Thursday, March 31, 2011

Padua: Founded by a mythical Trojan, Immortalized by Shakespeare & Home to the “Saint of Miracles”

Founded by a mythical Trojan, Immortalized by Shakespeare and home to the “Saint of Miracles,” Padua is set amongst the shadows of Venice, in the historic Euganaean Hills. Boasting a picturesque network of arcaded streets, numerous bridges and large communal piazzas Padua is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe.

A good starting point for an exploration of Padua is the immense elliptical piazza and public garden, the Prato della Valle, one of the biggest such areas in Europe. The large garden at its center is surrounded by a moat, whose interior circumference is lined with 78 statues of Padua's most famous early citizens. The area is still much-used for concerts - and loud political demonstrations, both of which are regular events in Padua.

Another garden of interest is the Botanical Garden of Padova. Created in 1545 on the property of the Benedictine monks of St. Justine, the Botanical Garden of Padova is the oldest existing university botanical garden in the world and still contains an important collection of rare plants. The garden, affiliated with the University of Padua, currently covers roughly 22,000 square meters, and is known for its special collections and historical design.

The University of Padua was founded in, making it one of the oldest universities in continuous operation. Among the host of famous faculty and alumni to grace the university, Galileo taught in Padua from 1592 to 1610. The university is also famous for its anatomical theater, which is the oldest surviving permanent anatomical theater in Europe.

The most famous attraction in Padua, is St. Anthony’s Basilica. St. Anthony is known as the “Saint of Miracles” and for helping find lost items. The Basilica is guarded by Donatello’s “Gattamelata”. The largely Romanesque exterior features seven cupolas, two of which are pyramidal. The interior contains gorgeous 15th century marble carvings by artists such as Falconetto and Sansovino and bronze relief work at the altar by Donatello.

Less than 25 miles from Venice, Padua often offers a less expensive vacation for those interested in day-tripping to Venice. With several historic and cultural attractions, the oldest Botanic gardens in the world and a host of good restaurants, trattorias and cafes Padua provides a good base for Northern Italy holidays. It is also a featured stop on Celtic Tours Treasures of Italy tour.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Doge's Palace, Venice, Italy

When visiting Venice, you can’t miss a stop at Doge’s Palace. Centrally located off of St. Mark’s Square, on the Piazzetta, the Doge’s Palace was the seat of government for the former Venetian Republic.

The architectural style of the Doge's Palace is unique. Commonly referred to as Venetian Gothic, it adapts northern Gothic styles to Venetian geographic conditions. Tall arches, steeples and towers were prone to subsidence. Therefore, low squat structures, incorporating many typical and often exaggerated Gothic features, were preferred.

The eastern wing of the palace is connected by the Bridge of Sighs to the prison on the opposite bank of the Rio del Palazzo. The enclosed bridge was constructed around 1600, of white limestone and has windows with stone bars. It was Lord Byron who penned the famous name “The Bridge of Sighs” when he romantically recounted the sound of condemned prisoner’s sighs as it was their last view of Venice before their imprisonment. According to legend, lovers will be granted everlasting love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the bridge.

Visit the Doge’s Palace with Celtic Tours on our Treasures of Italy Tour. Tour the best of Italy with our Treasures of Italy Tour including Rome, Siena, Florence and Venice.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Venetian Glass

Known the world over, Venetian glass is colorful, elaborate and skill-fully made. Glass is one of the oldest forms of art, dating back to about 3500 years ago. Though it is unclear when, where and how the art of glass making was discovered, Venice became the glass making capital of the world in the 13th century.

When the Venetian Republic, fearing fire and destruction to the city’s mostly wood buildings, ordered the destruction of all the foundries within the city in 1291, all Venetian glass production was moved to Murano. Murano is often known as “the glass island”. Murano glass is still interwoven with Venetian glass. Murano’s glassmakers held a monopoly on quality glassmaking for centuries, developing or refining many technologies including crystalline glass, enameled glass, glass with threads of gold, multicolored glass, milk glass, and imitation gemstones made of glass. Today, the artisans of Murano are still employing these centuries-old techniques, crafting everything from contemporary art glass and glass jewelry to Murano glass chandeliers and wine stoppers.

Take a tour of a Glass Factory on your next Venice Vacation with Celtic Tours. On your Glass Factory Tour you will learn about the ancient art of glass-blowing, the amazing history of Venetian Glass and even make your own Venetian Glass to take home with you. This tour is included on our Treasures of Italy Tour, or you can add it on to your Venice City Stay Package.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fountains of Siena

Step into the middle ages with a visit to Siena. The Tuscan hill town's magnificent cathedral, built in the 1200s, is a marvel of marble floors and astonishing artworks. In just about every part of Siena, there are fountains to sit by and admire.

