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Birmingham’s Frankfurt

By Linda Tancs

You know Christmas is right around the corner when you witness the pilgrimage to Birmingham, England, this time of year. The city’s most sought-after event in the calendar is their annual Frankfurt Christmas Market, described as the largest authentic Christmas market outside Germany or Austria. Enjoy shopping among the 120 stalls, which will no doubt work up your appetite for bratwurst, schnitzel, pretzels and beer. Musical entertainment takes place on Victoria Square. The market runs today through December 24.

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Exploring the Bible in Washington

By Linda Tancs

It’s no secret that America’s Founding Fathers were greatly influenced by the Bible, using it to shape their personal and political views. So it’s perhaps appropriate that the nation’s first museum dedicated to the Bible should be located in Washington, D.C. Opening this Friday, the Museum of the Bible is housed in a 430,000-square-foot building just two blocks from the National Mall and three blocks from the nation’s Capitol. It boasts 40-foot-tall bronze doors at the entrance and a rooftop garden, along with eight floors using modern technology to explain ancient parables. Among its collections are first editions of the King James Bible, fragments of the Dead Sea Scroll, the first Bible to travel to the moon and the largest collection of Torah scrolls.

Ecotourism in the Exumas

By Linda Tancs

The Exumas are an archipelago of 365 cays and islands, beginning just 35 miles southeast of Nassau, Bahamas. Its sapphire blue waters are home to two national parks. The 176-square-mile Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, created in 1958, was the first land and sea park in the world. An ecological preserve and wildlife refuge, it’s home to rare coral life, limestone reefs, scores of tropical fish, the endangered Bahamian iguana and the elusive hutia (a Caribbean rodent). More ecological wonders await at Moriah Harbour Cay National Park, covering 13,440 acres. In addition to phenomenal sandbars, the park includes sights like Thunderball Grotto, the Blow Hole at Boise Cay with a 10-foot geyser and Dripping Cave at Guana Cay.

Living History in Rouen

By Linda Tancs

Joan of Arc is a national heroine of France, a peasant girl born in the 1400s who led the French army to a momentous victory over the English during the Hundred Years’ War. Later captured by opposition forces, she was tried for witchcraft and heresy and burned at the stake in 1431 in Rouen, France, at the age of 19. You can immerse yourself in medieval history and her life and times at the Joan of Arc History Museum. Housed in a 15th century archbishop’s palace, visitors can live this historic period by viewing a series of films projected onto the walls of the magnificent palace in holographic style. The state-of-the-art audiovisual experience is an immersive adventure for all ages.

The Narnia Trail

By Linda Tancs

Acclaimed writer C.S. Lewis is the author of the fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia. Although he spent much of his life in England, he never forgot his early life in Northern Ireland, the source of his inspiration for the classic tales thanks to the striking landscapes in the Mourne Mountains (particularly that part of the village of Rostrevor overlooking Carlingford Lough). At Kilbroney Park in Rostrevor you can join the Narnia Trail, entered through—what else—a wardrobe. The Narnia legends are interpreted along a short family loop trail, leading visitors to several stations with themes including The Tree People and The Beavers’ House.

The Toy Train

By Linda Tancs

Affectionately known as “the toy train,” India’s Darjeeling Himalayan Railway consists of 54 miles of two-foot gauge track that connects New Jalpaiguri with Darjeeling, passing through Ghum at an altitude over 7,000 feet (the highest railway station in India). Opened in 1881, it remains one of the best examples of a hill passenger railway and has been a World Heritage Site since 1999. Catch a photo of the world famous B-Class steam locomotives at work, particularly from the adjacent public roads at Kurseong and Darjeeling.

Geological Variety in Aruba

By Linda Tancs

More than just a haven for flora and fauna, Aruba’s Arikok National Park boasts amazing geological diversity. The landscape has three primary geological formations: the Aruba lava formation, batholithic quartz and limestone rocks from fossilized coral. The park is also prized for its bays and the Natural Pool, a basin formed by rock and volcanic stone circles. Culturally,  the Caquetío Indians left rock paintings in Cunucu Arikok and Fontein Cave. The bird drawing in the park logo is a copy of one of these historical artistic expressions. Comprising almost 20% of the island, the park is located in the northeast in the area of Santa Cruz.

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