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6,000 Years of Life

By Linda Tancs

You’ll find 6,000 years of life in County Limerick, Ireland. Just 13 miles from Limerick city, in fact, is a prehistoric marvel, Lough Gur (Lake Gur). Surrounding this placid lake is a gem of archeological sites, boasting Ireland’s largest stone circle, Neolithic settlements, megalith tombs, crannogs and castles. The Heritage Centre provides a fascinating interpretation of the area’s riches, including an audio visual show and display panels on the geology, botany, zoology and archaeology of the area combined with local folklore.

The Golden Age of American Gardens

By Linda Tancs

Draped by the northern Santa Cruz mountains in Woodside, California, Filoli is a country estate with enviable grounds beckoning the Golden Age of private estate gardens. Designed between 1917 and 1929 for prominent San Franciscans Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn, its grounds are remarkably preserved as one of the few surviving and best examples of an English Renaissance style garden. Its many charms also include the Sunken Garden and clock tower, a 6.8-acre orchard and a trail system highlighting five different ecosystems. No less elegant, the gracious country house adorning the estate boasts 36,000 square feet, resplendent in an extensive collection of 17th and 18th century English antiques among its 43 rooms.

Newcastle’s Hidden Heritage

By Linda Tancs

At first blush, England’s northern city of Newcastle would owe its fame to the beer it sired. After all, its namesake brown ale was first produced at the Tyne Brewery in 1927. But in 2007 production was moved to Tadcaster in North Yorkshire by current owner Heineken, so that part of the city’s heritage is but a side note these days. There’s another part of its heritage that’s alive and well, though—albeit a bit hidden. That’s the Victoria Tunnel. Running beneath the city from the Town Moor down to the Tyne, it was built in 1842 to transport coal to riverside jetties for loading onto ships. In 1939, it was converted into an air-raid shelter to protect hundreds of Newcastle citizens during World War II. Part of the tunnel is open year round to the public for guided tours which must be booked in advance.

Where a Tree Reigns Supreme

By Linda Tancs

Andhra Pradesh is a district in India with the second lowest rainfall, a fact that seemingly has no impact on at least one tree in the region. At the westernmost end, the province boasts a colossal ancient banyan tree at Anantapur‘s village, Gutibayalu. With branches spreading over five acres, its girth earned it a place in Guinness World Records. To put it in perspective, the tree is larger than an average Wal-Mart. Locally referred to as “Thimmamma Marrimanu,” it sports over 1,000 prop roots.

The Pinnacles

By Linda Tancs

Take a three hours’ drive north of Perth (the capital of Western Australia) and you’ll encounter the otherworldly Pinnacles in Nambung National Park. The Pinnacles comprise limestone shells cast as pillars in the desert landscape of the park, their sheer numbers (and oddball shapes and sizes) creating an alien-like environment. They date back millions of years to an epoch when the sand was beneath the sea. The ride down Indian Ocean Drive is well worth it for the views of coastline fringed by white beaches and colorful native bushland, but you can also get there via coach or a 4WD tour from Perth.

A Different Kind of Library

By Linda Tancs

Multnomah Whiskey Library in downtown Portland, Oregon, puts a new twist on getting into the spirit of things. A haven for aficionados of whiskey and other distilled spirits, the locale boasts an exhaustive collection that’s always in flux, from nascent Irish distillers to 19th century Scottish gems from Speyside. Like any library, they have members, but visitors can obtain a “Hall Pass” to jump the nightly line.

Larger Than Life in Mongolia

By Linda Tancs

Genghis Khan, Mongolia’s national hero, united the country’s nomadic tribes and reigned over one of the largest contiguous empires in history, creating a powerful political and cultural force in the process. No wonder, then, that his image (atop a horse) should rise prominently over the plains of Mongolia about 35 miles east of the capital. That’s where you’ll find the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, reportedly the largest equestrian statue in the world. The 131-foot-tall memorial of Genghis Khan and his horse is rendered in stainless steel (250 tons of it) and sits atop the Mongolian steppe (grasslands). An elevator to the horse’s head rewards visitors with panoramic views.

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