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Five Countries in One

By Linda Tancs

Beginning with tonight’s opening ceremony, five countries are converging on the State Fairgrounds in Minot, North Dakota for Norsk Hostfest.  Continuing through 4 October, Hostfest celebrates Scandinavian culture from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and is North America’s largest Scandinavian festival.  This year’s entertainment includes Doc Severinsen, Merle Haggard, Peter Noone (Herman’s Hermits), Bill Engvall and Jennifer Nettles.  With a lineup like that, expert pure Scandimonium.

London’s Larder

By Linda Tancs

London’s Borough Market turns 1000 years old this year.  You’ve come a long way, baby–from grain, fish, vegetables and livestock trading in the 11th century to a premier market source for foodies like chefs, restaurateurs and amateur cooks.  Its original location is marked by The Triangle, a patch of land purchased by local residents when Parliament closed the market in the 1700s.  Now over 100 stalls strong, the facility is home to renowned producers like Northfield Farm and Furness Fish and Game.  The City’s oldest fruit and vegetable market, it’s located next to London Bridge station.  The full market is open Wednesday through Saturday.

A Sea of Sand

By Linda Tancs

There’s a sea of emptiness that swallows up a fifth of the Arabian Peninsula.  Known as Rub’ al-Khali (Empty Quarter), it’s the world’s largest sand desert.  Popularly referred to as the Sands, it encompasses parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen and United Arab Emirates.  You might think of it as an arid wasteland, but the Bedouins have been calling this expanse home for ages.  Ever resourceful, they’re even giving tours that include ATV dune bashing and overnight camping.  Who knows, there may be a tourist lurking behind that next-door dune.

 

Birding in Mabamba

By Linda Tancs

Uganda’s Mabamba Bay is designated an Important Bird Area (IBA), one of the best marshy areas along the northern shores of Lake Victoria for bird watching.  Besides  Murchison Falls National Park, Mabamba is the only place where the elusive shoebill can be spotted.  It’s also a haven for threatened species such as the blue swallow, pallid harrier, papyrus gonolek and white-winged warbler.  Overall, more than 260 species have been recorded in these wetlands.

Birthplace of English Landscape

By Linda Tancs

The English Landscape Movement was inspired by Dutch landscape paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries.  Launched by landscape designers like William Kent, the movement’s birthplace is widely recognized to be the gardens at Chiswick House in west London.  The property was restored a few years ago to enhance its lake views and serpentine pathways.  This 65-acre oasis has inspired other great landscapes around the world like New York’s Central Park.  Admission is free year round.  Take the District Line to Turnham Green station.

 

Surrender in the South China Sea

By Linda Tancs

Scuba divers understand what it means to surrender, placing deep trust in the world beneath their feet as they plunge to the depths of a watery abyss in search of aquatic bliss.   So where do experienced divers go to hit the sea life lottery?  The Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.  Layang Layang, controlled by Malaysia, is the only island within the Spratlys having an airport with regular flights and exquisite scuba diving resorts.  Kayaking, windsurfing and bird watching (at, where else, nearby Bird Island) are also available for those who prefer life above the sea.

 

The Land of the Picts

By Linda Tancs

The county of Angus in Scotland has been dubbed the “birthplace for Scotland,” a site where the Declaration of Arbroath was signed in 1320 at Arbroath Abbey during the Wars of Independence.  It’s also a county rich in Pictish history.  Over 2000 years ago Scotland was roamed by warrior Pictish tribes, a source of irritation for the Romans who erected Hadrian’s Wall in northern England to keep them out.  You can learn more about Scotland’s ancient past at Pictavia in Haughmuir, an all-weather museum sporting interactive exhibits and artifacts exploring the life and times of this mysterious people.  From there, set out on the Pictish Trail, where stone relics bear silent witness to the tribes’ lifestyle, education and culture.  Reputedly, one out of every 10 Scots is descended from the Picts.  Are you one of them?

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