Photo Of The Day: Koyasan, Japan’s Temple Town

hktang, Flickr

Between the gentle peaks of the Kii moutain range, just south of Osaka, sit over 100 Buddhist temples in a beautifully dense forest. This seemingly hidden town of Koyasan, has possibly the densest concentration of temples anywhere in Japan, all of startlingly different architectural styles, from the simple to the ridiculous, none of which are any less than astounding. Xiaojun Deng beautifully shows the iconic vermilion color of Japanese temples in this photo of the Konpon Daito pagoda. Koyasan makes for an amazing and unique day trip from Osaka or Kyoto, showing Japan‘s often forgotten mountainous side.

If you have an amazing travel shot, share it with us in our Gadling Flickr Pool and it may be featured as a future Photo of the Day.

5 Overlooked Castles Close To London

castles, England
England is famous for its castles. Giant fortresses such as Bamburgh Castle and Lincoln Castle attract thousands of visitors a year, but people tend to overlook the many smaller, lesser-known castles close to London. These are often as interesting as their more famous cousins and make for enjoyable day trips from London. Here are five of the best.

Hadleigh Castle
Near the town of Hadleigh in Essex stands the ruins of Hadleigh Castle, once a magnificent royal residence. It was started in 1215 and massively expanded by King Edward III (ruled 1327-1377) to be a fortified residence away from the stink and political infighting of London. Sitting atop a high ridge overlooking the Essex marshes, the Thames estuary and the sea, it held an important strategic position. Edward was obviously thinking of it as more than just a relaxing getaway.

The castle has suffered over the years, as you can see in this photo courtesy Ian Dalgliesh. Erosion crumbled the walls, and in 1551 it was purchased by Lord Richard Rich (real name!) who promptly sold off much of the stone. One tower stands to its full height and portions of the walls also remain, so you can get a good idea of what it looked like when it defended southeast England from French invasion during the Hundred Years War.

Hadleigh Castle is in open parkland and is free to the public during daylight hours.

%Gallery-185653%Hedingham Castle
Another Essex castle is Hedingham Castle, one of the best-preserved early Norman fortifications in the country. It’s a motte-and-bailey type, consisting of an artificial mound (motte) with a keep and wall on top, and a lower area enclosed by a wall (bailey). Both parts are surrounded by a ditch. Usually they were built of wood first and later replaced with stone when the local ruler got the time and money. These castles could be built quickly and cheaply and the Normans put them all over England after they conquered the kingdom in 1066.

At Hedingham you can still see the 12th-century keep, which rises 95 feet to give a commanding view of the countryside. It played a key part in the Barons’ War of 1215-1217, when several barons rebelled against the despotic King John. They eventually lost but remarkably this castle survived its siege. The four spacious interior floors are filled with medieval bric-a-brac and the banqueting hall is available for weddings.

Since the castle is still a private residence, it’s open only on selected days.

Longthorpe Tower
In the outskirts of the city of Peterborough in Cambridgeshire stands Longthorpe Tower, an imposing 14th-century tower that is all that remains of a fortified manor house. The outside is impressive enough, but the real treasure is inside, where the walls are covered with magnificent medieval wall paintings from about 1330. They are in such good condition because they were whitewashed over during the Reformation and weren’t discovered again until the 1940s. The paintings show a variety of religious and secular subjects such as the Wheel of Life and scenes from the Nativity and acts of King David.

Longthorpe Tower is only open on weekends. While in Peterborough, also check out the medieval Peterborough Cathedral.

Farnham Castle
An hour’s drive the southwest of London is Farnham, Surrey, where stands one of the most interesting medieval buildings in the region. It started out as a Norman castle built in 1138 by the grandson of William the Conqueror. Destroyed during a civil war in 1155, it was soon rebuilt and eventually became the traditional home of the Bishops of Winchester, including Cardinal Henry Beaufort, who presided over the trial of Joan of Arc and ordered her burned at the stake. In memory of that event, a local church in Farnham is dedicated to Joan.

