Sacramento has always been known as the city of gold not because there is an actual gold rush in the area but because gold miners used to spend all their money buying supplies from Sacramento.Today, modern Sacramento has come to be known as the City of Trees due to the large number of trees planted in the citys streets, whether they be a commercial or a subdivision area.Sacramento is an environmentally friendly city that provides outdoor activities to young and old. Locals as well as tourists can spend their early mornings or late afternoons basking under the trees in one of the citys numerous parks.But Sacramento is not just about gold or parks or tress but it is also a place where people can enjoy the modern amenities of life like shopping, nightlife, dining experience and the likes.To get a feel of Sacramento, it is best to visit the place during one of its annual affairs like the Jazz Jubilee during summer. This annual affair is a hit not only among the locals but with the tourists as well with over a hundred thousand people lining the streets to join the jazz festival.The Music Circus is another homegrown festival that will surely give tourists a feel for the local beat. The festival has been celebrated every July for fifty years now. Those who love musicals from Broadway can time their visit at this time of the year to take part in the Sacramento Music Circus.One unique shop in the city is the Blue Diamond Growers that sells delicious almonds for souvenirs. Novelty and other souvenir items are also available in the shop.Want to know how former President Ronald Reagan wanted his wine served? Then visit Berkley Fine Wines, which is owned by David Berkeley, who used to work as Reagans wine custodian.There are plenty of places to see in Sacramento and the only limit is your imagination (and your pocketbook). Visit Sacramento and you will never leave empty handed, whether its with memories or actual souvenirs.
The Luxor Hotel & Casino In Las Vegas Is Undergoing A Transformation And Its Not About Ancient Egypt Any Longer
When the Luxor opened on October 15, 1993 the striking pyramid structure was the tallest building in Las Vegas. The pyramid could be seen for miles and made the other hotels on the Strip look small in comparison. This was a time when the development of casinos in "Las Vegas" relied on themes to differentiate themselves from one another. The Steve Wynn hotel, Treasure Island, was based on a pirate theme and second incarnation of MGM Grand (the original MGM Grand was what is now known as Bally's) was all about the movies, complete with a yellow brick road directing visitors through the center of the casino floor.The Luxor, as the name suggests, relied on the ancient Egypt theme to tantalize it's guests. The replica of the Sphinx in front of the hotel, which also doubles as the porte-cochere, greets visitors upon arrival. At one time there was even a Nile River ride, similar to what you might find in Epcot Center at Disneyworld. The Luxor may not have been considered one of the seven wonders of the world, but at the time it was definitely considered the wonder of Las Vegas.Times and taste change very fast in Las Vegas and today the Luxor is going through a transformation that promises to bring a more contemporary flavor and erase any sign that the hotel and casino are 18 years old. This transformation began in 2006, with the refurbishment of the West Tower rooms, and will continue through 2008. All 4,047 rooms will be refurbished by the time the renovation is complete.Gone is the RA Nightclub. RA was one of the first mega-nightclubs in Las Vegas. The Luxor is now home to the LAX Nightclub, a branch of the Los Angeles hot spot. LAX is a modern state-of-the-art nightclub covering two-stories and 26,000 square feet. Since the club was opened in August 2007 it has developed a reputation for being a celebrity hangout. There is also Noir Bar, a private reservation required bar located within the nightclub. An adjoining bistro will be opening soon so you can eat, drink and play in a singular destination.Although the Nile River ride is no longer, the Luxor still has many entertainment offerings. The comedian Carrot Top offers his unique and somewhat twisted form of entertainment 6-nights a week. The adults-only revue, Fantasy, offers singing, dancing and of course, topless girls. Something the whole family can enjoy is the ventriloquist Ronn Lucas and his puppets who perform afternoon shows 6-days a week. In 2008 the Luxor will be home to yet another Cirque du Soleil production on the Las Vegas Strip. This production will be a collaboration with magician Criss Angel and will be housed in the theater formerly occupied by the Blue Man Group.The Luxor's parent company, MGM MIRAGE is spending $300 million dollars in an effort to bring the hotel in line with the newer resorts and casinos on the Strip, which was very much needed. As the transformation continues there will surely be new restaurants added, new bars and nightclubs and new entertainment options. And as the ancient Egypt theme slowly disappears during this renovation, it is beginning to look like the only reference to the old Luxor that will remain is it's signature 30-story pyramid tower.
