Day of Thunder – My Visit to Daytona International Speedway

Following a Sales retreat I had in Orlando back in April 2008, I decided to explore a bit of downtown Orlando and re-visit Daytona Beach – a place I had only previously visited once before on a family vacation back when I was 14 years old.  Along the way, I decided to pop in for a tour of the Daytona International Speedway – famous for being the site of the annual Daytona 500 NASCAR race.

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona International Speedway

The Daytona International Speedway is located at:

1801 W International Speedway Blvd

Daytona Beach, FL 32114

United States

Coming from downtown Orlando, I drove for nearly one hour Northeast along Interstate 4.  Once you see signs for Interstate 95, head north for about 5 minutes before getting of Exit 261 – West International Speedway Boulevard.  The Speedway is about 5 – 10 minutes Northeast of this exit.

Daytona International Speedway Map

Daytona International Speedway Map

Tours for the Daytona International Speedway happen every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday between 1 – 4pm EST (except for when racing events occur).  My tour was done on a Saturday.

Tours range anywhere from $16 – $50 US and last from 30 minutes to 3 hours:

  • Speedway Tour – 30 minutes ($16 US)
  • All Access Tour – 90 minutes ($23 US)
  • VIP Tour – 180 minutes ($50 US)

I opted for the All Access Tour myself as I felt that 90 minutes was plenty of time for me to learn more about this world-class race track while still having some time to check out Daytona Beach in the late afternoon.

Interior of Daytona International Speedway

Interior of Daytona International Speedway

The tours all start off by taking to you the track via tram.  As you drive along the interior of the track, the tour guide gives you tidbits of information about the race track specifics, as well as some important stories about the Daytona 500.  Highlights of the interior track include the Start/Finish line, the garages, and Victory Lane.  Mind you, if you are like me, then your mind will wander and be more focused on the massiveness of this stadium!

I've Got the Need.  The Need for Speed!

I’ve Got the Need. The Need for Speed!

The #1 highlight of the tour in my opinion is the opportunity to watch cars zoom by you during practice laps.  In fact, it is possible to either be a passenger in one of these cars or actually drive one yourself with a professional driver by your side.   While I was extremely tempted to go, the price of admission was dear (around $250 US) and would have killed my budget for the weekend.  So, I had to settle for watching them zoom past me instead from the stands.  Truth be told, it wasn’t so bad given there weren’t many of us here on this day (we were a group of about 10 – 12), so I felt like I had a rather intimate experience at the track.

Victory Lane

Victory Lane

Of course, from here we went to Victory Lane for the token photo-op.  As the name suggests, this is where the winner of the Daytona 500 is crowned with their reward.  Once you are done here, you spend the rest of the time touring the inside of the Daytona International Speedway.

Race Car Exhibit

Race Car Exhibit

Inside the Speedway, visitors can to learn the history of both the racetrack and the Daytona 500.  Exhibits include the history of the Daytona 500, models of past race cars used, and the Daytona 500 Wall of Winners.

Wall of Winners

Wall of Winners

Down the road, I may attend the Daytona 500.  But for now, my day at the track was a nice glimpse into the NASCAR lifestyle.  Definitely a worthwhile visit while you are in Daytona Beach.  For more information or to book tours, you can visit the Daytona International Speedway official website.

Categories: Florida | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Sacré Cœur – Paris’ Sacred Heart

The Sacré Coeur – or Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris – is one of a handful of attractions that you should visit in Paris.  While I have both driven past and walked past it on my high school trips, it wasn’t until my fourth trip to Paris when I finally took the time to walk inside this beautiful Basilica.

Sacre Coeur (March 1998)

Sacre Coeur (March 1998)

Sacre Coeur (January 2011)

Sacre Coeur (January 2011)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where is the Sacré Coeur located?

The Sacré Coeur is in the Montmartre District of Paris at 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre.  Like I said above, depending on where you stay in Paris, the Sacré Coeur is accessible by foot, metro or car/bus.

Sacre Coeur Map

Sacre Coeur Map

Sacre Coeur - the Heart of Paris

Sacre Coeur – the Heart of Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you get to Sacré Coeur?

