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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.

A Thousand Miles

By Linda Tancs

Affectionately referred to as the most beautiful race in the world, Italy’s Mille Miglia (thousand miles) is a race limited to classic and vintage cars.  In fact, participation is limited to those cars produced no later than 1957, which had attended (or were registered) to the original races from 1927 to 1957.  Like the original races, the route is a round-trip jaunt between Brescia and Rome.  This year’s event starts today in Brescia and ends on 17 May.

The Winterfell Experience

By Linda Tancs

Show enthusiasts know that Game of Thrones was filmed at Castle Ward, an estate on the shores of Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland. For those desiring to leap into that dynastic fantasy world, a replica of Winterfell Castle’s archery range has been recreated where the filming originally took place. You can dress up in character costumes from the show, tour the movie set, stand exactly where characters Jon Snow and Robb and Bran Stark stood, and enjoy the thrill of firing live arrows, all courtesy of an independent adventure tour operator on the premises. They aim to please.

Romancing the Tome

By Linda Tancs

Romantics flock to Paris because it’s widely regarded as the city of love. But it’s just as tantalizing for book lovers. Selling books since 1826, Librairie Jousseaume at Galerie Vivienne will have you yielding to the pages of texts both ancient and modern on topics as varied as history, literature, travel, poetry, comic books, theater and music. As French historian Jean-Jacques Ampère put it, “Books make eras and nations, just as eras and nations make books.”

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