Archive for the ‘Photos’ Category

Things you didn’t know about Michelangelo

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Michelangelo's <i>David</i>, a Renaissance masterpiece, in Florence. Photo by Elaine Ruffolo

When any art fan thinks of Florence, there is always a connection to Michelangelo. No artist has put his mark on the city quite like he has. Yet, how much do we really know about him? Although his reputation has spanned centuries, he was human like the rest of us – with ups and downs in his own life. Here are a few things about this iconic artist that you might not know.

1. Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was born March 6, 1475.

2. The family business was small-scale banking, a trade that had been passed down for generations. But his father struggled to keep the business successful, and took government positions to supplement the family income. Because of this break in tradition, Michelangelo was free to explore other career opportunities.

3. At the age of 17, Michelangelo worked as Bertoldo di Giovanni’s apprentice, as did fellow contemporary Pietro Torrigiano. It was Pietro who punched Michelangelo, resulting in a broken nose that is clearly reflective of every portrait of Michelangelo.

4. When Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the original idea was to paint the 12 Apostles against a starry sky. But the artist insisted on a more complex theme, and when it was finally completed it included 300 figures highlighting stories from the Book of Genesis.

5. Although many of Michelangelo’s most notable works were created earlier in his life—Pietà, for example, was carved when he was 24 years old —He lived a surprisingly long life and passed away at the age of 88.  

Who is your favorite Renaissance artist – Michelangelo, Raphael, or Da Vinci?

Explore the Italian Renaissance with new eyes and perspectives when you travel to Florence with Smithsonian.

An Egyptian Family Odyssey

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
Enjoy riding camels with the whole family!

Enjoy riding camels with the whole family!

There is something exotic and adventurous about Egypt. Every child knows that in a desert somewhere in the North African desert, there are gigantic pyramids, “cursed” tombs, and an abundance of mummies. Exploring Egypt as a child provides an experience that lasts a lifetime, possibly resulting in your child becoming an archaeologist, historian, or diplomat.

You might not expect your mummy-obsessed child to want to  be a SCUBA diver,  particularly in the desert land of Egypt. But in locations like Alexandria and along the Nile River, archaeologists and environmentalists need to go underwater to do their research.

For environmentalists, there is the concern about rising sea levels, which would affect Egypt’s coastal cities and communities along the Nile river. For archaeologists, Egypt’s many shipwrecks and submerged buildings are of great interest, as they provide a record of Egyptian nautical history, as well as many stone and metal artifacts.  These kinds of materials do not deteriorate easily, and while underwater, objects can be preserved from wind, weather and war.

So even if your child wants to be a certified SCUBA diver, you may find yourself visiting her in Egypt someday.

Have you been to Egypt? What was your favorite highlight?

Take the whole family to Egypt! Our Egyptian Family Odyssey has dates available in 2010 and 2011.

A Grand Canyon Weekend Adventure

Monday, July 12th, 2010
A rainbow at the Grand Canyon, Photo by Nancy Holland

A rainbow at the Grand Canyon, Photo by Nancy Holland

It’s practically the American rite of passage. At some point in our lives, we are compelled to visit the Grand Canyon—and for good reason. There is no place on the planet as stunningly beautiful or shockingly vast. With more than five million visitors each year, the Grand Canyon has achieved American icon status. This is a stark difference to the 44,173 visitors in 1919, when the Grand Canyon was first declared a National Park.

While most people visit the Canyon for hiking, photography, and family vacations, it was originally home to many Native American tribes including the Cohonina, Cerbat, Pai, Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo (also known as the Diné). The oldest artifacts found date back more than 12,000 years, and are well preserved due to the hot and dry climate. It would be easy to think that with all of our technology we would know everything about the Grand Canyon, but the reality is that modern archeologists and other scientists have only surveyed 3% of the Canyon and surrounding parkland, leaving this part of the United States still full of mysteries.

What is your favorite family memory of the Grand Canyon?

Into Africa: Who Was Diego Cão?

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Elephants at a watering hole.    Photo: Leo Dos Remedios

Europeans have sought riches in the Congo for centuries. As we planned our Into Africa cruise, part 3 of our 4-part Grand African Voyage exploring this fascinating continent, we wondered which European first explored the famed Congo River. It turns out that the first European exploration dates back to the 15th century, led by a Portuguese explorer named Diego Cão.

Born around 1450 as an illegitimate son in Vila Real, Portugal, Cão was one of the most remarkable explorers from the Age of Discovery, and led two voyages sailing along the west coast of Africa. In the late summer of 1482, Cão reached the mouth and estuary of the Congo River, at what is now Shark Point, Angola, and marked it with a stone pillar known as a padrão – declaring the area sovereign to Portugal.

Today, the pillar still exists but has fallen to pieces. Yet, the people of Angola are very aware of Diego Cão, as he was responsible for Angola’s colonization, and continued close ties to Portugal.

If you had lived in the 15th Century, would you want to be an explorer?

Check out Africa in the 21st century from Namibia to Ghana on our Into Africa tour, as well as our other tours on the Grand African Voyage, departing in 2011!  

Denali, Alaska’s Big Five

Thursday, July 1st, 2010
A hungry grizzley bear having a snack. Photograph by Roman Kruywczak

A hungry grizzly bear having a snack. Photograph by Roman Kruywczak

The Athabaskan people recognized Mount Denali, the massive  peak looming over a 600 mile long mountain range, as the “High One.” But it’s the animals surrounding the mountain that many people travel from all over the world to see. There are 39 known mammals that live in the park, but many come to see what are known as the Big 5 – moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, and the grizzly bear.

For those of us who love cuddly teddy bears there’s the question, “Are real grizzly bears the same way in real life?”

Definitely not.

The grizzly bear is actually one of the most solitary and aggressive of all the bears. Due to their large size, they are unable to climb trees like the smaller black bear, and instead must stand their ground. A small grizzly may weigh about 300 pounds, while bears living in coastal areas can weigh as much as 1,200 pounds. When bears are competing for food, they may become even more irritable.

But who is the most dangerous of all? The Mama Bear. 70% of human fatalities when encountering a grizzly are by a female grizzly protecting her young. Should you ever meet a grizzly bear, it would be best to respectfully keep your distance.

What wild animal sighting will you always remember? Tell us your story.

There’s still room on our Alaska’s Best: Denali and Kenai Fjords tour leaving this August. Maybe you’ll see all of the Big Five.