourism potential with its heritage accommodations, awe-inspiring forts and palaces, colorful arts and crafts, hidden gems of rural Rajasthan, scenic desert landscapes, and lush green wildlife sanctuaries and national parks where a number of rare and endangered species of flora and fauna can be seen. Camel and horse safaris, multi-cuisine kitchen, exotic fairs & festivals, and folk music and dance forms of Rajasthan are cherished and admired world over. Rajasthan Tours often revolve around one or more of these themes. Palace on Wheels is one of the most luxurious tour options to explore the royal cities of Rajasthan by train, and is amongst the top 10 luxury trains of the world.

Offering impeccable hospitality and a great variety of travel experiences, the heroism and romance of its folklores add a haunting era to its formidable forts that are mostly situated on hill-tops where they stand to this day as mute but majestic sentinels of the city they served. A fantasy destination for foreign tourists, Rajasthan presents the best of natural and man-made creations. The rapidly changing landscapes and panoramas as you tour around Rajasthan along with fantastic architectural and historical legacies strewn around the 'Land of Kings' will leave your jaw hanging.

On one hand, you will find amazing variety of wildlife here that flourishes in its lush green forests with excellent tiger trails and birds that have chosen wetlands of Rajasthan as their home and on the other hand, you will find spectacular sand dunes, stretches of golden sands and camels in the backdrop of the oldest mountain ranges of India known as Aravalli Hills. The vibrant attires of men and women; incredible frescoes brackets that adorn its Havelies or mansions; ornate brackets, pillars, ceilings and delicate screens of its palaces and temples; world-famous tie and dye fabrics and carpets; and various forms of Rajasthani paintings that are worthy of an art connoisseur's collection speak volumes about the profusion of colors in the state and indomitable human zeal that is infectious and enliven up barren surroundings.

Well-maintained roads and good network of railways that crisscross the state connecting cities and towns, makes sure that traveling in Rajasthan is much more fun, easy and simple. A special interest holiday destination, Rajasthan is a feast for all your senses. The customs and traditions has helped the state to retain its old-world charm and tales of bygone era often find their way in the performances of local artists - through songs, music, dance, plays or puppet shows. Even the most skeptical travelers cannot remain untouched by the eternal magic of Rajasthan and find themselves lost in the beauty of the state.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Architect Julia Morgan Broke Barriers, Built Enduring Legacy

Among the pioneers and luminaries named to the California Hall of Fame in 2008 is a woman whose vision and skill make her a giant of architectural genius, though she stood but five feet tall. Julia Morgan's work adorns California from the Bay area and far beyond, crowned by her most famous work, the design and construction of Hearst Castle that hovers over San Simeon Bay.

An Architect by Birth
Morgan was born in 1872 in San Francisco and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1894 equipped with a degree in civil engineering. This was likely not the first indication that Julia Morgan was destined to become a groundbreaker for women in a male dominated profession, but it was the springboard for an illustrious career that blazed a path in architectural innovation.

Her skills were finely honed at one of the world's most prestigious architectural schools, Ecole des Beaux- Artes in Paris. There, pushing the limits of convention, she was twice denied admission. According to Morgan, her rejection was based solely on gender. Finally admitted after placing 13th out of a field of 376 applicants to take the rigorous entrance exam, she became the first woman to graduate with an architectural degree from the world famous school.

A Career Begins
Julia Morgan had a singular focus - architecture suited to the environment that surrounded the building. She was able to successfully blend the strictly classical training she received in Paris with her home-grown love of the California landscape in its many natural variations. . In 1904, she again exerted her individuality and started her own architectural firm in San Francisco. She began to receive commissions and build a reputation. One of her first assignments was a home in Grass Valley, in the foothills of the Sierra, where she built the North Star House in the Arts and Crafts style.

The widespread devastation of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake caused an interesting side effect as the acute need for rebuilding mitigated prejudice against a female architect. Her own office, on Montgomery Street, was among the hundreds to crumble into ruins. From those years of intense design and reconstruction, Julia Morgan was never at a loss for work and her reputation grew as steadily as did her body of work.

Assertive and Individual
Certainly, one of the hallmarks of Morgan's hundreds of homes, buildings and public edifices is eclecticism. Armed with her classical education, she was never caught up in a particular trend, design or architectural paradigm. Morgan designed her buildings with consideration for the site, use and the surrounding environment. Her work ranged from extraordinarily ornate and opulent, to simple and functional. She was comfortable working in many architectural styles and considered each commission a newly stretched canvas upon which she'd create a site-specific masterpiece.

The range of Julia Morgan's work is equally extensive. She built for billionaire magnates such as William Randolph Hearst, but attacked more modest projects with the same dedicated focus. Among her public buildings are YWCA's, the Riverside Art Museum and the Los Angeles Examiner Building. She also worked extensively on college campuses in Northern California and designed the Mills College Bell Tower as well as buildings for churches and private homes.