Aqueducts and complex irrigation systems brought water into and around the city. Many fountains were built on what was once the outskirts of Siena; for use in cooking, drinking and in agriculture. With roofs that protected the water from pollution, Siena’s water was highly regarded and protected. Spend a relaxing day finding, savoring and photographing Siena’s diverse fountains.

Fonte Gaia: The Gaia Fountain is one of the most important works of the Italian 1400s and is both Gothic and Renaissance in style. Centrally located in Piazza del Campo, Fonte Gaia is considered to be "the queen of Sienese fountains”.

Fontebranda: The oldest, most impressive and famous fountain in Siena. Fontebranda is associated with the birth and early life of Saint Catherine. It was also cited by Dante in his Inferno. Today, Fontebranda is a site for outdoor concerts and dance performances during the summer.

Fonte d’Ovile: Fonte d'Ovile was built in 1260 to replace an earlier fountain. It began to decline in importance already by the end of the century with the construction of the Fonte Nuova, but is indeed worth visiting and admiring.

Fonte del Casato: Siena’s hidden fountain, built in a central area of city, a pleasant and unexpected surprise worth finding.

Fonte Nuova d'Ovile: Built in the Gothic style; it is striking for its distinct arches, and was built as the outlet for the bottino of the same name in order to bring water to Vallerozzi for industrial and agricultural uses.

Spend a relaxing day finding, savoring and photographing Siena’s diverse fountains. Visit Siena with Celtic Tours.

Tour the Best of Italy with Treasures of Italy Tour

Tour the Best of Italy with Celtic Tours Treasures of Italy Tour. This fabulous journey includes Rome, Siena, Florence and Venice.

Tour the Eternal City with Celtic Tours. We will visit the beautiful Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and Piazza Navona.

Step into the middle ages with a visit to Siena. The Tuscan hill town's magnificent cathedral, built in the 1200s, is a marvel of marble floors and astonishing artworks.

On Day 5 of your Treasures of Italy Tour, enjoy a guided sightseeing tour of the "Cradle of the Renaissance." Visit the beautiful Piazza del Duomo, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto's Bell Tower the Bapistery of St. John, the Academy of Rine Arts Gallery housing "David" by Michaelangelo and the Santa Croce, the 13th century Franciscan church with Cimabue's famous crucifix. Spend the rest of the day at leisure for optional sightseeing or shopping.

The remainder of your journey through the best of Italy will be spent in Venice. Upon arrival, enjoy a guided walking tour of this unique city. You will see the Piazza and Basilica of St. Mark, Doges Palace, the Bridge of Sighs and the Prisons. The visit a glass factory to see the molding of glass.

Join Celtic Tours for this once in a lifetime journey through the best of Italy: Rome, Siena, Florence and Venice.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Immense – Complex – Iconic: Rock of Cashel

Eclipsed in legend, the Rock of Cashel is reputed to be the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century. According to local mythology, the Rock of Cashel originated in the Devil's Bit, a mountain 19 miles north of Cashel when St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave, resulting in the Rock's landing in Cashel. The Rock of Cashel was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for hundreds of years prior to the Norman invasion.

The Rock of Cashel, a spectacular group of medieval buildings set on an outcrop of limestone in County Tipperary, Ireland. The entire plateau is walled. Few remnants of the early structures survive; the majority of buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries. What to see? The 12th century round tower, High Cross and Romanesque Cormac’s Chapel, 13th century Gothic cathedral, 15th century Castle and the restored Hall of the Vicars Choral.

The picturesque complex has a character of its own and is one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture to be found anywhere in Europe. The exterior of Cormac's Chapel is beautifully decorated with typical Romanesque details such as repeating blind arches and carved corbels. The chapel's interior contains the oldest and most important Romanesque wall paintings in Ireland.

Visit the Rock of Cashel on a Celtic Tour self-drive tour of Ireland

Friday, March 18, 2011

Visiting London with the Family

London is great for families. Children can have a great time, learn something new and be inspired. Here are a couple of things to plan on your next family vacation to London.

1. The Saatchi Gallery- An art gallery that is specifically geared towards a younger audience and it is free!

2. Cartoon Museum - On 23rd February 2006 London's first cartoon museum opened to the public. Situated at 35 Little Russell Street, a stone's throw from The British Museum, The Cartoon Museum exhibits the very finest examples of British cartoons, caricature, and comic art from the 18th century to the present day.

3. Museum of London Docklands - From Roman settlement to Docklands’ regeneration, unlock the history of London’s river, port and people in this historic warehouse. Entry to the Museum is FREE of charge all year round. The Mudlarks gallery at the Museum of London Docklands provides an exciting and informative, interactive play area for children and their parents that reflects some aspects of the story of old and new Docklands as explored in the other galleries of the Museum.

