Travelrific® Travel Journal

A blog for travel enthusiasts. Listen to our podcasts on the blogroll at Travelrific® Radio. Visit our Wanderful Places® Travel Shop for travel-inspired merchandise!

Archive for July, 2010

The Brighter Side of Things

By Linda Tancs

For those seeking a look at the brighter side, take note: the southern delta aquarids meteor showers are peaking.  Better viewed in the Southern Hemisphere due to winter’s more transparent skies and the southern radiant’s higher altitude, the show is nonetheless spectacular regardless of your location.  Head out in the wee hours tonight and tomorrow.

Share

The Legends Meet at Greenbrier

By Linda Tancs

The Greenbrier, an award-winning resort located in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, bills itself as “America’s resort.”  An apt description, considering this National Historic Landmark is almost as old as the country.  Known as the “Queen of the Southern Spas,” the complex of 6500 acres in the Alleghenies is a mix of sulphur springs, luxury accommodations, formal gardens, and golf courses.  It’s the golf that takes center stage now through 1 August as the PGA hosts its newest event, the Greenbrier Classic, at the famed Old White Course, designed in 1914 by Charles Blair Macdonald, the reputed father of American golf course architecture.  The festivities include a concert tonight by country music star Reba McEntire, followed by a performance tomorrow by Rascal Flatts and Saturday’s song fest with Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood.  The legends truly do meet at Greenbrier.

Share

Basque in the Festivities

By Linda Tancs

Treasure Valley includes all the lowland areas from Vale, Oregon to Boise, Idaho.  With a moniker like that it should come as no surprise that the area attracted those in search of gold and other treasures.  An unusually large number of Basques joined in that quest, ultimately homesteading in Boise where the ethnic group grew to its largest numbers outside its European base of northeastern Spain and southwestern France.  Every five years Boise celebrates Basque culture at the Fairgrounds with Jaialdi, or “Big Festival.”  Now through 1 August, experience Basque tradition through tasty croquettes, dances like the Flag Dance (Ikurrina), and ball games like pelota (a variant of which is jai alai) in the Fronton on Grove Street.

Share

The World at Your Feet

By Linda Tancs

The world at your feet—that is, under your feet—is a traveler’s mélange of sights and sounds of the earth and under the earth from Old World to New World.  Consider Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat.  Descending from a prehistoric lake, this snow-hued wasteland is punctuated with a series of cherry red trains bearing silent testimony to a once burgeoning rail system designed for the transport of the area’s rich mineral resources to Pacific Ocean ports.  Although generally devoid of plant or animal life, a pink brigade of Andean flamingos breeds among the flats each November.

Pink also characterizes a shallow lake in Senegal, West Africa known as Lac Rose (Pink Lake), so named for the gentle pinkish tint owing to the reflection of mineral deposits in the water.   This basin is popular with tourists because its salinity allows for floating.  However, it is hope that floats for the locals in this area some 20 miles from the capital city of Dakar; the huge stores of salt extracted from the lake bed are a vital source of income.

The hue turns to blue in Belize, where an underwater sinkhole near Ambergris Caye attracts divers the world over.  The Great Blue Hole is about 1000 feet in diameter and 412 feet deep, formed from the collapse of a roof of an underwater cave system formed during the last ice age ending over 12,000 years ago.  Not for the faint of heart, the 100-plus-feet dive to a panoply of parrot fish, sponges, grunt fish, elkhorn coral and sea turtles requires advanced skills.

Nature’s fury finds a different mode of expression in Argentine Patagonia at Glaciers National Park.  There you might experience a thunderous roar beneath your feet thanks to Perito Moreno glacier.  Known as the White Giant, the iceberg’s steady advance creates a spectacular collapse, usually in summer, when the warmer waters of Lago Argentino drill a tunnel through the glacier so powerful that its trademark archway ruptures into the waters below.  Be prepared to view a stunning white haze of ice, mist and froth from the observation deck.

