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May 2014

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Mysore is a stunning city in the southern part of India filled with beautiful temples, parks and palaces. One of the cleanest and most well-planned cities in the entire country, Mysore is also considered the cultural capital of the state of Karnataka. The recorded history of Mysore is over a thousand years old, and its mythological heritage is even older and bears some impressive feats: Legend has it that it was here amidst the Chamundi Hills that the Goddess Chamundi killed the demon Mahishasura.  

Mysore Palace

These days, Mysore is marked by a considerable amount of contemporary growth. Malls, IT firms, stylish apartment complexes — the 21st century is certainly adding to the Mysore’s landscape, but at its core, it is still a peaceful and grand city, and even with all the growth and development seen in recent years, it remains nestled amidst diverse and verdant flora and fauna. In particular, a notable array of birds and butterflies has seen Mysore through its days from demon battleground to bustling metropolis.

Birds

Regardless of whether or not you’re a bird lover, the avifauna of the Mysore area is fascinating. Over 180 species are present year-round, and the list of migratory birds that wander in and out with consistent frequency is almost 90. There are 37 important bird sites in all of Karnataka, and 12 of them are in and around Mysore.

Some of the species that can be observed are remarkably distinct from one another. Some are communal nesters, while some are quite solitary in their behaviour. Some enjoy the tops of trees, while others spend most of their time in and around water. All of their calls are unique, and a day spent in one of the primary bird watching areas, like Karanji Lake or Arabithittu Wildlife Sanctuary, will not only yield plenty of varied sightings, but you will hear a wide and melodious variety of songs, as well. Some of the birds to keep an eye out for the next time you stay in Mysore are:

  • Indian Spotted Eagle. The Indian Spotted Eagle is a large predatory bird, roughly 65 centimetres in size, whose numbers are in decline due to habitat loss.
  • Painted Spurfowl. A beautiful bird that is a member of the pheasant family, the Painted Spurfowl has beautiful markings and spots and showcases a rich variety of colours that range from cream and chestnut to blue and rust.
  • Yellow-Legged Button Quail. A small ground bird with rich brown feathers, the Yellow-legged Button Quail can be tricky to spot as they keep quiet and still in the undergrowth.
  • Spot-billed Pelican. This large water bird has called the Mysore region home for at least four to five centuries.

Butterflies

Butterflies are some of the most delightful creatures to spy in all of nature, and the ones that frequent the parks, gardens and landscape of Mysore are no exception. Colourful, playful, industrious and bearers of one of the most impressive transformations in the entire world — that of the caterpillar that becomes a chrysalis that becomes a butterfly — butterflies are pollinators, which makes them important to maintaining plant life, health and diversity. When an area is thick with butterflies, it means fertility and health are present in its flowering plants.

  • Chocolate Albatross. The Chocolate Albatross is a mostly yellow-winged butterfly with deep brown at the edges of its wings. It also has some streaks of white.
  • Common Banded Peacock. This butterfly is named after the stunning and majestic peacock. Deep and glittery emerald green, it has light blue and black defensive markings that look like eyes along its back to ward off potential predators.
  • Plum Judy. A rusty and deep brown butterfly, when its wings are open, you can see the Plum Judy’s rich deep purple bands that colour the top of its wings.
  • Blue Tiger. One of the most common butterflies in the region, the Blue Tiger is a deep brown with light blue spots.

The wide range and number of flowering plants in Mysore is the dominant reason there is such a wealth of butterfly diversity in Mysore. Over 1600 different species of flowering plants are native to the Mysore area, and their flowers’ delectable nectar attracts a rich abundance of butterflies. The Indian sub-continent supports over 1500 butterfly species — roughly 9 percent of the world’s representative diversity — and the Mysore region can claim 137 of them. Some of the butterflies you can spot in and around Mysore include:

The next time you’re looking to take a holiday to Mysore, why not do so with your eye and ear trained upon its impressive array of birds and butterflies? No matter where you go in and around Mysore, keep a pair of binoculars and a watchful eye with you. The birds and butterflies of the place are abundant and common, and each one is worth observing and musing over.