She is most widely known for her work with the Hearst family. The crown jewel, of course, is Hearst Castle which is visited by millions of people each year. There, she was remembered for wearing stylish slacks and silk blouses while scrambling quickly into the construction work to make certain the details of her design were being followed and properly executed by craftsmen, carpenters and masons. Julia Morgan dedicated years of labor, love and exceptional creativity to build the vast estate that sits atop "La Cuesta Encantada" - The Enchanted Hill. As visitors from around the world know, it takes many hours to appreciate the 165 rooms, gardens, water features and acres that make Hearst Castle a woman-made wonder on the Pacific Coast.

From Bavaria to Wyntoon
Less well known, but nonetheless breathtaking is the Bavarian Village at Wyntoon, built in the 1930s. This was Hearst's 50,000 acre getaway that lies in the shadow of Mount Shasta in Northern California. At this heavily wooded site, Julia Morgan felt the pull of Bavaria and Austria, with timbered building sheltered by tall pines and crisp clean air filled with the scent of pine.

To make Hearst's many distinguished guests comfortable, Morgan designed three guest houses, each three stories tall. There were four to eight bedrooms in each timbered house along with sitting rooms. All looked out to a grassy expanse and backed up to the rushing sound of the McCloud River that meanders through the estate.

True to her love and connection to the natural environment, Morgan used local stone and wood in the construction of the Bavarian Village. The effect remains timeless as steep roofs jut skyward with many gables and faceted windows framed by massive timbers. It is, indeed, as if a small piece of Bavaria was lifted up and gently eased into the California landscape. But, upon closer examination Julia Morgan's touch of genius took the traditional architecture to new heights. The many artistic touches and unusual conventions that Morgan brought to the Village are entirely unique.

In preparation for building the Village, Morgan and her sister, Anna, traveled with Hearst to Bavaria in 1931. Some experts speculate this visit furthered Morgan and Hearst's resolve to carry forth the Bavarian theme because they sensed the rise of Adolf Hitler might threaten the survival of Austrian and Bavarian architectural treasures.

The Wyntoon Bavarian Village guest houses were named for fairy tale characters - Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty among others. A noted muralist from New York added his artistry to the outside walls of two of the buildings, painting fanciful scenes of tales from the Brothers Grimm. Among the most embellished was Hearst's personal home on the property - the Bear House. There, the muralist painted scenes from Snow White and Rose Red over the entire stucco exterior.

As with many of Julia Morgan's major projects, select artisans - men and women - traveled with her to ply their craft on her projects. Although she never married, Morgan attracted a rich following of friends and colleagues in whom she had confidence and respect for their work. Wyntoon is a prime example of the kind of team work that characterized Julia Morgan's long and successful career.

An Isolated End
After hundreds of notable projects and widespread recognition of her considerable talent and leadership, Julia Morgan's last years were spent in self-imposed isolation. With many of her friends and family gone, including Hearst who died in 1951, Morgan felt herself failing. No longer able to work, to express the passion that had fueled her life, she chose to become reclusive. She died on February 7, 1957, leaving behind endowments for aspiring architects, scholarships and an unparalleled body of work.

She also left behind a road - one that started out a rough and cobbled path to be maneuvered by only the most bold and brave of young women. Today, that road is paved and many women architects stand on the mighty reputation of Julia Morgan, a California original.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Men Give Advice - Spirit Gives Guidance

A teacher told me long ago; "Never lead others without being led yourself."
Pause for a moment and ask your heart: "What is guiding me?"

We realize that your relationships can work for you or against you. They can stop you in your tracks or transform your life.

Do you have the courage to love through your fears?
Do you have the heart to forgive? Most people don't.
Will you have the wisdom to know when to fight, when to embrace the challenges with gratitude or when to run?

Today's Masters are yesterday's disasters.

Life doesn't come with an instruction manual. When faced with the most complex and important issues of our lives, most of us are on our own.

You know you've learned something when you are living it.

When you took your first steps, it was a challenge. But you had help. You had other 'walkers' to model and gentle hands to pick you up when you fell. Now you walk front, back and sideways without even noticing. You run, jump and dance. (And if you're a woman you could do it all backwards in high heels.)

What you've learned about relationships you are living today

The most prevalent model is Addictive Relationships or "Triangulation" - an energy model whose principal quality is denial of responsibility and control.

Fueled by addiction to Drama and Adrenaline it involves a Victim, a Persecutor and a Savior.
These three roles are co-dependent in sustaining any drama. Each role receives a payoff for maintaining their position in the drama. Each participant may change their role at any time.

The Victim suffers injury and loss. The Persecutor harasses the Victim. The Savior rescues the Victim from their drama. Sound familiar? It is the underlying pattern in every dramatic story.
No wonder the myth of "the perfect one for me" is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Embracing Growth is a way of life that goes beyond 'tips & advice' on getting your mate to behave like you want them to so you can feel better.

It's about discovering your life's true purpose and living it with power and grace.