During the English Civil War, the castle was “slighted” (partially destroyed to render it useless for defense) and it was no longer used for military purposes. The large circular keep still survives in a reduced state. The ornately decorated Bishop’s Palace is in better condition and is now a conference center.

Farnham Castle is privately owned but the keep and Bishop’s Palace are open to the public.

Berkhamsted Castle
An easy walk from Berkhamsted train station in Hertfordshire stands Berkhamsted Castle, a Norman motte-and-bailey castle now fallen into picturesque ruin. While not as impressive as the well-preserved keep of Hedingham Castle, this place has the advantage of being free and open all day for seven months of the year.

Built by William the Conqueror’s half-brother in 1066, it became an important fortification and, like Hedingham Castle, was besieged during the Barons’ War. It was taken by rebel forces with the help of Prince Louis of France after they stormed it with a variety of siege engines, including what’s believed to be the first use of the trebuchet. After the war it was claimed by the Crown and used as a royal fortress until it was allowed to fall into ruin in the late 15th century. By this time castles were becoming outmoded thanks to the development of artillery.

[Photo by Ian Dalgliesh]

Presidential Road Trips You Can Take This Weekend

road trips

Road trips taken over the weekend can get us away from our normal routine and surroundings without a lot of planning or cost involved. Some people would like to get away from election season ads on television, websites, newspapers and magazines. Others are really into the process of selecting the next president of the United States and look for ways to feed their addiction. Here are some easy fixes for travelers who just can’t get enough of the election year hoopla.

Stop by any 7-11 store and cast your vote by simply buying a drink to participate in their 7-Election. A blue or red cup choice counts as your vote for either candidate and can contribute to a historically precise way of predicting the election outcome.

2004, the 7-Election predicted Bush would defeat Kerry 51 to 49 percent.
Actual vote: Bush 50.7 percent, Kerry 48.3 percent.

2008, the 7-Election Obama would defeat McCain 52 to 46

2012 election running totals are posted on the 7-11 website.

The Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas, features exhibits, special events, and educational programs. Like other presidential libraries and museums, replicas of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room are a highlight of a day-trip visit.

Permanent exhibits utilize documents, photographs, videos and interactive stations. The National Archives has information on all the presidential libraries, mostly located east of the Rocky Mountains.

The Sixth Floor Museum At Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, formerly known as the Texas School Book Depository has a permanent exhibit featuring films, photographs and artifacts that chronicle President John F. Kennedy’s life, death and legacy.

Another exhibit in Dealey Plaza, has been designated as a national landmark. The grassy knoll of Dealey Plaza is a small, sloping hill inside the plaza that became infamous following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

The birthplace of President Grover Cleveland in Caldwell, New Jersey, has historical significance dating back to 1881 when Cleveland was running for governor of New York. Like other presidential birthplaces, the Grover Cleveland site preserves artifacts from Cleveland’s early years including his cradle and original family portraits.

Even those with no plans to travel (except out of the United States if their candidate does not win) have some help. JetBlue’s Election Protection will fly about 1,000 disappointed voters out of the country (and back) the day after the election.

“We decided to give people a chance to follow through on their claim to skip town if their candidate comes up short,” Marty St. George, senior VP of Marketing for JetBlue said in a Time report.

Still, if a road trip this weekend is in your plans, here are some tips for making it a great one.



[Photo Credit: 7-eleven]

Roadside America: Princeton, New Jersey, The Quintessential College Town

Breathe it in: the warm aroma of fall leaves and cable-knit sweaters, the musty scent of old buildings and library books, and the added jolt of freshly brewed coffee.

It’s the smell of a college town, but not just any college town: Princeton, New Jersey, home to the fourth oldest Ivy League university in America.