When the name Broadway is spoken, it’s likely that any tourist immediately thinks of theatre — finding tickets to a showing of Wicked or Phantom of the Opera. But, New York City’s Broadway Street is more than a theatre district. It’s a 13.5-mile street that runs the entire length of Manhattan Island. And, by accepting the challenge of walking this street, you’ll not only stroll through the theatre district, but you’ll also have the chance to explore Wall Street, the World Trade Center, Times Square and St. John the Divine Church, among others. So pack your walking shoes, and be sure to take this list of sites to see along Broadway.

You’ll need to get an early start if you decide to make this a one-day adventure, so grab a cup of coffee and a fresh bagel and head to Battery Park, located on the southern tip of Manhattan island. From this park, you’ll be able to view the Statue of Liberty as well as check out Hope Garden, a memorial to AIDS victims. From the park, you’ll head north on Broadway.

One of the next landmarks you’ll encounter is the Wall Street Charging Bull sculpture, located in the financial district. The bull was sculpted by Arturo Di Modica, who wanted to celebrate the can-do spirit of America and particularly of New York. It was completed in 1989.

The Wall Street Bull

The World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum are just one block off Broadway on Vesey Street. The museum opened in May 2014 and is an educational and historical institution honouring the victims and examining 9/11 and its continued global significance through artefacts and records.

You’ll also make your way past the campus of New York University.  NYU was founded in 1831 and is the largest private university in the United States. It is composed of 14 schools, colleges, and divisions and occupies five major centres in Manhattan. So, if picking up an NYU T-shirt from the campus bookstore is on your list, you’ll find the university a block off of Broadway at West Houston Street.

As you continue up Broadway, you’ll encounter Union Square and will either have to walk around or through it before meeting up with Broadway again. The square is known for its impressive equestrian statue of U.S. President George Washington, which was unveiled in 1856.

The Flatiron Building at Broadway and Fifth Avenue was built in 1902 to take advantage of an odd-shaped piece of real estate. Amazingly, it’s only six feet at the prow and yet, 20 stories tall.

Flatiron Building New York

At 33rd Street, you can take a walk one block to your right to visit the iconic Empire State Building, the 103-story skyscraper in midtown Manhattan. Or, you can turn left at 33rd Street to visit to Madison Square Garden and Penn Station.

You won’t be able to miss Times Square when you hit 7th Avenue. This famous section of Manhattan is lit up around the clock and is home to shopping, theatres, eateries as well as the New Year’s Eve ball drop and the studios for ABC television’s Good Morning America talk show. Almost everyone that travels to New York has to spend at least a few hours here.

As you continue navigating up Broadway, at West 53rd, you’ll find the Ed Sullivan Theater, which is home to the Late Show with David Letterman. This 13-story theatre first opened its doors in 1927.

After walking around Columbus Circle, at West 65th Street, you’ll meet up with the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts (the world’s leading presenter of superb artistic programming, a national leader in arts and education and community relations and the manager of the Lincoln Center campus); the Julliard School for dance, drama and music; and the Metropolitan Opera.

At West 114th Street, you’ll walk upon another university campus — this time the Ivy League’s Columbia University. This university was founded in 1754 as King’s College by royal charter of King George II of England. It is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York and the fifth oldest in the United States.

Trinity Cemetery is located at Broadway and West 153rd Street in Harlem. The cemetery overlooks the Hudson River from upper Riverside Drive and is home to giant hundred-year-old oaks and elms. This is the only remaining active cemetery in Manhattan and is home to the gravesites of John James Audubon, Alfred Tennyson Dickens and John Jacob Astor.

As you continue exploring Broadway on foot, you’ll complete this adventure at 225th Street, before crossing into the Bronx on Broadway Bridge. And, if you decide this adventure is a bit much for a one-day excursion, divide it up, and conquer Broadway over multiple days during your New York trip to gain a true feel for this iconic American city.