Are you tired of the cold and snow?Do you feel the need to get away...and soon?Have your children been to your very favorite places?You need a vacation. And the time to plan it is now!Dreaming of a fabulous vacation and actually pulling one off are two different things. As a modern professional, you are probably an expert at scheduling, time management and project coordination in your career.These are the same skills you need to use when it comes time to plan your dream vacation.And the first tool you need is a vacation checklist.A "vacation checklist" will get you on top of your planning immediately and keep you there right up until the day you leave on your trip. A vacation checklist will ensure- you don't forget anything and take exactly what you need,- and you actually pull off the trip of your dreams.Your vacation checklist doesn't need to be fancy. Just thorough. You can make one yourself or find a free one by looking in the resource box following this article. Whatever checklist you use, you'll need to customize it for your own use, of course. And if you start now, customizing your entire trip will be easy.Using your vacation checklist to keep track of your notes, start out by vacation dreaming. - Where do you want to go?This is easily decided by determining what type of vacation you're in the mood for. If you're tired of the cold, you'll want warm...and maybe beaches. If you need rest and recreation, you'll look for places that can pamper you and evaporate your stress. If you want to show your kids the world, you'll look for family-friendly and educational adventures. - How long a trip will this be?Mark down on your checklist the length of your vacation. Are you working around a school schedule? How many vacation days are you willing to trade for your dream vacation? Would you rather take one long vacation or several long weekend jaunts? Factor in travel days...that will tell you whether you want to drive or fly. And that will affect your next item... - What's your travel budget?This part of vacation planning needn't be a downer. By planning ahead, you can maximize your travel monies through booking the least expensive travel and hotel arrangements. Do a little upfront research and write down on your vacation checklist how much your dream vacation will cost. Divide that amount into equal monthly payments between now and your travel dates. Can you make that happen? Do you have other monies set aside you can allocate for your trip? Be wary of just putting your trip on credit. No matter how wonderful your dream vacation is, paying for it after the fact can tarnish its memories. - What are your expectations?We've all been on vacations that we had high hopes for but didn't turn out as we envisioned. Sure, stuff happens, but you can put the odds on your side that your vacation will be what you dream of by planning as much detail as possible ahead of time. It also helps to ask yourself the simple but powerful questions of- am I wanting to make lifetime memories with this vacation?- am I wanting to cram in as many activities as possible on this vacation?- are my vacation wants in conflict with my vacation realities? For example, do I want to take my spouse on a romantic getaway but I have five children under the age of ten and they must accompany us?Bottom line...when it comes to vacations, planning is king and your vacation checklist is queen. Plan your dream trip, make sure your expectations are in line, keep track of everything on your checklist, and before you know it, you'll be THERE...exactly where you want, with the people you want, doing what you want. Enjoying the vacation you dreamed of.