4. The Unicorn Theater – The UK’s first purpose-built children’s theater with shows aimed at kids from 4 -12

5. Hyde Park – One of London’s famous historic landscapes covering 350 acres. There is something for everyone in Hyde Park. With over 4000 trees, a lake, meadow, horserides and more it is easy to forget you are in the middle of London.

6. Horniman Museum and Gardens – Another great free museum. A family-friendly anthropology museum with exhibits from around the world and hands-on experiences for children.

7. Science Museum - This free museum is world renowned for its historic collections, awe-inspiring galleries and inspirational exhibitions.

8. Museum of Childhood – Another free museum the V&A Museum of Childhood in London's Bethnal Green houses the Victoria and Albert Museum's collection of childhood-related objects and artefacts, spanning the 1600s to the present day. The collection features toys - including dolls, dolls' houses, puppets and teddy bears - games, childcare, clothing, furniture and art and photography.

9. The Golden Hinde- ondon's replica of Sir Francis Drakes warship offering visitors an unforgettable Living History Experience. The Golden Hinde is a full-sized reconstruction of the Tudor warship in which Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe in 1577 – 1580.

10. Hamleys – Your children will be blown away by this 7 floor toy store. The flagship store is considered one of London's major tourist attractions, and receives about five million visitors a year.

Visit London with your family and Celtic Tours on our London Program.

Visit London

Celtic Tours London Program is an excellent way to see all the famous sites of London. Visitors will enjoy this great itinerary:

Day 1 Arrival

Arrival to Heathrow Airport. Meet you driver for the transfer to the hotel. Free time.

Day 2 London

This morning, after your breakfast, enjoy a short walking tour of the City of London. See sights such as Parliament Square, Downing Street and Trafalgar Square.

The afternoon is free for you to explore London at your leisure. Take a flight on the London Eye, visit the Tate Gallery, enjoy people watching Hyde Park or celebrity spotting on Primrose Hill.

Day 3 Tower of London

Today you will visit the tower of London, the ancient stones reverberate with dark secrets, priceless jewels glint in fortified vaults and ravens strut the grounds. The Tower of London, founded by William the Conquerer in 1066-7, holds some of the most remarkable stories from across the centuries. Despite a grim reputation as a place of torture and death, this powerful and enduring fortress has been enjoyed as a royal palace, served as an armoury and for a number of years even housed a zoo! Gaze up at the massive White Tower, tiptoe through a kings' medieval bedchamber and marvel at the priceless Crown Jewels. The famous Yeoman Warders have bloody tales to tell; stand where heads rolled and prisoners wept. The Tower held many famous prisoners, from the highest levels of society; some in astonishing comfort and others less so… Visit the places of their confinement and read the graffiti left by prisoners from over 500 years ago. From 26 July 2008 replicas of mighty siege weapons will be positioned in the Moat, you may even be able to help shoot one! Imagine what it was like to attack and defend this powerful fortress, learn the stories of the Tower under attack and of the soldiers who defended it.

Day 4 Bath & Stonehenge

Your first stop of the day will be at the mystical and monumental site of Stonehenge. 5,000-year-old Stonehenge is Europe's most famous prehistoric site and, though we know from the stone's alignment that worship of the sun and moon took place here, the rituals themselves and the methods of construction are still shrouded in mystery. After your visit, continue on to the beautiful town of Salisbury. You will have free time for your own lunch, shopping in the quaint old streets, and perhaps your own visit to Salisbury Cathedral, one of the finest medieval cathedrals in Britain and the tallest in England (123m/404ft). Started in 1220 it was completed by 1258 to reflect the glory of God in stone and glass, and it has always been a setting for great occasions. Continue on to Bath; Bath is Jane Austen country and this ancient city retains so much of its Georgian charm that Austen fans will recognise many streets and squares from her novels. You will view the magnificent Royal Crescent, perhaps the most attractive street in the country, and visit the preserved and fascinating Roman Baths.

Day 5 Departure

Meet your driver for the transfer to Heathrow Airport

Visit Celtic Tours website to learn more about our London Program.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St Patricks Cathedral in Ireland

Feast your eyes and spirits on St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland. Built in honor of Ireland’s patron saint, there has been a church on the site since the 5th century. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest church in Ireland with a 140 foot spire and is one of two Church of Ireland cathedrals.

It is said that St. Patrick’s story began here when he was baptized in a well close the cathedral’s location. Other sources say that St. Patrick baptized converts on his visit to Dublin.

Though a wooden structure was first built on the site; the present building dates from 1220. In the late 1800s a major rebuilding took place, explaining the Victorian styled decoration and architecture.

Breathtaking and immense; whether interested in the art and architecture or the historical significance, St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland is well worth a visit. Today St. Patrick’s Cathedral is open to the public as an architectural and historical site, but principally as a place of worship. Visitors are charged a nominal fee.

