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Bonfires of St. John

By Linda Tancs

The Night of St. John is a fireworks festival of pagan origin that celebrates the summer solstice. Held every year on June 23 in Spain, the event is characterized by a massive beach party accompanied by bonfires and fireworks. According to tradition, if you jump over a bonfire three times on that night, then you will be cleansed and purified and your problems burned away. Another ritual is to throw a note in the fire for good luck.

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A Calming Influence in Vancouver

By Linda Tancs

Designated a national historic site of Canada, Stanley Park (named for Lord Frederick Stanley, Governor General of Canada in 1888) is an oasis of calm in the bustling city of Vancouver. The city’s first and largest urban park (at nearly 1,000 acres), one of its beloved attractions is the collection of colorful totem poles capturing the history of the First Nations. But no trip to Stanley Park is complete without also visiting its famous landmarks: Lost Lagoon, Siwash Rock, the Hollow Tree, Beaver Lake and Prospect Point. Along the way, enjoy over five miles of seawall with views of English Bay as well as 16 miles of forest trails.

An Arduous Trek in Europe

By Linda Tancs

Are you fit enough to climb 50 flights of stairs and walk a very steep 1 in 5 gradient? If so, then the Gobbins Cliff Path in Northern Ireland may be just for you. It’s a dramatic coastal walk erected over 100 years ago along a cliff-face in Islandmagee and one of the most unique things to do in Northern Ireland. Available only via a guided tour over two hours in length, the trek takes you along a narrow path hugging the cliff comprising bridges amid the crashing waves of the North Channel, hidden tunnels under the Irish Sea, rugged staircases carved into the cliff and caves that were once home to smugglers and privateers. If you’re not up to the task, fret not. The visitors’ center provides ample history on the walk, and an hour-long sea tour from Ballylumford Harbour packs stunning views.

Canada’s Appalachian Trail

By Linda Tancs

The International Appalachian Trail extends across Maine and into Atlantic Canada along the Gaspé Peninsula. Forillon National Park in Québec is the eastern terminus of the trail, and it offers foot and biking paths to soak in the scenery that’s at its peak this time of year. Don’t miss the views from the lookout tower on the Mont-Saint-Alban trail. And just before the entrance to the park is Canada’s tallest lighthouse (112 feet) at Cap-des-Rosiers. Unique to the park is its “Curious by Nature” mobile interpretation kiosk, offering a wealth of information pertaining to the park’s animals, plants and landscapes.

Exploring the Unexplained

By Linda Tancs

How do you explain the unexplainable, like extraterrestrial life? A panel of leading experts will take a crack at it when AlienCon convenes this weekend in Pasadena, California. Featuring Giorgio Tsoukalos, the panel includes UFO expert Nick Pope, ancient civilizations expert David Childress and investigative mythologist William Henry. You’ll have the opportunity to take part in celebrity autograph and photo sessions with some of the biggest names in alien exploration and pop culture and to buy specialty merchandise at the marketplace. May the force be with you.

Full Circle in Iceland

By Linda Tancs

Looking for a convenient way to conquer Iceland’s 40,000 square miles? Try a bus tour. With Iceland by Bus, you can take a hop-on, hop-off excursion either clockwise or counterclockwise from Reykjavík. That means you get to spend more time at the locales of most interest to you, like long valleys and peninsulas in the north or volcanoes, glaciers and waterfalls along the south coast. Depending on the bus route, the operations period generally runs from June to August.

Steaming the Lake District

By Linda Tancs

Prized as one of the most beautiful of the English lakes, Ullswater boasts stunning mountain scenery to its south and an enviable display of Wordsworth’s daffodils on the west shore in spring. So it’s no wonder that Ullswater Steamers is such a popular attraction for cruising the second largest lake in the Lake District. Their five heritage vessels (one, dating to 1877, believed to be the oldest working passenger vessel in the world) ply eight of the nine miles’ length of the lake, stopping at four piers. Operating year round, cruise times vary from 20 to 120 minutes.

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