The 12 Stages of Romantic Relationships and Girl Talk are a guidance system for navigating the perilous landscape of romantic love. We wrote them the generations of young lovers who hold our hearts and futures in their hands.

When your voice is no longer heard what will be your legacy? Will you live a Legacy of Love?

Gregory Morgan

Monday, July 1, 2013

How to Build a Dry Laid Field Stone Wall

Deciding to build a dry laid field stone wall is not a decision that should be taken lightly. It will require a great deal of your time and a huge amount of physical effort to complete the work. There are several things to consider before you start your project and the least of them is the cost.

You must first choose the type and color of stone you are going to use to build your wall. There are literally hundreds of combinations of stone types and colors available today. If you have access to free field stone or cobblestone, that can save many hundreds or perhaps thousands of dollars. A heavy duty truck is required to carry any real quantities of this stone as an auto can be easily overloaded and can even be dangerous to drive..

Dry laid field stone walls can be very beautiful when completed and will last for many, many years with a minimum of upkeep. An occasional check to assure that no stones have been knocked loose or removed by children at play is all that is required. Dry laid means of course that there is no mortar used to hold the stones together and instead dry laid walls depend on gravity to hold and keep their shape over time. If you see a country stone wall, stop and take a good look at the wall. You will see that both sides lean slightly in towards the middle of the wall and the top is slightly concave as well.

In most cases it took farmers many years to construct their walls from the stones removed from their fields as they plowed for new crops each spring. Winter freezing and thawing pushed the stones to the top of the ground for the awaiting farmers plows to find them. These stone walls were not constructed for their beauty but of necessity to mark the boundaries between farms as well as to keep the stones from injuring their horses feet as they pulled the plows.

If you are using natural stone for your wall, remember that the faces of the wall will not be perfectly flat as when using man made stone or masonry units. There will be some ins and outs as the stone rises above the grade. If you are placing the wall along a property line it is suggested that you hold the wall back a few inches to allow leeway in the layout and to be assured you are not building on your neighbors land. One of the best ways to do this is to use wooden stakes or steel pins at each end of the proposed wall and placing a string or dry line between them. Tie a loop on one end of the string and place over the first pin and then pull and wrap the line on the second stake as tightly as possible. Whenever you lay a stone, the stone edge simply cannot cross this string line. Get as close as possible but never cross it. Keeping the stone faces as close to the string at all times will assure as even a face of your wall as possible. Keep raising the string as your work progresses. As your ability and eye grows with the work you will be tell if a stone does not fit correctly or look as good as it should.

After your pins and string lines are installed, take a step back and see if the line is really where you want the finished wall bottom to be at the end of the work. You will not want to tear it down and move it later believe me. If the location is good, excavate a trench the width of your wall, to an average depth of the diameter of your largest stones. If your largest stone is six inches in diameter, excavate six inches deep. The trick here is to slightly slope each one half of the width of the trench slightly downwards into the middle of the wall. Slightly means just slightly. You want the base stones to tip inwards but try keeping the tops as level as possible at the same time.

Now start laying your base stones. These will generally but not always be, your largest stones. Many stone masons prefer to place some of the largest stones randomly throughout the face of the wall to add character and interest to their finished work. True stone masons also do not use hammers or stone saws to shape the stones they use. Each stone is turned over and over to view and then choose the best face to place to view and the best side to fit on top of the stones laid below. Each stone must nestle into the adjacent stones and not rock back and forth. Keep the larger stones to the outside face and then fit the smaller uglier stones into the center out of view. Do not be tempted to place small chips to hold stones in place. Repeated freeze-thaw cycles will cause these chips to move or fall out and cause your wall to fail. Placing small stone chips and fragments into interior voids is fine but do not let them become a structural part of the finished work.

As your wall starts to progress upwards keep laying new wall in front of you. Do not finish a ten foot section for example and then start another section. Your end result will be a bunch or ten foot connected sections instead of one long smooth wall. As your wall height increases, the wall width actually becomes thinner than the width at the base. This can be as pronounced as you wish or as slight as you can make it but in any case all stones must tilt slightly towards the middle of the wall. The reality here is that when the ground freezes and heaves, the entire wall is lifted upwards causing the stones to push outwards from the middle. Due to the built-in inward tilt of the stones, the stones may reach an almost vertical state on the face but as the ground thaws and sinks, the stones simply return to their original placement shape due to good old gravity and the wall is safe.

Do not be afraid to step back every once in a while to admire your work as it progresses. You may see a stone or stones that would look better somewhere else or may look better turned a little and now is the time to fuss before the wall is finished. Do not get discouraged with your work progress either. Stone walls take a good long time to build but will last a good long time as well and will far surpass the life of any wooden fences you could build.

A well laid stone wall can take many weeks or months to construct but is an enduring piece of the landscape and will remain as a legacy of your work. Do it right and your great grand children will be able to admire your work. You will not be sorry.
Your Friendly Building Inspector

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