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Thursday, January 22, 2015

El Yunque

Sometimes referred to as the Caribbean National Forest, the El Yunque National Rainforest, or simply El Yunque, this lush expanse is the only tropical forest in the U.S. National Forest System. It features 28,000 acres of lush, tropical vegetation and it is the rainiest of all the National Forests, raining on average of four times a day. Annually, the park can receive more than 200 inches of rainfall per year, especially at the highest elevations of the Luquillo Mountains. Dominating the landscape here, these beautiful peaks soar above the forest canopy to more than 3,500 feet above sea level.

The Caribbean National Forest, or El Yunque, was set aside as a reserve by the Spanish in 1876 making it one of the oldest protected forests in the northern hemisphere. The forest became part of the USDA system in 1903, and it remains the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System. The forest reserve contains more than 23 miles of well-maintained trails.

The rainforest features over 225 tree species, innumerable fern, epiphyte, and vine species, at least 16 amphibian species, 20 known reptile species, 11 native mammal species, 5 introduced (exotic) mammal species, and a combination of approximately 80 endemic, native, winter and summer migrant avian species.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Puerto Rico

With endless sand, swashbuckling history and wildly diverse tropical terrain, locals call this sun-washed medley of Spanish and American influences the 'Island of Enchantment.' To us people of the contiguous United States, we call it the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The island of Puerto Rico is 108 miles long and 40 miles wide. The islands of Puerto Rico also include the sub-continental lands of Vieques, Culebra and Mona.
On May 12, 1898 a squadron of 12 U.S. ships bombarded the island of San Juan. Thereafter, 16,000 American troops came ashore and met with Spanish resistance. The Treaty of Paris (Dec. 10, 1898), which ended the Spanish-American War and Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States. It wasn't until 1917 the Jones Act stipulated that Puerto Rico was a U.S. territory whose inhabitants were entitled to U.S. citizenship.

Bronze sculpture of the Plazuela de La Rogativa

 The English also tried to take control of Puerto Rico. In April 30, 1797 the townswomen formed a religious procession (Rogativa) to march through the streets with their Bishop, praying for the deliverance of the city. Outside the walls the British invaders mistook the torchlight movement (the torches appeared to be swords in the shadows) for the arrival of Spanish troops to defend the city, and in the morning the British army had fled the Bay.

When visiting Puerto Rico, one can't miss visiting El Morro. San Juan was the pit stop for military ships coming from Spain to the Americas. Because San Juan was such a rich port, it was subject to foreign attacks, which led to the building of Fort San Felipe del Morro, or El Morro. Construction of this masterpiece of military spender started in 1540 and it took 250 years to take its present form of six levels, reaching a height of 140 feet and equipped walls up to 20 feet thick.


Sentry Box

Old San Juan is located in the east end of Puerto Rico and is united to the mainland of Puerto Rico by three bridges. This is the oldest settlement in Puerto Rico and the historic colonial section of San Juan. It is estimated that there are at least 400 structures of historic value in Old San Juan, including some of the finest examples of Spanish colonial architecture in the New World. Old San Juan was Spain's major center of commerce and military power in the West Indies for nearly four centuries. Narrow winding cobblestone streets and the pastel-colored, tile-roofed buildings with ornate balconies and heavy wooden doors that open onto inner courtyards in the style of Andalusia in southern Spain. 

Spain ordered that the city be protected by sandstone walls and massive fortresses, since the island was the first port of call for galleons entering the West Indies and the last safe harbor for ships, laden with treasures, making the return trip to Cadíz or Seville.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

United States Virgin Islands (USVI)

The U.S. Virgin Islands consist of four islands, St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John and Water Island [Water Island was purchased by the U.S. on June 19, 1944 for $10,000 to protect the submarine base on Saint Thomas during World War II]. The three islands (St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John) are about 135 square miles and have a population of less than a quarter of a million people. The islands were purchased from Denmark on January 17, 1917 for $25 million in gold because the United States government feared Germany would attack the islands, establishing a  submarine base there during WWI.

If there was a steady breeze, cane was brought to the windmill. Revolving sails turned a central shaft, rotating the rollers and crushing the stalks. Juice ran down the rollers into the gutter, flowing downhill to the factory. The windmill was built around 1797.          
Magens Bay

Friday, March 14, 2014


           Windsor Castle

The Royal Guard

One of the largest and the most commercially successful cities in the world, London is also regarded as the financial heart of the United Kingdom. The city was established in 43 AD and is actually a combining of two ancient cities: the City of Westminster and the City of London. London, capital of United Kingdom, is an exhilarating fusion of unyielding tradition and free-spirited avant-garde. With spellbinding attractions like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge and London Eye, visiting this city is a fun-filled adventure!

Fun & Interesting Facts About London

  •  London is the most densely populated area in Britain and is the ninth largest city in the world. 
  • During the time of the Roman Invasion, London was know as Londinium. In Saxon times, it was know as Lundenwic and during the kingdom of Alfred the Great, its name was changed to Lundenburg.
  • Contrary to what many people believe, Big Ben is not the name of the clock tower, but a 13-ton bell   inside the clock. The tower is known as St. Stephen's Tower.
  • The City of London is home to four World Heritage Sites: the Palace of Westminster, (Houses of Parliament), the Tower of London, Maritime Greenwich and Kew Botanical gardens. 
  • The Thames River is the longest river in England. Starting out as a trickle in a Gloucestershire meadow, flowing for more than 135 miles before reaching London.
  • The  London Eye or Millennium Wheel of the city is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe.
  • Wilton's Music Hall is the world's oldest surviving musical hall and was built in 1743.
  • The London Underground or "Tube" was built in 1863 and is the oldest underground transit system. 
  • Canary Wharf Tower is the tallest building in London. 
  • London is one of three command centers for the world economy and is the sixth largest city economy after Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Paris.
  • Buckingham Palace, the Queen's official residence built in 1702, was built on a infamous brothel.
  • The Great Fire of London in 1666 create widespread devastation, causing major reconstruction work across the city. 
  • London is a multi-ethnic city and domiciles people speaking over 300 languages.       
  • Windsor Castle of London is the largest and oldest castle in the world that is still in use.
Buckingham Palace
Tower of London

Tower Bridge is the name of a combined bascule and suspension bridge in London. It has been constructed over River Thames and is sited near the Tower of London, from which it got its name. Tower Bridge comprises of two towers, with two horizontal walkways tying it at the upper level. Completed in 1894, the bridge was believed to be one of the greatest engineering marvels of its age.

                          Westminster Abbey

Wellington Arch