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The River of Many Names

By Linda Tancs

It’s been called “the big river,” the “River of May,” the “river of our lady” and “the turbulent river.”  But it’s popularly known as the Rio Grande (Great River). Discovered at its mouth by Spanish conquistadores in 1519, it’s among the world’s longest rivers and the fourth or fifth longest in North America, somewhere between 1,800 and 1,900 miles long. It starts near the Continental Divide in the San Juan Mountains and empties into the Gulf of Mexico. In northern New Mexico the watercourse of the Great River follows a tectonic chasm. An amazing site bridging the depths of the resulting gorge is the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge northwest of Taos. The steel deck arch bridge stands at 565 feet above the river, the seventh highest bridge in the United States. Enjoy the spectacular vista of the gorge from the bridge’s overlook.

Another World

By Linda Tancs

Another world–that’s the way tourism officials in Seychelles would like you to view their island nation in the Indian Ocean. That phrase aptly describes the otherworldly beauty of Vallée de Mai, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Boasting a pristine palm forest, this valley at the heart of Praslin National Park hosts the endemic species coco de mer, the bearer of the largest nut in the plant kingdom. Considered by some to be the original site of the Garden of Eden (and coco de mer the tree of knowledge), the endangered black parrot is dependent on this idyllic valley for its survival.

A Meeting on the Mersey

By Linda Tancs

In 1840 Cunard established the first scheduled service across the Atlantic with a sailing from Liverpool to Halifax and Boston on the ship Britannia.  In celebration of their 175th year of service, Cunard  returns to its spiritual home at the Liverpool waterfront with a spectacular meeting of its three queens–Elizabeth, Mary and Victoria–today.  The original transatlantic crossing will be replicated by Queen Mary 2 in July.

The Arts Captivate Charleston

By Linda Tancs

Internationally recognized as America’s premier performing arts festival, Spoleto Festival is the American counterpart to Spoleto, Italy’s Festival of Two Worlds.  Set in Charleston, South Carolina, the event was founded in the United States in 1977 by Spoleto’s organizers in Italy, among them Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti.  Taking place tomorrow through 7 June, the annual celebration of the performing arts fills the array of venues in one of the South’s most charming cities with performances by renowned artists as well as emerging performers in opera, theater and dance as well as chamber, symphonic, choral and jazz music.

The Land of Surfing Hippos

By Linda Tancs

Situated on the Equator, Gabon occupies part of the Atlantic coast of Africa. Needless to say, given its location, it’s hot year round.  So it shouldn’t be surprising to think of hippos body surfing in the Atlantic. Or elephants, buffalos, gorillas and leopards meandering among savanna, beach, forest and mangroves. Yet that’s what they do in Loango National Park, hailed as “Africa’s Last Eden” and the “Land of Surfing Hippos.” Conservation is sacrosanct in this western African nation, where 13 national parks cover 10 percent of its land mass. Loango includes part of the Iguéla Lagoon, the only western African lagoon system that is protected within a national park.

Black Hand Sandstone and a Hermit

By Linda Tancs

Talk about strange bedfellows.  What does black hand sandstone have to do with a hermit? The answer lies in Hocking Hills State Park in southeastern Ohio. More than 200 million years ago, Ohio’s ancient waters drained away, leaving behind a course sandstone resistant to erosion known as black hand sandstone. The sandstone formed cliffs, gorges and recesses like Ash Cave (Ohio’s largest cave) and Old Man’s Cave. A hermit lived in Old Man’s Cave (hence, the name) in the late 1700s and is buried at the site. Hocking Hills claims not only remarkable geologic sandstone formations and a hermit but also the state’s tallest tree.

Suspension in San Francisco

By Linda Tancs

Who hasn’t marveled at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, one of the world’s most iconic suspension bridges? However, it isn’t the city’s only suspension bridge of distinction. Just across the bridge in the Marin Headlands is another suspension bridge leading to Point Bonita Lighthouse, the only American lighthouse to be reached by a suspension bridge. Still active, the lighthouse is part of the largest urban national park in the United States, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Think the best photographic views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge are from Battery Spencer in the Marin Headlands? Some say the view from the lighthouse is the real sweet spot.


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