Hello From Toronto - A Culinary Tour Of The St. Lawrence Market & An Exploration Of Historic St. Lawrence Hall
October 6, 2005Life works in really strange and wonderful ways. At the beginning of this week I talked to my brother in Austria on the phone, and he said he'd been reading this German travel magazine and there was a big write-up about a Toronto-based tour guide who provides culinary tours of the St. Lawrence Market, one of my brother's favourite places that he discovered on his recent trip to Toronto.I asked my brother what this fellow's name was and he looked it up and said "Bruce Bell". I did an internet search and within a few seconds I had located Bruce Bell Tours ; and I knew I had to meet this person. Bruce Bell, the popular history columnist for the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Community Bulletin, is also an award winning playwright, actor, standup comedian and the honourary curator of the most photographed building in the city of Toronto, the historic Gooderham Building better known as the Flatiron. Bruce just recently published a book on Toronto called "Toronto - A Pictorial Celebration".Immediately after I hung up with my brother I was on the phone with Bruce, we briefly introduced ourselves and he said, come down, join me on Thursday for my culinary tour of the "St. Lawrence Market" . Sure enough, this morning, punctually at 10 am I arrived at the souvenir shop at the main entrance of the market and I met Bruce and the other participant in our tour, a young architecture student.As the official historian of the St. Lawrence Market Bruce has special access to all sorts of areas of the building that other people never get to see. Right away he took us up some stairs, pulled out a special key and led us into the former mayor's office, since the market building used to be the original city hall of Toronto. The building has undergone several transitions, and the two side wings were removed to make way for a steel-girdered shed built in 1904 that was modeled after the Victoria Train Station in London.From the former mayor's office we had a perfect view of the market and we also had a beautiful vista of the downtown skyscrapers and the famous Flatiron Building to the west, and St. Lawrence Hall to the north. Bruce took us down the stairs in the market hall itself and shared various tidbits of history with us. The shoreline of Lake Ontario used to be right at Front Street, and after landfill was added, the Esplanade became the waterfront, and today several hundred meters of additional landfill have expanded the city's territory to a new waterfront.Under Bruce's guidance we started our tour of the shops which include bakeries, butcher shops, fish mongers, fruit stands, delis, dessert places and specialty vendors of all kinds. The first place he took us to was a bakery that also serves lunches, and we got a delicious taste treat of smoked salmon and backbacon, each on a small piece of bread. I am not usually a big fish eater, but this savoury morcel was delicious. At another store we got to sample "Indian candy" - smoked salmon cured in maple syrop. What a treat!We walked by some of the butcher shops, many of which have been in the same family for generations. I admired the creatively presented cuts of pork loin stuffed with spinach, cheese and bacon, a perfect solution for a non-chef like me - just stick it in the oven and pull out a delicious gourmet meal.After a brief tour outside the building where Bruce explained the building's history and early Toronto society to us, we went into the lower level, where all the dessert shops, fruit stalls and specialty vendors are located. We got several more samples: a huge variety of delicious honeys from New Zealand, a sampling of speciality jellies and jams, tender white chocolate truffles that just melt in your mouth, and for dessert - after all these sweat treats - Nutella-filled crepes. All the samples we received were utterly delicious.Bruce took us into the bowels of the building, today mostly used for storage and refrigeration, but in previous times these areas were the men's and women's jails. Bruce explained that in the 1850s women had no rights and many men simply stuck their wives in prison, especially after child-birth or during menopause, when they got a little cranky. The iron hooks that prisoners were chained to are still visible on the walls.The basement is also decorated with a number of murals that explain Toronto's history. As the official historian of the St. Lawrence Market and a well-known columnist of the St. Lawrence Community Bulletin, Bruce is actually depicted on the mural. About 15 historic plaques throughout a variety of buildings in the downtown area provide insight into noteworthy past events and are titled "A Bruce Bell History Project". So there is no doubt that this is a real expert, even a local celebrity.Just outside the St. Lawrence Market used to be the terminus of the Underground Railroad, the pier where thousands of the former American slaves arrived after having made their secret passage from the American south to Rochester and on to freedom in Toronto. It's amazing how much history there is, even in a comparably young city such as Toronto, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Bruce's unique