Herstmonceux Castle – East Sussex, England

Boasting a fairly colorful history, including standing as an exterior walls-only edifice for well over a century, Herstmonceux Castle’s name derived from very early 12th century owners of a manor house that existed on the site,  Idonea de Herst who married Ingelram de Monceux, a Norman nobleman. At that time, the manor house was called “Herst of the Monceux.”  There is evidence that in 1066 some other structure existed before the manor in this location.Herstmonceux CastleConstruction of the actual castle did not begin until 1441 by Roger Fiennes, a Monceux descendant, who was appointed Treasurer of the Household by King Henry VI.  Unique to Herstmonceux is that brick was not a common material used during that time, as it was not being built as a fortress from which to defend attacks but, rather, as a grand residence.  In the early 18th century the castle was sold to another family and by 1777 it’s existence as a ruin began. 

In 1913, new owners brought Herstmonceux back into life as a residence.  The castle changed hands between various owners until 1946 when it was purchased and turned into the Royal Greenwich Observatory, until it moved in 1988.Herstmonceux CastleThe castle sat vacant until 1992 when it became part of Queen’s University at Kingston (Ontario, Canada) and was known as  Queen’s International Study Centre (ISC), with primarily arts or commerce students.  The name later changed, in 2009, to Bader International Study Centre, after Alfred Bader, the Queen’s alum who first had the idea to turn this castle into a university study center.

Herstmonceux CastleThough gaining entry to the ISC may not occur, the exterior grounds and the outstanding brick structure make it a worthwhile visit.

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Arc de Triomphe – Paris, France

At the western end of Champs-Élysées in Paris, France, sits one of the country’s most famous monuments, Arc de Triomphe. Situated at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, the Arc honors those soldiers who fought and died in both the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Arc de TriompheThe victories during those conflicts, as well as the generals, are inscribed on the Arc, while beneath it there is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. The Arc is one of several monuments that are between Musee du Louvre and La Grande Arche de la Défense.

Arc de TriompheIt stands 164 feet (50 meters) tall and is 148 feet (45 meters) wide and 72 feet (22 meters) deep. Though it was commissioned in 1806 it would not be completed, for various reasons, for another three decades. At the time it was finished it reigned as the tallest triumphal arch, to be beaten by one erected in Korea some 50 years later.

Arc de TriompheThe design of Arc de Triomphe was inspired by the 1st century Roman Arch of Titus, though is over three times as large. The Arc is adorned with many sculptures and reliefs, adding much to its artistic beauty. A lift will take those visiting to the attic (which includes a museum) and a 46 step climb will land a person at the top, where there is offered a 360 degree view across all of Paris.

Arc de TriompheThe Arc de Triomphe is well worth a visit when in Paris.

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Pikes Peak – Colorado

Situated in the Pike National Forest, Pikes Peak is in the front range of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. At 14,115 feet (4,302 meters) above sea level, Pikes Peak is one of 54 mountains in the state above the 14,000 mark.

Pikes PeakPrior to 1806 the mountain was called El Capitan by Spanish settlers in the area and was renamed following explorer Zebulon Pike’s expedition to map out the southern portion of the Louisiana Territory and the headwater of the Red River, a tributary of the Mississippi. Pike failed in his original attempt to scale the mountain in November 1806 (it was first scaled 14 years later led by botanist Edwin James) and documented the weather was about 6 degrees at the base with no sign of beast or bird. Confused in their travels, Pike and his men were captured by Spanish, taken in for questioning by the then-Mexico governor and later released.

Pikes Peak ColoradoA short distance away one finds the Garden of the Gods which offers incredible geologic formations.

Pikes Peak and Garden of the GodsToday visitors can hike or even motor to the summit, with visitor’s centers along the way (some of which include gift shops and restaurants). Pikes Peak is a designated National Historic Landmark and worth a visit, whether it be from a distance to photograph or to reach the top.

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Palace of Holyroodhouse aka Holyrood Palace – Edinburgh, Scotland

Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile, opposite Edinburgh Castle, sits the official residence of the Monarch of the United Kingdom, the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Palace of Holyrood HouseThe Palace was constructed by James IV, King of Scots, in the early 16th century, adjacent to Holyrood Abbey, which dates back to 1128. In 1650 fire destroyed the east range of the Palace and in 1671 complete reconstruction began, completed in 1679. The Baroque design of architect Sir William Bruce comprises four wings formed around a central courtyard, the quadrangle.

Palace of Holyrood HouseThe Palace has been the official residence of the Monarch of the United Kingdom since its founding, though there have been periods when the Palace was not utilized by the Crown, primarily when in disrepair. Queen Elizabeth II spends one week each year at Holyrood, during the summer, where she holds court and attends to her official duties.

Palace of Holyrood HouseThe Keeper of Holyrood House is viewed as an important role, so much so, that in 1646 King Charles I conferred the title 1st Duke of Hamilton, which is heritable. Descendents of the 1st Duke have retained this ever since.

Palace of Holyrood HouseThe Historic Apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots, are open to the public, although there is no photography allowed there, nor anywhere else inside. Despite the no photography restriction the Palace is certainly worth a visit, especially for history buffs. For paranormals, purportedly the naked ghost of Agnes Sampson (Bald Agnes), who was stripped and tortured in 1591 following her arrest and charge of witchcraft, roams the halls at Holyrood.

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