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The Oldest State Capitol

By Linda Tancs

The Maryland State House is the oldest state capitol still in continuous legislative use and is the only state house ever to have served as the nation’s capitol. The Old Senate Chamber is where George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the Treaty of Paris was ratified, marking the official end of the Revolutionary War. Of particular interest is the lightning rod on the dome of the state house—a Franklin rod, constructed and grounded to Benjamin Franklin’s specifications. Protruding 28 feet into the air, the rod is anchored at its bottom to the top of the dome, which has been the defining landmark of the Annapolis skyline for more than 225 years.

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Earth’s Largest Lizard

By Linda Tancs

The closest living example of the legendary dragon in folklore and mythology is the Komodo dragon, the largest living species of lizard on earth. Reaching 10 feet in length and topping nearly 200 pounds, the monitor is protected from extinction in its native land of Indonesia at Komodo National Park. Sitting at the center of an archipelago, the park (which recently celebrated its 37th year of conservation) consists mainly of three volcanic islands and landscapes varying from dry savanna conditions to lush forests. Bounded by white sandy beaches and clear blue waters, the area attracts underwater enthusiasts as well. Divers claim that Komodo waters present one of the best diving sites in the world, with 385 species of beautiful corals alone.

Land of the Blackbuck

By Linda Tancs

The blackbuck is an antelope indigenous to the plains of India, epitomized by the twisted, ridged horns of adult males. Thriving in grassland, their dwindling population has found a haven at Velavadar Blackbuck National Park. Located in the Bhavnagar district of the state of Gujarat, this sanctuary for blackbucks features grassland habitat, shrub lands, saline plains and mud flats. The park also embraces over 140 species of birds, 14 species of mammals, 95 species of flowering plants and many reptiles.

A Roundabout View in London

By Linda Tancs

Located in the large, irregularly shaped island in the middle of the Hyde Park Corner roundabout in London, England, Wellington Arch offers panoramic views of the city from its balconies. Originally intended as an entrance to Buckingham Palace, it later became a victory arch proclaiming Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon. The facing masonry of Portland stone is capped off with the largest bronze sculpture in Europe, “Peace Descending on the Quadriga of War,” by Adrian Jones.

The Richest Man’s House

By Linda Tancs

In his day, philanthropist and oil magnate John D. Rockefeller was the richest man in America. He built a hilltop paradise in New York’s Hudson Valley and named it Kykuit, a Dutch word meaning “lookout.” The stately mansion and its grounds are aptly named, overlooking the Hudson River and affording views of New York City 25 miles to the south. The classic tour is perfect for first-time visitors to this expansive, historic estate that was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. The visit includes the main floor of the house complete with its fine furnishings and art, the subterranean art galleries, the Inner Garden and West Terrace (with spectacular views of the Hudson River and the outdoor sculpture collection) and the Coach Barn with its collection of antique carriages and classic automobiles.

World’s Best Bass Fishing Site Teems with Wildlife

By Linda Tancs

Albert Falls Dam is rated as one of the best bass fishing dams in the world. But the fishing isn’t the only thing that’s legendary about this area in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The area around the dam is filled with secluded nature trails, which form part of the Albert Falls Dam Nature Reserve established in 1975. Embracing tracts of mixed woodland, open grassland and small marsh areas, the reserve offers wonderful game viewing (like zebra, the red hartebeest, rhino and giraffe), boating, birding and rock climbing opportunities.

Madison’s Montpelier

By Linda Tancs

James Madison was the fourth president of the United States and a chief architect of the Constitution. He did most of his research and writing for that document and others at his estate, Montpelier. Located in Orange County, just north of Charlottesville and east of Culpeper, combine a mansion tour with a walk through over eight miles of marked trails. In addition to offering spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the trails highlight notable tree and plant specimens, particularly along the James Madison Landmark Forest, an old-growth forest managed only to remove non-native invasive species.

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