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Archive for May, 2013

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

By Linda Tancs

Eighteen percent of the finest countryside in England and Wales is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or AONB. The 38 AONBs in England and Wales and eight in Northern Ireland are protected by national legislation granting them special legal status. Many are well known, like the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Cotswolds. Other areas may not get as much press–hidden gems just waiting for you to explore them. Consider, for instance, the Ring of Gullion, a ring dyke in Northern Ireland not found anywhere else in the United Kingdom. One of the few lowland AONBs, the Wye Valley straddling England and Wales boasts the first major river to be designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest along its entire length. And don’t neglect the smallest of the AONBs, the granite Isles of Scilly off the coast of Land’s End. What about Scotland, you ask? The countryside acts creating AONBs do not apply to Scotland; they have National Scenic Areas instead. The 40 NSAs cover idyllic landscapes, including legendary peaks like Ben Nevis and Glencoe.

Four Freedoms in New York

By Linda Tancs

In New York City a three-minute tram ride from 59th Street and Second Avenue brings you to Roosevelt Island, a seeming haven in the middle of the East River.  Part of the City, the two-mile-long island has a population 12,000 strong, with an enviable mix of playgrounds, parks and recreational areas.  The newest park pays homage to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Named for his famous speech on the “four freedoms” during World War II (freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear), Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park offers amazing views of the City skyline from the expansive lawn.  The Presidential memorial is a place for peaceful walks and contemplation–a respite from the onslaught of bikes, boards, skates and amplifiers in Manhattan’s “other island.”  Here, serenity rules.

The Spirit of the Jerseys

By Linda Tancs

New Jersey’s State History Fair,  the only statewide event where visitors can experience five centuries of the state’s history in one place, is taking place on 11 May at Washington Crossing State Park in Titusville from 11 am to 5 pm.  Activities include military encampments and displays covering the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and both world wars.   You’ll enjoy period music and crafts, living history demonstrations and exhibits by historical societies and museums.  If you (or your kids) think history is boring, then check out the historic character portrayals that will bring the past to life.  The cast includes Molly Pitcher (who followed her husband through Revolutionary War battles), George Washington and British General William Howe.

The Northernmost Curiosity

By Linda Tancs

If you’ve been looking for a toilet bowl atop a totem pole, your search is over.  You’ll find it in Point Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point in the United States.  At the military base there is a colorful totem pole topped off with what is reputedly a toilet bowl commemorating the first flush toilet in Barrow.  Just 1291 miles away is the North Pole.

Drinks on US

By Linda Tancs

Did you know that the earliest known recipe for a cocktail in the U.S. comes from a response to a newspaper editorial in 1806?  What was the original cocktail?  How many patents have issued for barware?  These and other libation-related curiosities will be answered at the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans at the Riverwalk Marketplace.  What better time to visit than during World Cocktail Week, now through 13 May.

The Octagon Hall

By Linda Tancs

Kentucky’s only eight-sided house, Octagon Hall in Franklin boasts a storied past, its nooks and crannies serving as hiding places for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.  This one-of-a-kind home, built by plantation owner Andrew Jackson Caldwell in 1847, has a storied present as well.  Regularly featured on shows like Ghost Hunters, Kentucky’s marvel is reputedly haunted.  Lest you think that you can book a night there to experience its ghostly apparitions, that privilege is reserved for reputable investigative teams.

Chim Chim Cher-ee

By Linda Tancs

Even chimney sweeps have a holiday to call their own.  Around 400 years’ strong, the Sweeps Festival has morphed from a May Day procession to a festival weekend with merriment enough to evoke memories of ol’ Bert in Mary Poppins.  Held in the town centre of Rochester, England, the event this weekend features music, dancing and entertainment coinciding with Morris celebrations of spring.  Sounds supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, doesn’t it?

Life on the Farm

By Linda Tancs

Is a farmer’s life for you?  Here’s one way to find out:  choose a Swedish farmstay.  With over 300 participating farms, you can choose your length and type of accommodation, like a quaint B&B on an organic farm, for instance.  Don’t worry, you needn’t milk the cows.  There’s ample opportunity for horseback riding, hiking, swimming, fishing–or just enjoy the fertile farmlands of a district like Skåne.

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