stories.From the St. Lawrence Market building we walked north through a courtyard to another former City Hall of Toronto by the name of "St. Lawrence Hall" . It was the former city hall of the City of York, that was officially renamed the city of Toronto (an Indian word for "meeting place") in 1856. St. Lawrence Hall is a beautiful classical building, and Bruce took us inside to show us the ballroom, the most well-preserved original ballroom in Canada. The chandelier is original, was originally lit with coal gas and today is illuminated with natural gas.This was the heart of Toronto's elite WASP (white / Anglo-Saxon / Protestant) society during the 1800s and Bruce shed more light on the many behavioural norms of the time. Women were not considered persons and could not walk on the street by themselves or accompanied by any man other than their husband. Men had to defend their wives' honour in duels and sometimes ended up having to shoot their best friend as a result of a harmless (by today's standards) misunderstanding. The city and country were run by English noblemen, and Catholic immigrants from Ireland, arriving in masses after the potato famine of 1849, were despised by the local ruling class.As a result, the Catholics were segregated, but they did receive a spot inside St. Lawrence Hall, a big room called St. Patrick's Hall, where they were allowed to congregate since they were barred from entering the ballroom which was reserved for the WASP elite. Irish Catholics had to enter St. Patrick's Hall through a back staircase since they weren't allowed to mix with the English aristocracy. The portion on the northeast side of St. Lawrence Hall housing St. Patrick's Hall incidentally collapsed in 1967 and was completely rebuilt.After St. Lawrence Hall we walked through a beautiful Victorian Garden outside of St. James Cathedral, Toronto's largest house of worship, and the 5th church in the present location. Bruce took us inside and shared more historical information with us, about the original British settlers of Toronto and ruling elite of the times, which included the famous Bishop Strachan, the creator of St. James Cathedral. Bruce showed us the various stained glass windows that adorn the church, all of which were crafted at different times. Especially stunning are the Tiffany stained glass windows on the east side which have a particularly intense coloration.St. James Cathedral marked the end of our culinary and historic tour of the St. Lawrence Market area. We had received a great introduction to Toronto's history and enjoyed the diverse culinary delicacies of Toronto's greatest market. Bruce's entertaining and informative lessons on a time in Toronto's history when women and men were segregated, when society was strictly regimented by expectations of etiquette and social status, and when Irish and English weren't allowed to mix made me realize how incredibly far Toronto has come in the last 150 years.Bruce Bell offers other interesting tours about Toronto's Distillery District, its Art Deco skyscrapers and a tour called "Comfort and Steam" that takes you through the Fairmount Royal York Hotel, Union Station, the Skydome and the Air Canada Centre, among other places. Considering everything that I learned in the St. Lawrence Market tour, I hope to have a chance to catch another one of Bruce's tours and broaden my local knowledge of this city in the near future.
Can I claim my pension in Spain?Yes. Whether you spend a few weeks there or live permanently in Spain, the Department for Work and pensions (DWP) will pay your pension.How do I go about it and when do I claim?About four months before reaching retirement age, you will receive an information pack and a claim form. If you are in the process of moving abroad and will be claiming a pension soon, it is a good idea to inform the pensions service in advance to avoid any loss of forms etc.How often will I be paid?You will be paid every four or 13 weeks in arrears, usually straight into your account in either Britain or Spain. But you can have a sterling cheque posted to you. Be careful when using a Spanish bank as some will charge you for receiving payments. If you plan to go abroad for less than two years, you can arrange to have the whole amount as a lump sum waiting for you when you come home.What about the Winter Fuel Payments?Anyone who has spent a winter in Spain will agree that it can get pretty chilly indoors and you do need heating. Therefore, the UK government will grant the two hundred pound (three hundred for those with an eight year old or over living there) benefit per household for those living in Spain.Please note that you only qualify for the benefit if you were resident in the UK during the week prior to the 26th September, 2004.What about Bereavement benefits?There are no restrictions on your getting this in Spain. If you are above retirement age and your spouse dies, it will depend on his or her National Insurance contributions as to whether you qualify for an increase in your pension. You may also be entitled to the Bereavement allowance for up to one year, and the Widowed Parents Allowance.Useful ContactsAge Concern Espana www.acepana.orgInternational Pension Centre www.dwp.gov.ukWinter Fuel payment Centre www.thepensionservice.gov.uk/winterfuel