This year, to mark Saint Patrick’s festival, St. Patrick’s Cathedral will be going green from March 16th through the 20th. The Cathedral will be bathed in green light every evening to honor Ireland’s national saint and will present all visitors with a sprig of Irish shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day.

Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral on your next Celtic Tours Dublin Vacation. Start planning today!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rathbaun Farm, a truly Irish experience

If you are looking for a traditional Irish experience, plan a visit to Rathbaun Farms in County Galway. Here you’ll learn about traditional farming methods, watch the resident border collie herd sheep and chat over tea and scones.

The Burke and Connolly family have been farming Rathbaun Farms for over 200 years. The main livestock are sheep, but the barns contain a wide variety of animals. Fintan Connally will describe the various breeds of sheep and cattle. Visitors are invited to hand feed the new lambs with bottles of milk, between March and November. Early Summer visitors will witness sheep shearing. Fintan gives a skilled demonstration of this task.

Afterwards, Frances and her team will welcome you into the cottage for some home baked and freshly prepared scones, soda breads and preserves along with the best pot of Irish tea you’re likely to experience anywhere in the country. Here you can chat with the family. Visitors will be enchanted by the cozy thatched cottage home, turf fire, stonewalls and an array of animals.

Visit Rathbaun Farms for a truly traditional Irish experience on a number of Celtic Tours escorted tours of Ireland. Our Celtic Dream tour is a thorough look into traditional and contemporary Irish life. Along with Rathbaun Farms, visitors on our Celtic Dream Tour with visit Trinity College and the Book of Kells, Kilkenny Castle, Cobh Heritage Center, Blarney, Dingle Peninsula, Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Galway Crystal Factory and much more!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Irish Rose Motorcoach Tour

Enjoy this scenic 10 day / 8 night tour of Ireland with an updated 2011 itinerary with added attractions. Here are some of the highlights of this Irish Vacation:

Experience the magic of the Dingle Peninsula, located in the southwest of Ireland.

Fly back in time with the Foynes Flying Boat Museum: Foynes, a small town and major port in County Limerick, Ireland, is noteworthy for having been, in the early years of aviation, the last port of call on the eastern shore of the Atlantic for flying boats, a fixed-winged seaplane with a hull, allowing it to land on water.

The Cliffs of Moher stand 702 feet high at its highest point, stretching roughly 5 miles, offering breathtaking views of the beauty of Ireland’s west coast and the sheer power of the Atlantic Ocean. Even on a calm day, the great ocean waves ceaselessly pound the shore with white surf continually showing white surf at the base of the cliffs.

During a visit to Rathbaun Farm there are many opportunities for everyone to experience farm life. Visitors are encouraged to ask questions and participate along the way. Fintan will talk about the animals and give an insight into the daily chores of a rural farmer.

Galway Irish Crystal has long been one of the world's best known and loved brands of traditionally crafted Irish lead crystal. Nestled in the heart of the West of Ireland, on the shores of Galway Bay, Galway Irish Crystal is steeped in the rich and diverse heritage of this unique hinterland.

Established in 1857 Belleek Pottery holds a very special place in the cultural and commercial heritage of County Fermanagh. Nestling on the banks of the River Erne this imposing building is home to the world famous Belleek Fine Parian china and also to one of Irelands top five visitor attractions.

Glenveagh Castle and National Park is one of six national parks in Ireland. Situated in the Northwest of Co. Donegal, Glenveagh encompasses some 16,000 acres in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains. Such a great wilderness is the haunt of many interesting plants and animals. These lands were managed as a private deer forest before becoming a national park in 1975. With the completion of public facilities Glenveagh National Park was officially opened to the public in 1986.

Fort Dunree is a military museum and wildlife center located at the mouth of Lough Swilly in County Donegal, about 30 minutes from the city of Derry. It is one of Donegal's premier tourist attractions, with its stunning scenic walkways and is a featured stop on many of Celtic Tours escorted motorcoach tours of Ireland including the Celtic Dream Tour, the Irish Rose Tour and the Celtic Sojourn Tour.

The Giant's Causeway, the source of legends of gigantic proportions, is a 50 to 60 million year old landmark of Ireland’s natural and mystical beauty. Located in County Antrim, the Causeway was named the fourth greatest natural wonder of the United Kingdom and is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland.

Discover the story behind Belfast’s maritime magic at the site of the Thompson Dry-Dock and Pump-House, once the beating heart of Harland &Wolff during the construction of the great White Star Liners – the Britannic, Olympic and most famously, the Titanic.

This is one Irish Tour you do not want to miss! With summer departures still available, visit Celtic Tours website for more information on our Irish Rose Tour of Ireland

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