 

 

Rio de Janeiro is a stunning place to visit no matter what time of year. A trip to this marvelous city offers so much to see and do. Whether it’s lazing on beaches, hiking through forests to catch a glimpse of South American wildlife, soaking up culture and food or gazing out over one of the most stunning city skylines in the world from iconic vantage points, you will have plenty to keep you entertained.

When you are visiting Rio, you will want to see some of the most amazing places that you can only find here:

Tijuca National Park

Among one of the best places to visit when in Rio de Janeiro is the Tijuca National Park. Located within the city, the park covers a large portion of Rio’s mountainous landscape. The forest was almost destroyed during the 1800s because of the spread of coffee plantations. Thankfully, much of it was replaced by locals who hand-planted nearly 9 million trees. Today it’s a thriving forest filled with wildlife.

Visitors can trek to the top of Pico de Tijuca, the highest peak in Rio. From there, you will get the most amazing view of the city and Guanabara Bay. Also in the park, you can visit the Mayrink Chapel and see murals by Candido Portinari. Cap off your excursion by hiking out to the Cascatinha Waterfall. 

tijuca forest/tijuca national park/tijuca peak

Christ the Redeemer

The Christ the Redeemer is one of the most well known statues in the world. Standing 710m above the peak of Corcovado Mountain, it was long considered the largest statue of its kind in the world. Today there are larger statues of Christ around the world, but perhaps none are as iconic as this one.

Visiting this statue is on many people’s “Must See” lists for their time in Rio. For that reasons it’s a hugely popular attraction. Queues can be huge, particularly on weekends over summer. Did you know that a record 14,000 people visited the statue in a single day? If you are planning on visiting Christ the Redeemer and want to avoid waiting all day in a line and learn a lot of interesting facts about the statue, I highly recommend purchasing My Rio Travel Guide on visiting the Christ the Redeemer. It’s inexpensive and has some great tips that will help you get the most out of your visit.

You can reach it by taking the vertical cog train to the base of the summit and then climbing the hundreds of steps to the top, or opting for the elevators and escalators.

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro

Jardim Botanico

The Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro was built in the early 1800s and is now home to more than 6,500 plant species. You can walk down a path edged with towering palm trees and be amazed at the site of more than 600 orchid species. 140 species of birds call the gardens home, as well as howler monkeys and marmosets.

The Avenue of Royal Palms is very impressive, especially considering these 174 towering palm trees all originally came from the one tree. Visit the Japanese garden and the many different fountains and monuments around the park. You can also go to the new Museu de Meio Ambiente, featuring many environmental exhibits. The picnic area near the fountains is a great place for families to sit down for lunch. It’s always filled with families enjoying a picnic.

The gardens are located at the foot of Corcovado Mountain. It’s easy to combine a visit to the Christ the Redeemer with a stop at the gardens. 

Jardim Botânico

Sugarloaf Mountain

Nestled at the mouth of Guanabara Bay is Sugarloaf Mountain. Visitors can travel up the 400-meter mountain in a glass-walled cable car, called a “bondinho.” One departs every 20 minutes at the bottom on Babilonia Hill. Sugarloaf Mountain is one of the most iconic locations in Rio de Janeiro and the view from the top is truly spectacular.

You can also hike to the top. It’s a two hour trip that requires some rock climbing at the end to reach the summit. It’s a great idea to do the hike as part of a tour.

Night time view from Sugarloaf mountain

Ipanema

One of Rio’s most popular tourist spots is Ipanema. The long arc of white beach draws thousands of visitors every year and is almost always listed among the world’s best beaches.

It is also surrounded by cafes, shops and restaurants, as well as clubs, theaters, and art galleries. You can soak up the sun and then walk through the shops to cool off, step inside a café for some lunch.

Due to it’s popularity, Ipanema can be targeted by thieves. It’s a very safe area though, provided you use common sense. Leave your valuables behind when you head to the beach. Don’t be the last to leave the beach, go out in a group at night or use taxis if you are going a long distance.

Ipanema Beach Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro offers so many exciting things to see and do to its visitors every year. These are just some of the places that you need to include on your itinerary while you are there.