If you are coming by metro or subway, then here are your four stop options:

  • Jules Joffrin (M12) + Montmartrobus (Place du Tertre stop)
  • Pigalle (M12, M2) + Montmartrobus (Norvins stop)
  • Anvers (M2) + Cable car (metro ticket) or steps
  • Abbesses (M12) + Cable car (metro ticket) or steps

If you come by bus, then here are your options:

  • 30 – 31 – 80 – 85 (Anvers Sacré-Coeur bus stop at foot of Montmartre)
  • Le Petit Train de Montmartre tourist train

What is the Sacré Coeur?

The Sacré  Coeur is a Roman Catholic Church completed in 1914 as a way for the French to seek penance for their defeat in the 1871 Franco-Prussian War.  Today it is one of the most visited churches in Europe, as well as one of the busiest for services.

Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur

Who created the Sacré Coeur?

The Sacré Coeur was a nearly 40 year project from conception to completion that was designed by Paul Abadie.  Following Abadie’s death in 1884, another five architects were employed to see the project through completion.

When is the Sacré Coeur open

Public prayer and sightseeing is allowed within the Sacré Coeur seven days per week between 6am and 10:30pm.  After 11pm, only people who have registered for Night Adoration are allowed within the basilica.  Night Adoration is an once-in-a-lifetime experience where you can spend the night within the Guest House and are given a one hour slot time to pray within the Basilica between 11pm – 7am.

What can you see at the Sacré Coeur?

As soon as you walk in the Sacré Coeur, your eyes gaze straight to the front pulpit where the Apse Mosaic is located.  The Apse Mosaic was inaugurated in 1923 by Olivier Merson, H.M. Magne, and R. Martin and depicts a risen Christ, clothed in white and with arms extended, revealing a golden heart.  At 475 square metres, it is one of the largest mosaics in the world.

Apse Mosaic

Apse Mosaic

Equally as impressive is the Grand Organ.  Built in 1898, the organ was acquired by the Basilica in 1919.  Containing four keyboards, a pedal board, and 78 stops, the Grand Organ is the most widely heard pipe organ in the world after that of Notre Dame.

On the outside of Sacré Coeur at the bottom of the staircase on the left is the entrance to the Crypt.  Crypts are quite prevalent throughout Paris given its long history, significant populations, and lack of burial space over the centuries.  The Crypts of the Sacré Coeur contain the tombs of Cardinals Guibert and Richard, a monument in remembrance of the priests and seminarians killed during the two world wars, a bronze statue of Christ, and the foundation stone of the Basilica.

View from the Dome

View from the Dome

Also found on the left of the Basilica on the outside is the entrance to the Dome.  Access to the Dome costs approximately 5 Euros, and gives you a great cardio workout as there are 300 steps to climb to the top.  I nearly missed out on the Dome because my friend, Prat, was too lazy to climb the steps.  Both his Sinthyia (his wife) and I had to convince him that the climb to the top would be worth it, and it certainly was!

For those brave enough to climb to the top, the Dome rewards you with a 360 degree view of Paris as it is the highest viewing point in the Montmartre District.  We spent close to a half hour taking panoramic photos and admiring the view from the top at dusk.  If you can, then try to get here for sunrise or sunset as it not only less busy with tourists, but it also gives you prime photographic opportunities of Paris’ skyline!

Secondary View from the Dome

Secondary View from the Dome

Speaking about photography, you are forbidden to film or photograph inside the Basilica.  This is to pay respect those worshipping and praying inside.  I had a small point-and-shoot camera with me with my flash turned off, but others around me were not as lucky as the inside is heavily guarded by security and asked people to put their cameras away.  And while filming is forbidden inside the Sacré Coeur, film permits are granted to the outside entrance.

Upon arrival, Prat, Sinthiya and I saw a film crew either producing a Christmas commercial or movie.  We are not sure exactly what it was, but there was a man dressed up as Santa Claus.  I should also point out that we were here in late January 2011, so I am guessing this film shoot was most likely for a movie slated for the following holiday season.

Film Set at Sacre Coeur

Film Set at Sacre Coeur

For more information about the Sacré Coeur, please take a look at their official website.

Categories: France | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Convento de San Francisco

From the outside, the Convento de San Francisco – or the Monastery of San Francisco – is just like any other cathedral in Peru.  But from the inside, it’s a whole new story and one of the first places I visited in Lima during a free walking tour.

Monastery of San Francisco Directions

Monastery of San Francisco Directions

Completed in 1774, the Monastery is located just outside of the Plaza de Armas (Main Square) of downtown Lima at Jirón Lampa y Ancash.  Specifically, it is south of Parque la Muralla and one block northeast from the Main Square.

