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The King Arthur Tour

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Although what we think of as the Legend of King Arthur is taken from Thomas Malory (and later T.H. White) and is set in the Middle Ages, the first mentions of Arthur came centuries earlier, when he was referred to as a battlefield hero of the sixth century. The stories grew over the centuries, and many places in the British Isles have become associated with King Arthur and his contemporaries.

Tintagel is reportedly the place where Arthur was conceived (through trickery) and may also be his birthplace. The castle at Tintagel in Cornwall you can see today was built in the 1230s, but excavations reveal several earlier layers of construction. The fortress is in a popular spot for watching for invasion from abroad, and may well have been used in this manner for a thousand years or more. Tintagel Island is also the site of Merlin's Cave.

The site of the old Roman Amphitheater in Caerleon is often referred to as "King Arthur's Round Table". Legend has it that Arthur set up court in Caerleon after the Romans left Britain. Geoffrey of Monmouth noted that Arthur held court in the City of the Legions. in Welsh, Caerleon means "The Fortress of the Legion."
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More possible sites for Camelot, and Arthur's resting place, after the jump.

Another candidate for Camelot is Cadbury Castle in Somerset, an Iron Age hill fort. Excavations in the 1960s find that it has been occupied and refortified several times in different time periods dating back to 500 BC, including the period of Arthur's lifetime in the sixth century.
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Among other possibilities for the legendary Camelot is Caerwent, near Gwent in Wales. The old Roman fort there was certainly occupied and busy during the Dark Ages. Clues from Malory's work lead modern theorists to think this may be the real location of Arthur's court.
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Bryn Myrdden, or Merlin's Hill, near Carmarthen in South Wales, is traditionally the final resting place of King Arthur's advisor Merlin. There is a cave under the hillside, where he was supposedly entombed by the Lady of the Lake after he revealed all of his magical secrets to her.
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Glastonbury Tor has many legends surrounding it, including a visit from young Jesus and its location as the resting place of the Holy Grail. Some scholars identify it as the Isle of Avalon, where Arthur retreated after being mortally wounded, only to await the time when Britain would again need him.
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In ancient times, the area surrounding the tor was swampland, making it a true island. When the fog rolls in, you can see how Glastonbury Tor still resembles an island.
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Glastonbury Abbey is the oldest church in Britain, first built in 670-678 AD on the foundations of an older Celtic place of worship. Legend says the Christian version was founded by Joseph of Arimathea. A catastrophic fire in 1184 AD led to the lucky discovery in 1191 of a grave with an iron cross labelling the remains of King Arthur and his wife Guinevere. The remains later disappeared, and the cross is considered to be a hoax which helped finance the rebuilding of the abbey.
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For additional reading, see Britannia History. Thanks to proud Welshman John Gale for additional links.

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FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
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Design
China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books
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FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Newsweek]

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Pol Viladoms
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architecture
One of Gaudí's Most Famous Homes Opens to the Public for the First Time
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Pol Viladoms

Visiting buildings designed by iconic Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí is on the to-do list of nearly every tourist passing through Barcelona, Spain, but there's always been one important design that visitors could only view from the outside. Constructed between 1883 and 1885, Casa Vicens was the first major work in Gaudí's influential career, but it has been under private ownership for its entire existence. Now, for the first time, visitors have the chance to see inside the colorful building. The house opened as a museum on November 16, as The Art Newspaper reports.

Gaudí helped spark the Catalan modernism movement with his opulent spaces and structures like Park Güell, Casa Batlló, and La Sagrada Familia. You can see plenty of his architecture around Barcelona, but the eccentric Casa Vicens is regarded as his first masterpiece, famous for its white-and-green tiles and cast-iron gate. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, Casa Vicens is a treasured part of the city's landscape, yet it has never been open to the public.

Then, in 2014 the private Spanish bank MoraBanc bought the property with the intention of opening it up to visitors. The public is finally welcome to take a look inside following a $5.3 million renovation. To restore the 15 rooms to their 19th-century glory, designers referred to historical archives and testimonies from the descendants of former residents, making sure the house looked as much like Gaudí's original work as possible. As you can see in the photos below, the restored interiors are just as vibrant as the walls outside, with geometric designs and nature motifs incorporated throughout.

In addition to the stunning architecture, museum guests will find furniture designed by Gaudí, audio-visual materials tracing the history of the house and its architect, oil paintings by the 19th-century Catalan artist Francesc Torrescassana i Sallarés, and a rotating exhibition. Casa Vicens is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. General admission costs about $19 (€16).

An empty room in the interior of Casa Vicens

Interior of house with a fountain and arched ceilings

One of the house's blue-and-white tiled bathrooms

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

All images courtesy of Pol Viladoms.

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