Sunday, October 28, 2007

Wonders of the modern world

1) Millau Viaduct

Built: 2004
Where to find it: Millau, France
Designed by Norman Foster, the viaduct is the tallest vehicular bridge in the world - the summit of one pier topping out at 343 metres. It unlocked the bottleneck that hampered tourists travelling from northern Europe to the south of France and Spain, clipping 4 hours off the journey time.
What to do there: There is an
exhibition centre and a viewing point where you can take in the breathtaking view of the viaduct and the Tarn Gorge it spans.

2) Petronas Towers

Built: 1998
Where to find them: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Preposterously huge buildings have been springing up the world over in recent years, but none have acquired instant iconic status quite as fast as these distinctive silver towers that soar over the Malaysian capital at a total height of 1483 feet.
What to do there: Arrive early in the morning and grab a free ticket to the dramatic sky bridge that connects the two towers. This being South-east Asia, there's also an obligatory shopping mall in the basement.

3) Empire State Building

Built: 1931
Where to find it: New York, USA
Even in a city of skyscrapers, the Empire State Building dominates the skyline whichever side you're looking from. Its 102 storeys of art deco grandeur have survived a collision with a B-25 bomber, multiple ravaging from King Kong, and once again has became Manhattan's tallest building after the World Trade Centre was destroyed in 2001.
What to do there: A trip to the building's 86th-floor observatory is a must for any New York visit, but those seeking an even greater high should keep going to the 102nd floor lookout area for a small extra fee. On the way up, be sure to admire the 1930s-tastic interiors. If you'd like to view the building from the outside at close-ish proximity, the upper floors of the Rockefeller Center make a prime gazing spot.

4) Channel Tunnel

Built: 1994
Where to find it: Folkestone, England, and Coquelles, France
Not an attraction so much as a supremely handy piece of engineering, the Channel Tunnel's long-delayed opening has proved worth the wait.
What to do there: Jump on a Eurostar train with your luggage from Waterloo Station London or Ashford in Kent, or drive a vehicle onboard at Folkestone, and you'll be on the other side of La Manche in about 20 minutes. It's ever so clever. Visit for more info.

5) Sydney Opera House

Built: 1973
Nicely complementing the nearby Harbour Bridge, the striking white roofs of Sydney's famed arts venue are the focal point of the city's waterfront area. It's a truly enigmatic building to explore, both from the inside and out.
What to do there: Don't just pause on the steps for a quick photo; this is a world-class venue for theatre, music, comedy and other performances. Visit booking info. At the very least, take a guided tour to get a real feel for this amazing structure.

6) Bellagio Fountains

Built: 1999
Where to find them: The Bellagio hotel, Las Vegas, USA
These are no ordinary dancing fountains. 1,200 jets of water combine with 4,500 lights to lay on the most impressive free show in town, swaying and leaping in perfect time to music and leaving passing tourists captivated (and occasionally soaked). Even by Vegas standards, it's an incredible spectacle that will leave you wondering how on earth it's all done.
What to do there: Stop for a break as you stroll along the Strip, and take in the free show - performances kick off every 15 minutes.

7) Eiffel Tower

Ancient wonders are all well and good, but many modern feats of engineering can be just as jaw-dropping to experience and are often a lot easier to visit. We present a selection of some of modern mankind's most impressive works of construction, varying from the supremely useful to the purely entertaining.

Built: 1889
Where to find it: Paris, France
10,000 tonnes of steel make up one of Europe's most recognisable structures, a true engineering marvel that continues to wow visitors more than a century after it was constructed.
What to do there: Climb up, admire views of Paris, propose to a loved one, eat at one of the two restaurants within the structure.

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