Shell Grotto Of Kent

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The Shell Grotto, an English tourist attraction in Margate Kent,  is a 70-foot underground passageway, decorated with around 4 million seashells. According to the story, in 1835 James Newlove lowered his son Joshua into a hole in the ground that had appeared during the digging of a duck pond. When he came out, he told his father about this underground tunnel covered entirely in seashell mosaics. He had discovered the Shell Grotto.

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Actually, many different stories about the discovery have been told and may not have involved duck ponds and small boys. By whatever means he did find it, James Newlove clearly saw the potential of his find. He installed gas lamps to light the passageway and three years later opened it to the public, coming as a surprise to the locals , as the place had never been marked on any maps, and nobody knew about its existence.

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Debate of its origins has raged ever since the first paying customers went down the chalk stairway. Everything from an ancient temple, to a meeting place for a secret society or a wealthy family’s “folly”, that they were known to build for their amusement. At first glance the Grotto’s design just adds to the confusion, with shells creating swirling patterns and symbols. There are any number of explanations as to the meaning, trees of life, phalluses, gods, and something looking like an altar. However, there’s only one fact about the Grotto that is indisputable, that it is a unique work of art that should be preserved, whatever its origins.

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Despite the multiple theories going around, no one has been able to solve the mystery of the Shell Grotto. Today, shell mosaics once again cover the entire 2000 square feet of the grotto and a team of conservationists is making sure this unique tourist attraction will be around to amaze and astonish visitors for years to come.

http://shellgrotto.co.uk/

Parisian Nightclub ‘Les Bains’

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Originally built as a public bathhouse in the 19th century, Les Bains-Douches would eventually be reborn as one of the hottest night clubs in Paris known simply as Les Bains, a destination for celebrities including  Mick Jagger, Johnny Depp and Andy Warhol.

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After some second rate re-construction in 2010, the building was closed down and considered a safety hazard. Buildings in France are rarely torn down, so  it will however be gutted and be completely rebuilt on the interior. The owner Jean-Pierre Marois, turned  the building over to 50 street artists who have been working since January to turn the building into an extensive display of artwork.

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Unfortunately the former nightclub is closed to the public, but photographers were allowed in to shoot many of the artworks in progress. Shown here is just a small selection, go to Les Bains “One Day One Artist” to see more of what was captured.

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http://www.lesbains-paris.com/

Terra Cotta Warriors

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In 1974, a group of farmers digging a well after a winter drought in northwest China, unearthed fragments of a clay figure, that would turn out to be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of modern times. They didn’t know it at the time, but the bronze arrowheads and pieces of pottery the farmers were going to sell in their village were part of a legend. Found near the unexcavated tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi, the self proclaimed first emperor of China, an underground army of life-size terra cotta soldiers and horses, was found, hidden for more than 2,000 years.

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Fast forward to 1995. In Katy Texas, the construction of the Forbidden Gardens was announced. The army was replicated in one-third scale on 80 acres of former rice land outside Houston. Six thousand soldiers stand ready on a stretch of land about the size of a football field.  When it was first under development, it was considered to be a 20-year project that would include a hotel, a 60-foot pagoda, a system of colored ponds, a waterway with boat rides and a Chinese-themed water park. The clay used to make the terra-cotta soldiers was said to come from the Chinese province that produced the originals, and the tiny palaces were built of Chinese wood.

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The museum closed in 2011 to make way for a new section of a controversial ring road. With the Grand Parkway slated to cut right through it, the 80 acres was about to become very valuable freeway frontage. The soldiers could not be moved being permanantly afixed to their bases. It’s not feasible to save the Forbidden City. It will probably be destroyed because the liability is too great to leave it there.

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http://terracottawarriorexhibit.com/

Paris Suburban Ghost Town

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Goussainville-Vieux Pays was at one time a quiet little farming village, 12.5 miles from Paris. In the center is a historic renaissance church. By the 1970s, this once quiet suburban towns ambience took an irreversable turn.

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Unfortunately for the town, it was under the direct flightpath of the new Charles de Gaulle Airport. They were now so close to the country’s largest airport in Roissy that the noise from the planes became intolerable. Residents of the  village saw their neighbors and friends abandon their homes one after another.

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The airport authorities, responsible for almost 150 properties in the village being deserted, were required to buy the abandoned houses as well as look after them. It had not been taken into account that the Renaissance church, Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul was recorded as an historic monument. Not having the option to demolish the buildings, they were walled up and left to decay. Even the 14th century church began to deteriorate so badly that in 2010, years after abandonment, local authorities finally agreed to begin efforts to restore it.

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Oak Chapel of Allouville Bellefosse in France

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Located in a French farming village, The Oak of Allouville-Bellfose is one of the biggest and oldest trees of France. In it are built two small chapels one above the other. Together with the large wooden staircase leading up to the chapels it is one of the most unusual Roman Catholic sanctuaries in Europe.

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In the 1600s, the tree was stuck by lightning that burnt the tree right through its center and hollowed out the trunk. Instead of dying, the tree started to sprout new leaves. The tree’s miraculous survival drew the attention of the local Abbot, who determined that the lighting striking and hollowing the tree had happened for a holy purpose. So they built a shrine to the Virgin Mary directly into the hollow of the tree. Later another small chapel and a stair case climbing the outside of the tree was added. The chapels were named Notre Dame de la Paix (“Our Lady of Peace”) and the Chambre de l’Ermite (“Hermit’s room”).

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During the French revolution, the tree became an emblem of the old system of tyranny. A crowd descended upon the village, intent on burning the tree to the ground. When a quick thinking local renamed the tree the “temple of reason” saving it from fire.

