Seville Cathedral

The architecture of Seville Cathedral

 

No building captures the history of Seville quite like the Seville Cathedral. The Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance architecture of this UNESCO World Heritage Site tell the story of not just the Cathedral, but of Seville itself. La Giralda, or the bell tower, was originally constructed in 1184 as the minaret of the mosque that previously stood here and was modeled after the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh.Originally topped with four copper spheres this Moorish tower was used both to call the faithful to prayer and as an observatory over the city; however after an earthquake damaged the upper portion of La Giralda was replaced with a Spanish Renaissance style bell tower in 1568.Wandering through Seville’s labyrinthine streets my first encounter with Moorish architecture was La Giralda’s intricate lattices and arches all aglow and I was enchanted.

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25 Things to do in Alexaandria, Virginia www.casualtravelist.com

25 Things to do in Old Town Alexandria

Old Town is perfect for a quick getaway as I recently discovered during a weekend trip to celebrate my anniversary. Located minutes from Washington DC it feels worlds away with its independent nature inspiring the creative spirits behind the art galleries, boutiques and chef-driven restaurants that call Old Town home. Whether your looking to explore Alexandria’s revolutionary roots with your family or taking a romantic trip with your sweetheart you’re sure to love your time in this charming riverside city.

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The Lodge at Chaa Creek – a posh jungle retreat in Belize

The Lodge at Chaa Creek offers up a bit of luxury for those wishing to explore the Belizean jungle. Located near the town of San Ignacio Chaa Creek was a pioneer in green tourism welcoming guests to experience  jungle adventures since 1981.The Lodge has a reputation as one of the best eco-lodges in Central America and counts Prince Harry and Bill Gates among its guests. Being green comes naturally here with their commitment to sustainable tourism practices earning them a Green Globe certification. The Lodge is proud of their pristine jungle location and seeks to protect this environment while sharing its natural beauty with visitors with a variety of educational eco-tours and community outreach programs.

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Treetop thrills at the Adventure Park in Virginia Beach

The Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium is a unique addition to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Located a short drive from the popular Oceanfront resort area the Adventure Park is an aerial ropes course with over 170 platforms and a variety of of “elements”  including bridges, obstacles and zip lines that offer up adventure with a bird’s eye view.

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I’m honored to be nominated for The Liebster Award!

What is the Liebster Award?

The Liebster Award is an award from bloggers to highlight new bloggers and bring their sites to a wider audience. A big thanks to Erin Jorgensen of The Caffeinated Day Tripper  and John Roberts of  In the Loop Travel , be sure to check these guys out!

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3 Meals: Where to eat in Alexandria, Virginia

The independent spirit that exists in historic Alexandria, Virginia has inspired some of the nation’s top chefs and food purveyors. Strolling down the cobblestone streets  I found myself tempted by the charming cafes and creative restaurants housed among 18th and 19th century architecture. Whether your looking for revolutionary dining or a meal rooted in tradition your taste buds are sure to be happy in Alexandria.

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Boutique bliss at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Alexandria

A weekend spent exploring the charming cobblestone streets of Alexandria, Virginia calls for an equally stylish hotel and Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco Alexandria is the perfect compliment to Old Town’s independent spirit.  Located near Market Square the Monaco is convenient for exploring Alexandria’s historic sights or the scores of independent boutiques, galleries and restaurants throughout Old Town. Entering the hotel transports you into the a world of whimsical style, the peacock hued lobby looks like the  living room of your coolest bohemian friend and the plush green sofas create an inviting space to enjoy your morning coffee or the complimentary wine social. Being a Kimpton, the Hotel Monaco offers a lot of fun forward thinking services and amenities such as complimentary use of bikes, in room yoga mats and “dive-in” movie nights  in their indoor heated pool.If you’re travelling with your four-legged friends the Monaco is pet friendly and even offers doggy happy hour where guests and locals can mingle with their canine companions. Unable to bring Fluffy this trip?The Monaco will provide you with a complimentary goldfish to keep you company.

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Birding in Costa Rica

I was attracted to Costa Rica to explore its lush jungles, mighty volcanoes and the dramatic coastline. Little did I know that I would return home with a new hobby. I was well aware of Costa Rica’s reputation as the most biodiverse country on Earth and I was eager for the opportunity to spot monkeys, sloths, coatis, wild cats, frogs and whatever else I was lucky enough to observe. I also knew that Costa Rica was a birding paradise but I really didn’t give much thought to that. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy birds but honestly I really didn’t pay that much attention to them. Costa Rica changed that.

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Misadventures in the Mayan city of Tikal

The ancient Mayan city of Tikal conjures up otherworldly images of mystical pyramids rising above the dense, steamy jungles of Guatemala.  I was drawn to the area in order to explore the ruins of of one of the most powerful Pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas and I left with some of my most surreal travel experiences to date. Our journey started in the border town of San Ignacio, Belize; popular for its proximity to a multitude of Mayan sites. Joining our guide Max we crossed the border on foot, a first for me and I do admit to being slightly nervous walking by the guards with AK-47s.Once we safely passed Max ushered us to the dusty jeep he had arranged for the 2 hour journey. After a brief stop at a roadside stand for homemade tamales (the best in Guatemala we were assured and yes, they were indeed tasty), we arrived at the gates of Tikal National Park.  It was here that Max informed us that he would not be able to personally guide us as he picked up one of the many locals standing at the gates offering guide services. Raul introduced himself, flashing a partially toothless grin and began telling us about his 10 children from his 3 ex-wives. Raul accompanied us on the “sunset” tour which lasted from about 3:00 – 5:30 pm as all visitors needed to be out of the park by dusk. He was a jovial fellow but being a tour guide just wasn’t his calling. In between telling us stories of his childhood antics he would make a reference to King Chocolate, look at us quizzically asking “Riiigght???”, expecting an answer. Steve and I would glance at each other not quite knowing what to say before assuring Raul that he was indeed right. (Note: King Chocolate did indeed exist, his name was Au Cacao and he ruled Tikal around 700 A.D.He also favored a drink featuring his namesake pod, honey and vanilla presumably sparking the our worldwide obsession with chocolate). Raul did show us around the major sites at Tikal ( an UNESCO World Heritage Site) which were impressive. Our first stop the Great Plaza which is home to Temple I, Temple II and both the Northern and Central Acropolises; this plaza was the center of public life and was home to ritualistic ceremonies, theatrical performances and sporting events. Raul let us  explore  on our own and being that most of the day trippers had left we largely had the plaza to ourselves. While Temples I and II are not considered safe to climb you are allowed to scale the Northern Acropolis which affords some fantastic photo opportunities.

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My favorite street food in Prague

Wandering through the cobblestone streets of Prague‘s Old Town you catch a whiff of something comfortingly familiar yet enticingly different. Navigating  the medieval labyrinth of the Staré Město in search of its source, the sweet nutty aroma an irresistible olfactory temptation. A tube shaped sign above the shop points to its singular ware and signals that you have found what you’re looking for.

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