Friday, December 30, 2011

Let the count down begin

Europe, unlike, India is a continent not a country. Therefore, as vast as the sites were from region to region in India, I can imagine that there will be even more to try to soak in from country to country in Europe.

Most people know that the countries that make up Europe range from the Greece to Russia, Amsterdam to Brussels, Norway to Ireland and much, much more. With all the countries encompassed within Europe one would expect it to be extremely large, but in actuality, Europe is the second smallest continent in area, larger only than Australia. It is, however, the third largest in population.

As a side note, some Geography purists count Asia and Europe as one continent because they are one land mass (remember Eurasia from Social Studies class). If you count it from this perspective, the addition of Asia makes Eurasia the most populated and the largest. Nevertheless, categorizing Europe as just Europe is how we will concentrate our research.

Similar to our reasearch in Count Down To India, our curiosity and imagination is going to out run our ability to keep up with the research, I am sure; but as always, I will try to hit on the highlights that we are most curious about and topics that may intrigue our readers. AND try to do it all in an exciting, non-Social Studies class kind of way.

One such subject is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Like the Taj Mahal, I have always wanted to explore this almost quirky and fascinating piece of architecture. Spring of 2012 we will get our chance, but before we depart, I thought I would find out a little bit more about this bell tower that was built on sinking sand.

Photo courtesy of TLC.COM

This Tower sits behind the Cathedral in Pisa’s Cathedral Square. It is located in Pisa, in the district of Tuscany, Italy. The most interesting fact about the tower is that it was built in three phases over 177 years (and I thought it took a long time to build the Taj Mahal). Wars, civil unrest and change in power delayed the construction.

The design of the Tower was flawed from its inception. In 1178, five years after construction had begun, the Tower began to sink as construction on the second floor began. It was built on weak, unstable subsoil with a flimsy foundation. Luckily for the endurance of the Leaning Tower, battles were waging on and off and the stalling made time for the soil to settle. If weight had continued to be piled on without the time to settle, the structure would have most likely toppled over before ever being completed.

Clocks were added and several other floors over the years. There are seven bells in the structure, one for every note of the musical major scale. The final addition was that of the bell chamber added in 1372, well after the construction of the rest of the tower was completed. Ongoing preservation takes place to maintain this historical wonder as an awe inspiring tourist attraction.   

Believe it or not, there have been structures since the erection of the Leaning Tower of Pisa that were built to lean…purposely. One such contender is the Capital Gate Building in Abu Dhabi, UAE. It is in the Guinness Book of World Records (2010) as the “World’s Furthest Leaning Man-made Tower”. I personally don’t think it should count, since it was constructed intentionally to tilt, but that’s just me. Another leaning piece of architecture is the Leaning Tower of Wanaka in New Zealand. This structure was also built with an intentional lean.

Given the above facts, I am still more intrigued by the construction, modifications and durability of a structure that was built to be perfectly vertical, sank into the ground due to poor construction and now still remains standing as historical monument for over 800 hundred years.

I have no clue what we are going to explore next in our European study. My mind is overwhelmed already by all the possibilities. Check back soon to find out where this research journey will take us next…

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Count down to Europe!

Oh! I just could not wait to start blogging about travel again. There is something exhilarating, calming and surreal about visiting another culture unlike your own. The excitement increases, building on its self with every passing moment. Then the day arrives. And it seems as long as you have been waiting for it to come it passes in a twinkling, in the blink of an eye.

This is precisely why counting down becomes so important. As you mark each day off the calendar, you learn something new and add intrigue to your journey. It also allows one to prepare more aptly for the voyage, for as one learns more about a place, they feel more comfortable with that place and the trip can be even that much more enjoyable.

So without much more ado about nothing, let’s count down to Europe! As we do, learn why we chose Europe as our next vacation destination and learn all sorts of fun facts about the individual places we are going to see.  As you know by now, I love a good history lesson and I love to eat, so there will definitely be some chats about that along the way. Most especially, I am anxious and very curious to find out whether this expedition will run as smoothly as our last. I think it will be extremely hard to top India with its elephants, sarees and the Taj Mahal. I am going to have a fascinating, exciting, not to mention entertaining time finding out.

Amendment: In Farewell to India I revealed where in the world we were going next. Europe was the answer. Italy, Turkey and Greece were the highlights on our original itinerary. But, we have since modified that list opting to go to Italy, Spain and France instead. The former itinerary did not leave us enough time to see some of the sites we wanted to explore and the duration was shorter (7 days) not allowing us much time for much needed rest and relaxation. This trip is a bit longer (10 days) and should give us all the time we need to explore, eat, sleep and do whatever else it is we would like to do while there.

The flight will still be long (11 hours) but not as long as the India flight. Now that we are expert long distance flyers, it should be a breeze. My only trepidation…I may not be able to pack quite as “light” as I normally do given the extended duration. I may have to actually check a bag, EEK!

The clocking is now ticking. Check off the days with us…5 months left to go. EUROPE HERE WE COME!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Count Down Is BACK!

The faithful readers of Count Down To India have certainly noticed a subtle, but definitive change to our endearing little page…the name. You will now find us at The title of the page is also the same (minus the blogspot part).

At this moment, I know what you’re thinking. You are saying to yourself, wow, what a long title!? Am I right? Yep, it is quite a mouth full, but it says just what it should say. As Count Down To India eased to a triumphant end, I realized I wanted to not only chronicle my journey of a life time to India, but every other voyage (big or small) from here on out. This decision came from the fact that although Count Down was intended to be a small little blog for family and friends to come along on our journey with us, it actually became much more. Many readers actually gleaned something from the information shared right here on this page. With that being said, I am pleased to announce that Count Down is back and it’s here to stay!

Count Down To India will live on as the previous posts will not be deleted, but will remain for future reading enjoyment. However, we are moving forward to our next adventure and I hope you enjoy it as much as you did our adventure to India.

SIDE BAR: Before we leave India all together, I just have to share one interesting nugget, I just could not help but note. My husband ran across it as he browsed the entertainment news circuit. Mega star, Tom Cruise, was recently in Mumbai, India while premiering his new block buster hit Mission Impossible; Ghost Protocol:

While there, Cruise said: “When we were at the Taj Mahal in Agra, I told him, you have to pinch me. I can't believe I am here. The atmosphere, the people are very nice here. I'm happy with the love and appreciation from my fans. India is an amazing place. I will definitely love to come again." He went on to say with dreamy innocence, “I wanted to come to India all my life". Tom’s dream came true and so did ours.
Tom Cruise & Co-star Paula Patton

Photo courtesy of

To know that I have experienced the magic and wonder of a land that even a world renowned talent like Tom Cruise has dreamed of all of his life, just reinforces just how special our experience really was. It is one that will not soon be forgotten.

Alas, we must move on. Maybe one day our travels will take us back to the mystical land of India. But for now, we will begin another count down…
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