Water is an equally powerful part of history in Rome, Italy.  In particular, the 2000-year-old aqueduct, Aqua Virgo, is a miles-long labyrinth still channeling water to many of the city’s fountains, including the legendary Fontana di Trevi.  Running beneath the ground like many aqueducts to protect its precious resource, it is occasionally visible above ground at such locations as beside the Spanish Steps—just minutes away from Trevi fountain.  Another ancient artifact outside the city proper is the Appian Way, the longest and most significant ancient Roman road.  Along this path you can explore the catacombs, underground burial places for ancient Christians (as well as Jews and pagans), such as the catacombs of Saint Sebastian. 

Underground exploration also thrives among the dark, mineral-clad chambers of show caves in the United States.   For instance, Tennessee sports over 8700 caves for spelunkers and casual tourists alike, more than any other state.  Manganese, iron, calcium and copper are in abundant supply along the walkways at Appalachian Caverns in Blountville.  Its most popular natural resource, however, may be the colonies of grey, big brown and eastern pipistrelle bats lurking around the higher ceilings.  Ruby Falls cave in the Chattanooga area is the deepest commercial cave in the country, earning a listing on the National Register of Historic Places as well as the awe of visitors who are drawn to the waterfall gliding 145 feet through its depths.  One of the earliest visitors to the eastern Tennessee attraction of Craighead Caverns in Sweetwater was a Pleistocene-era jaguar, the remains of which are now on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.  Today’s visitors flock to an underwater lake covering over four acres, recognized by Guinness World Records as the World’s Largest Underground Sea.

Another kind of commercialism rules in Canada at Montreal’s Underground City (officially known as RÉSO), reputedly the largest underground city in the world.  This subterranean universe comprises 20 miles of tunnels spread over an area of nearly five square miles linking shopping malls, hotels, offices, cultural attractions, entertainment, universities, and transportion stations.  Often referred to as a city within a city, the shopping and entertainment mecca is a convenient respite from both cold and snowy winters as well as year-round traffic.

As poet Henry David Thoreau observed, heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.  Whether buoyed by ancient Roman craftsmanship, modern day urban masterpieces or natural phenomena, a world of enlightenment awaits you underfoot.

Share

Opera on the Lake at Bregenz

By Linda Tancs

The town of Bregenz, the capital of Vorarlberg in the westernmost area of Austria, is located on the Bodensee (Lake Constance). Like any lake district, it offers striking views of the neighboring settlements from its eastern shores, especially those viewed from mount Pfänder towards Lindau. Unlike any other lake district, it has an open-air floating stage to mesmerize visitors during the annual Bregenzer Festspiele, a summer music festival open now through 22 August. This year’s opera on the lake is Verdi’s Aida, a fitting selection for a story that uses the banks of the Nile as a backdrop.  As if that setting weren’t memorable enough, you can add to the experience with the purchase of a premium ticket for Festival Lounge, which includes a four-course dinner and a loaner of Swarovski opera glasses for viewing the four-act extravaganza in the lounge’s comfortable, covered viewing area.  Your chariot awaits.

Share

A Fête in Belgium

By Linda Tancs

July 21 is National Day in Belgium, marking the day on which Leopold I took the constitutional oath as the first King of Belgium on this date in 1831 following the country’s independence from the Netherlands. For those lucky enough to have arrived for the opening of the urban Brussels Beach (Bruxelles les Bains), today’s events from 10 a.m. till midnight include merry makers parading in the capital amidst streets filled with black, yellow and red flags, music, theatre, an army exhibition at Place Poelaert and an arts and crafts market on the Rue de la Régence. That’s enough entertainment to keep you busy until the fireworks over the Royal Palace.

Share

Of Plate and Planet

By Linda Tancs

In support of taste education worldwide is the slow food movement. Slow food is a way of life–an appreciation of traditional artisanal food production waiting to delight traveling taste buds–an art that is as much a part of the landscape and tradition of a culture as any tourist destination. Slow food is also a recognition that safeguarding biodiversity in the pursuit of gastronomy mandates proper control of natural resources. With over 100,000 members and 132 countries, you’ll have all the support you need to stop and smell all that terra madre has to offer.

Share

%d bloggers like this: