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Archive for December, 2010

A Helping Hand for Travelers

By Linda Tancs

Uncertain weather and other circumstances can leave travelers feeling pretty stranded.  Just ask any of the folks throughout U.S. airports feeling the effects of the recent blizzard in the Northeast.  During such trying times, it’s nice to know that there are volunteers at transportation hubs willing to lend a hand.  That’s the idea behind the volunteer organization Travelers Aid, a network of individuals providing transportation assistance for those in crisis at airports as well as bus and train stations.  Serving over six million people last year, volunteers are always welcome.  Check your locale for the network nearest you.

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Cash and Carry

By Linda Tancs

One crucial point to keep in mind about credit and debit cards is the usage in Europe, Canada, Latin America and other parts of the world of what’s known as “chip and PIN” credit and debit cards.  These cards have a computer chip embedded in them, technology increasingly adopted internationally to combat credit and debit card fraud.  The use of the card is effectuated by verifying a PIN (personal identification number).   It does not appear that any U.S. credit and debit cards (characterized by magnetic stripe readers) currently possess this “chip and PIN” technology for use abroad.  So what do you do if your card is rejected by a vendor?  In some cases, the situation can be resolved by reminding a vendor that he or she has the option to type the card number into a credit card machine.  Now there’s another option.  Money exchange company Travelex is debuting the Cash Passport, a card pre-loaded with your desired currency.  The more you buy, the better the exchange rate.  This option is particularly attractive for automated transactions where a magnetic stripe card might be rejected.

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The Fourth Test in Melbourne

By Linda Tancs

Playwright George Bernard Shaw once remarked that baseball has the great advantage over cricket of being sooner ended.  No doubt it can’t end soon enough for the Aussies, currently entrenched in a two-month battle with the English known as The Ashes.  The annual cricket match between England and Australia is playing out the fourth of five Tests in Melbourne this year until 30 December.  The next and final Test is scheduled for 3 to 7 January in Sydney.  Will the championship urn return Down Under? 

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Pets and the Holidays

By Linda Tancs

Do pets make good gifts?  Not always.  But the folks at North Shore Animal League, the world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization, would love for you to consider adoption of one of their many companion animals–or else assist with their rescue efforts, healing or sponsorship programs.  Visit their campus at 25 Davis Avenue in Port Washington, New York.  Happy holidays to all.

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A Magical Winter at Europa Park

By Linda Tancs

Europe has had its fair share of snow already this winter season, and that makes the winter wonderland at Europa Park in Rust, Germany even more authentic.  If the scent of freshly baked gingerbread and mulled wine doesn’t put you in the holiday spirit, then maybe the international parade of lights each evening through the miniature versions of England, Russia, Holland, Greece and Switzerland will cast a holiday glow.  Couple that with a larger ice skating rink than years past, a Christmas market, winter circus and a giant ferris wheel presiding over the winter landscape and you have an unforgettable seasonal experience.  Visit now through 9 January.

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Landmark Christmas Fair Awaits You

By Linda Tancs

Originating in Germany, Christmas markets have been imitated the world over but the grand dame of the genre is 576 years strong in Dresden.  The Christmas Market features, of course, the usual hand-made goodies like glass, candles, wooden toys, puppets and other treats.  Edible treats include deep fried curd balls rolled in sugar, ginger bread, sugar roasted almonds, candy floss and stuffed roasted apples. Top it off with a warming wine or rum punch.  And don’t forget that Santa Claus arrives promptly each day at 4 p.m. with special treats for the kids until the festival’s close on 24 December. 

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Just Ducky in Guy Mills

By Linda Tancs

Life is just ducky at Erie National Wildlife Refuge in Guy Mills, Pennsylvania.  Its lakes and wetlands attract up to 20 species of ducks, not to mention the migrating Canada geese and bald eagles.  One of over 500 national wildlife refuges in the United States dedicated specifically to wildlife conservation, the Pennsylvania landmark features at its heart Beaver Run Trail, a one mile loop with a spur trail at its eastern end.  The four-seasons trail takes visitors through woods, cultivated fields and beaver ponds (as the name implies).  Take PA 198 east one quarter mile to Cooper Road, then merge onto Hanks Road for one mile to the parking area on the right.

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