Today the common oak is showing signs of age and stress. Now held up by poles, part of the 33-foot trunk has died and the majority of the tree has been covered over with wooden shingles where the bark has fallen away.

Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle

Could This Be The World's Most Expensive Dolls House?
One of the most famous dollhouses of all time, is Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle. This detailed and finely crafted miniature house was the creation of the silent film star Colleen Moore. While she made the transition to talkies easily and with success, the Depression put her out of business. Her father suggested that she should follow her passion and create her own dollhouse. After all, her success as an actress meant that she had the resources needed to create something great.
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The rooms are all actually modular units made of aluminum. There is functional plumbing for the bathrooms and fountains. From 1928 to 1935 more than 700 people helped Colleen create her dream dollhouse. Her helpers included architects, interior designers, Chinese jade craftsmen and Beverly Hills jewelers.Inside of the house include paintings and murals drawn by none other than Walt Disney himself. Chandeliers are encrusted with real diamonds, emeralds and other precious stones. The books are all real, including the world’s smallest Bible which was made in the 1840s. Some of the statues are more than 2000 years old.faicolleen-moore-fairy-castle-cinderellas-drawing-room
The dollhouse, renamed the “Fairy Castle” now resides in the Museum Of Science And Industry in Chicago. Millions of people from around the world have visited the Fairy Castle, since it was donated to the museum in 1949.

LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans

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Marie Delphine Lalaurie and her third husband, a doctor, Leonard Louis Lalaurie, purchased the home at 1140 Royal Street in the early 1830s. A renowned Voodoo Queen named Marie Laveau lived just a few blocks from the Lalaurie House. Although the nature of their relationship is unknown, undoubtedly these two women met and knew each other.

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The legend goes that in the LaLaurie household, slaves disappeared on a regular basis. No questions were ever asked. Then on April 11, 1834, a slave provoked by the abuse piled upon her, set fire to the Lalaurie’s kitchen.

While trying to save items from the house, someone began whispering that servants were chained and locked up behind barred doors and would die in the fire. They searched the house  busting down the locked door to the attic. Madame LaLaurie had renovated the large room into a torture chamber of sorts where hideous procedures had been performed on many of the slaves.

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Word spread among the people of New Orleans and the LaLauries fled when a lynch mob formed. Some people found evidence that they had fled across Lake Pontchartrain and lived there, while others say she went from there to France, escaping in a horse and buggy on the night of the fire.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphine_LaLaurie

American Horror Story: Coven

The Dragon Bridge

In one of the most beautiful and ignored cities in Europe is a fantastic and fantasy filled bridge.
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Dragon Bridge is the most fairytale of bridges in the fairytale city of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Combining old-world charm with medieval mystery, this bridge celebrates its gothic construction and the mythical side of the area’s history. Decorated with ornamental dragon statues among the other ornate embellishments, visitors love to see the playful side of the city through this monument.

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While medieval in style, this attraction came into being in the early 20th century as part of a urban renovation. An 1895 earthquake had damaged the previous wooden bridge, and the powers that be decided to try out a new, innovative technology called reinforced concrete, and throw some dragons in for good measure.Slovenia 058

In the early 1980s, the bridge was renovated with a lightweight concrete. The beautiful fantasy-themed bridge holds the titles to a couple of firsts: first Slovenian bridge paved, first reinforced concrete bridge in Ljubljana, and came is a strong third for largest arch in Europe at the time of construction.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All technical marvel aside, obviously the main attraction is the fine example of Vienna Succession style, and the four dragons guarding the bridge on either side, with sixteen smaller ones decorating its span.

The entire country is beautiful and has a wide spectrum of activities and sights.

http://www.ljubljana.si/en/

Alaska Igloo City Hotel

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photo by Bob Keefer

What else would you build in Alaska but  igloos? That appears to have been the thought behind Igloo City, a planned hotel located in Cantwell, Alaska, along the George Parks Highway. Construction on this architectural fantasy began and ended in the 1970s, abandoned because the developers failed to follow building codes. The four-story concrete structure is so large, it can be seen by airplanes at 30,000 feet. At this point too much of the hotel has deteriorated to make renovation worthwhile. Now it’s just a roadside attraction, drawing both vandals and those interested in this bit of curiosity.

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Travelers driving between Anchorage and Fairbanks can still see Igloo City rotting on the side of the road. What might have been a convenient spot for a hotel is now a convenient spot for photographers looking to capture its decay. The unfinished interior is considerably more attractive than its exterior.

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Hobbit House

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In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. And in Chester County, Pennsylvania, there lived a lucky man who built his own hobbit house. He hired architect Peter Archer to build the 600-square-foot guest building near his home as a storage and display repository for his J.R.R. Tolkien memorabilia. Yes, this guy has an awesome hobbit house in his 16-acre yard just to store his Tolkien collection. The house was built using stones from a collapsed 18th-century wall running through the property, with additional features custom-built to match Tolkien’s drawings.
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The 54-inch diameter Spanish cedar door – naturally with a knob right in the center just as Tolkien described – opens with a single hand-forged iron hinge. Several craftsmen said they couldn’t hang the 150-pound door on one hinge but a Maryland blacksmith “succeeded on the first try,” Archer said. A Delaware cabinet-maker built the mahogany windows, including the large arched “butterfly window” – its Art Nouveau-ish flourishes inspired by Tolkien’s own drawings. The roof is covered with clay tiles handmade in France. Inside the small dwelling are curved arches and rafters of Douglas fir. The rustic structure cleverly hides its thoroughly modern heating, cooling, electrical and security systems.
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http://www.archerbuchanan.com/portfolio.asp?isection=3