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The Legend of Twin Rocks

By Linda Tancs

Although identified plainly as “a garden in a valley on the ocean,” the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is anything but ordinary. A natural greenhouse, the 40-acre valley just miles north of Hilo on the Big Island features nearly 200 species of palms alone and over 2,000 species of tropical plants from around the world overall. Its location on the site of the ancient village Kahali’i at Onomea Bay gives rise to the legend of twin rocks. According to the tale, two young lovers were recruited to stand guard over the bay during the night to protect against enemy sails spotted by the local chieftain. When day broke, the lovers were gone and two attached rock formations stood in their place, forever standing sentinel at the head of the bay. These days the enemy sails are just cruise ships, and passengers will be glad to know that garden staff will meet you at the pier for a day’s visit.

The City on Three Hills

By Linda Tancs

You’d expect a hillside city with lake and mountain views to provide stunning panoramas. And Switzerland’s Lausanne does not disappoint. Home to the International Olympic Committee, this city on the shores of Lake Geneva offers amazing views from a series of viewing points accessible through a downhill stroll. Start at the top of Sauvabelin Tower, a wooden tower offering views of the lake as well as the three major landscapes: the Savoy Alps, the Jura and the Plateau. And who could resist the almost mythic view from the Hermitage, combining the lake, mountains, cathedral and St. Maire castle. From the Flon footbridge to the esplanades, the city’s natural wonders are unveiled every step of the way.

The World’s Largest Book

By Linda Tancs

Mandalay is Myanmar’s second largest city, an exotic locale celebrated in a namesake poem by Rudyard Kipling. Among its charms is the riveting Kuthodaw Pagoda, located at the southeastern base of Mandalay Hill, where it was prophesied that a Buddhist metropolis (named after the hill) would take root. The unique feature of this temple is the 729 miniature pagodas surrounding the central shrine. Each of these smaller shrines contains a marble tablet inscribed with a page of text from the Tipitaka, the Buddhist sacred scriptures. Assembled together, the tablets would cover about one third of an acre or rise to a height over 300 feet. No wonder, then, that these pages are hailed as the world’s largest book.

Loons in New Hampshire

By Linda Tancs

It’s high loon season. No, we’re not talking harried travelers; we’re talking waterbirds, like ducks and geese. Their closest relatives, however, are penguins and albatrosses. The common loon is the most widespread species. Marveled at for its yodels, hoots and hollers, the Granite State has about 280 pairs of loons to delight visitors at most lakes. Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness, New Hampshire, is a particular favorite of locals and tourists. The seasonal boat cruise is a great way to learn about the natural history of the lake and its popular wildlife. You’ll also view locations where the movie On Golden Pond was filmed.

Great American Stations

By Linda Tancs

One of America’s great rail stations marks its 80th birthday this year. The honoree is Newark Penn Station, an Art Deco landmark in Newark, New Jersey. Dedicated in 1935, the station is a linchpin of the northeast corridor, a nexus of travel between New York and New Jersey and, thanks to connecting service via NJ Transit to Newark Liberty International Airport, the rest of the world.

Navigating the Zambezi

By Linda Tancs

On its journey to the Indian Ocean, Africa’s Zambezi River meanders through six countries. It forms a border at various points involving Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Flanked by two national parks (Lower Zambezi National Park on the Zambian side and Mana Pools National Park on the Zimbabwean side), it also provides a wilderness area that many tout as unparalleled, free of the tourist hordes found in many South African parks. The two parks sit on the Zambezi flood plain, a peaceful haven for buffalo, elephants, lions, leopards, antelope, crocodiles and hippos.

One Scary Walk

By Linda Tancs

Touted as the world’s deadliest walkway, Spain’s El Caminito del Rey (The King’s Little Path) is a king-sized fright for those daring enough to walk this narrow pathway over 300 feet above a dizzying gorge. Re-opened just a few months ago since its closure in 2001 after a series of deaths, the refurbished 110-year-old walkway features new wooden planks and safety lines. Located in the village of El Chorro (northwest of Málaga), the route’s royal association came when it was inaugurated in 1921 by King Alfonso XIII.

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