Princeton particularly shines in the fall, when the energy from the start of the school year is fresh and deciduous trees light up the collegiate Gothic campus in shades of red and orange. Driving into town on Washington Road, it’s clear why the Princeton Review consistently ranks Princeton University among the ten most beautiful college campuses in the country.

Located in the south-central part of New Jersey, Princeton is an hour-and-a-half drive from both New York and Philadelphia and an even easier train ride, making it the perfect city getaway. A day trip into town isn’t complete without the following stops.

%Gallery-168518%Nassau Street and Palmer Square

The epicenter of Princeton, Nassau Street is a charming road dotted with restaurants, boutiques, bookstores and a fantastic independent movie theatre. Much of the action is clustered around the historic Nassau Inn in Palmer Square, with artisanal chocolate and olive oil shoppes, along with preppy chains like J. Crew and Kate Spade.

Food-wise, you have an extensive menu to choose from. For a quick bite, grab a salad or sandwich at Olive’s, at 22 Witherspoon. A few doors down, Small World Coffee offers the perfect caffeine fix; try the Grumpy Monkey Blend. For a sit-down meal, Teresa Caffe is a popular date spot among students, with thin-crust pizzas, inventive pastas and delicious house bread, freshly baked down the street at the Terra Momo Bread Company.

And then there’s the ice cream. Three different shops cater to different tastes. Thomas Sweet, at 183 Nassau Street, offers an extensive menu of classic and wacky flavors, including their signature “blend-ins” with candies, nuts or fruits. Halo Pub, at 9 Hulfish Street, excels at richer, heavier flavors, like classic chocolate and vanilla. And my personal favorite, The Bent Spoon at 35 Palmer Square West, specializes in local and artisanal flavors, like New Jersey honey and heirloom tomato sorbet. Their cupcakes are ridiculously delicious too.

Princeton University

The best way to enter Princeton’s campus is through the FitzRandolph Gate on Nassau Street, which leads you directly to the front lawn of Nassau Hall. For several months after the American Revolution, this colonial landmark served as the capital of the United States, hosting the early American government and Congress of the Confederation. It is now home to the university’s administrative offices.

Just to the right of Nassau Hall is a pathway leading to “up-campus.” The imposing Alexander Hall sits on your right. According to Princeton lore, a student designed the building for his architectural thesis and received a failing grade. Later, when the student amassed his fortune, he donated a large sum of money to the university, on the condition that it be used to bring the building to fruition. It holds the Richardson Auditorium, which hosts campus events.

On the left is Blair Arch, one of the university’s prettiest and most photographed landmarks. The arch often plays host to university a cappella groups, who take advantage of its incredible acoustics to perform preppy favorites from days gone by. If you happen to be on campus late on a Thursday or Saturday night, you might be able to elbow your way through the crowd of tipsy coeds to catch a performance.

Left of Blair Arch is a small road leading to the Princeton University Art Museum, which is home to a tightly curated but impressive array of artwork. Current exhibitions include “Dancing into Dreams: Maya Vase Painting of the Ik’ Kingdom” and “The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art and Society.”

For a full tour of the Princeton University campus, book a free Orange Key Tour, intended for prospective students, at the Frist Campus Center.

Carnegie Lake

Canoeing through the foliage of the D&R Canal to the man-made Carnegie Lake is a quintessential fall experience. Princeton Canoe & Kayak Rental offers four-person aluminum canoes, three-person adventure canoes and kayaks for reasonable rates until November 4. Go in the afternoon, and you may catch the Princeton Crew teams at practice.

[Photo Credit: Flickr via Calgary Sandy]

Annapolis: A day trip


annapolis

Here on the East Coast, the weather has warmed, reached scorching, and cooled again. The nights are long, the fireflies abundant, and the waterfront beckons. And it’s this same time of year that this Annapolis native (or Annapolitan, as we are often called) is besieged with e-mail and phone messages asking about what one should do in our beloved hometown on a weekend trip.