Convento de San Francisco

Convento de San Francisco

The Monastery is opened seven days a week from 9:30am to 5:30pm.  Conducted in both English and Spanish, 30 minute tours cost approximately 7 Peruvian Nuevo Soles or $3 CDN.  Photography within Peruvian cathedrals is forbidden by law, but you might be able to sneak in a couple of photos like me if you are both quick and discreet.

The Main Pulpit Inside Monastery of San Francisco

The Main Pulpit Inside Monastery of San Francisco

During your tour, you will get to see 12 main sections of the Monastery of San Francisco:

  • The Porch
  • The Visitor Room
  • The Dome
  • The Library
  • The Choir
  • The Main Cloister
  • The Stand Room
  • The Museum of Viceregal Art
  • The Clementine Hall
  • The Refectory Room
  • The Sacristy
  • The Catacombs

Of particular interest to me on this tour were the Catacombs.  Discovered in 1943, the catacombs served as a burial-place until 1808 when a new cemetery was opened just outside of Lima.

The Convento de San Francisco Catacombs

The Convento de San Francisco Catacombs

Aside from the Catacombs, the artwork and library within the Monastery is quite impressive and the tour gives you some good insight about how much influence the Conquistadors had over Peru and the rest of South America during this period.

For more info on the Convento de San Francisco, you can visit their official website here.

Categories: Peru | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Löwendenkmal  – The Lion Monument

Almost anywhere you go in the world, you are bound to run into a monument of some sort.  Most of the time, they are small plaques or markers earmarking a specific historical event important to the city or town you are in.  But once in awhile, they are beautiful sculptures, like Löwendenkmal in Lucerne.

Created around 1820 by Lukas Ahorn, the Lion Monument commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution.  During the 10th of August Insurrection, over 600 Swiss Guards were killed while defending Tuileries Palace in Paris from the Revolutionaries who were upset when King Louis XVI sought refuge from the Legislative Assembly.  An additional 200 Swiss Guards were killed or died in the weeks following the Insurrection.

Lion Monument

The Lion of Lucerne would be impressive anywhere, but nowhere so impressive as where he is. — Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad, 1880

The memorial itself is a fantastic work of art.  Carved into the cliff face of a former quarry, the memorial portrays a dying lion impaled by a spear while covering a shield bearing the fleur-de-lis of the French monarchy.  Beside the lion is another shield bearing the coat of arms of Switzerland while a description below names the officers massacred and the number of soldiers who died versus who survived.

You can find the Lion Monument at the following address:

Lion Monument / Lucerne Tourism
Denkmalstrasse 4
6002 Luzern
Tel. +41 (0) 41 227 17 17

Categories: Europe, Switzerland | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eating Ceviche – A Peruvian Delicacy

As part of my three week trip to Peru back in July 2011, one of the first things I wanted to try during my trip was ceviche.  Ceviche is a popular seafood dish in Central and South America that is made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices, such as lemon or lime, and spiced with chili peppers.  Picture yourself eating spicy sushi marinated in lemon juice without the rice and that is what eating ceviche is like.

Ceviche must be prepared with fresh fish to minimize the risk of food poisoning, which makes Lima one of the most popular places to find it in South America.  Given the fact that it is considered to be a Peruvian delicacy, and its location along the Pacific coast, I decided to try ceviche for the first time in the touristy Miraflores district of Lima.

Ceviche Served with Corn & Sweet Potato

Ceviche Served with Corn & Sweet Potato

Along with my main course, I was given a side of sweet potatoes and corn to compliment the flavours.  It is possible to have a side of lettuce, avocado or plantain to go along with your main dish.  You might also want to wash your dinner down with a glass of Pisco Sour, but I opted for Cusqueña, Peru’s national beer instead.

There are plenty of cevicherias located throughout Lima that you can try.  But for starters, you can take a look at this list for the Top 5 recommendations.  Overall, I found found ceviche to be quite tart because of the lemon juice.  One dish was plenty to satisfy my craving on this trip, but I am glad I took the time to try it.

Trying Ceviche for the First Time

Trying Ceviche for the First Time

What is the most usual/unique dish that you have ever eaten?  What was it like?

Categories: Peru, South America | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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