An easy day trip drive from cities like Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, and an equally simple overnight for those from as far away as Philadelphia and Richmond, the lure of this historic town is simple: water, water everywhere.

Want to visit Annapolis? Here’s what you need to know:


WHERE TO STAY

If you’ll want to spend the majority of your time near the water or within walking distance to most of your activities, you’ll need to reserve a hotel or inn downtown. Consider the Annapolis Marriott for the best water views. The hotel restaurant, Pussers, is also a popular evening spot – order the signature Painkiller cocktail, a deadly yet delicious blend of juices and rum.

On West Street, the new-ish Westin hotel is slightly less expensive and features spacious rooms and a complimentary shuttle to Main Street. It’s about a 15-minute walk downtown, and you’ll pass numerous restaurants, bars and shops along the way.

Should you care for something a bit more boutique, try the Historic Inns of Annapolis collection – three hotels (The Maryland Inn, Governor Calvert House, Robert Johnson House) that feature a more bed and breakfast-style approach and, in some cases, a history that dates back to the 1700s.

WHERE TO EAT & DRINK

No trip to this seafood-laden city is complete without a crab picking. Make the drive to Cantler’s if you’re in search of the steamed or soft shell variety. If you’d prefer a great crabcake, try O’Learys instead.


While you’re strolling the boutiques of Main Street, don’t miss a stop at Annapolis Ice Cream company. Their homemade ice cream comes in flavors like Mint Oreo and Apple Pie. Are milkshakes more your speed? The famed Chick & Ruth’s Delly features a six-pound shake on the menu (yes, you may have seen it during an episode of Man vs. Food).

Want a trendy night out spot? Sample the small plates, many featuring locally-sourced ingredients, at Level, or the upscale Italian at Osteria 177.

When it comes time to hit the town, you’ll find that most bars along Main and West Streets cater to a casual crowd. Feel free to come in fresh from an afternoon on the boat and order a brew at McGarvey’s (where the Navy’s Blue Angels hang out when they’re in town), the 250 year old The Middleton Tavern (order some oysters with your cocktail) or Sly Fox Pub at Reynold’s Tavern at the top of the circle. Or, head to West Street and try the local brews at Rams Head Tavern.

For brunch, lovers of the casual will find a locals hangout at Boatyard Bar & Grill, just across the bridge in Eastport. For a more upscale experience, opt for Carroll’s Creek.

WHAT TO DO

Start your trip downtown at the docks. Dubbed “Ego Alley,” the main city dock has dozens of large boats that pull up each day. It’s fun for spectating, and there’s plenty of seating for those who want to enjoy a cold beverage or ice cream cone. You can also catch a $13 waterfront cruise from City Dock, a great way to see the town by water.

Next, walk up Main Street, popping in and out of boutiques as you like – Diva and Horse are our two favorite picks for designer clothing. When you reach the top of the street, head to the right, around Church Circle, and continue on to State Circle. You can then stroll down Maryland Avenue, which has numerous design boutiques and art galleries. From here, you can reach one of the minor gates of the United States Naval Academy. During daylight hours, you can walk on to the campus by showing your ID. You can stroll the grounds, visit the chapel, and stop by the Visitors center, which offers a number of free exhibits. Guided tours are available until 3 PM and are $9.50 for adults.

When you stroll out the front gates again, you’ll pretty much be right back where you started – and it’s time for a cocktail!

INSIDER’S TIPS

  • Plan to do some walking. Finding a parking space downtown on weekends can be tough, so you’ll want to leave it in a public garage (there’s one on Main Street) or at your hotel if you can. Downtown is pretty walk-able, but you’ll want flat, comfortable shoes for the brick sidewalks.
  • Preppy chic is the dress code of choice for most Annapolis natives – most restaurants won’t require more than a collared shirt for dinner, although a blazer wouldn’t look out of place either.

[Flickr via Jeffweese]

Visit Annapolis in Maryland