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Archive for April, 2014

Lock to Lock in Burgundy

By Linda Tancs

Called Le Canal de Bourgogne by the French, the Burgundy Canal in central eastern France traverses the Yonne and the Cote d’Or for more 120 miles, winding from lock to lock through small towns, villages and valleys.  The vineyards of Burgundy are an obvious attraction, as is the city of Dijon (of mustard fame).   But don’t miss the beautiful, relaxing grounds of Fontenay Abbey, one of the oldest Cistercian monasteries in Europe.  Founded in 1118 by Saint Bernard, the Romanesque-style complex boasts a remarkably preserved church, dormitory, cloister, council room, monks room, heating room, dovecote and chapel.  The old abbey gate sports a hole for the dog of the monk-porter.  Its fountains and gardens are world class, but the venue is perhaps best known as a locale in the 1990 movie, Cyrano de Bergerac.

Year of the Bus

By Linda Tancs

Sixty years ago, the iconic Routemaster bus was unveiled at the Commercial Motor Show in London, England.  That was in September 1954.  Why wait to celebrate?  Mayor Boris Johnson has declared 2014 as the Year of the Bus.  And rightly so.  Did you know that London’s road network carries more bus passengers than New York and Paris combined?  Approximately 2.3 billion passenger journeys were made between 2012 and 2013 on around 700 routes on London’s bus network, over 100 of which operate around the clock.  The double decker has captured the hearts of travelers worldwide.  You can learn more about its impact at a lecture tonight in Covent Garden.  Other events taking place during the year include a festival at Finsbury Park in July and symposia on the history and cultural significance of the London bus.  Routemaster, we salute you!

Where Nature Speaks

By Linda Tancs

The Chihuahuan Desert region covers over 220,000 square miles, the third largest desert of the Western Hemisphere.  It includes parts of the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas in the United States, as well as parts of the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Durango, Zacatecas, and San Luis Potosi in Mexico.  Here you’ll find more cacti than any other region in the world, including the prickly pears, hedgehogs, living rocks, nipple cacti, and cory cacti.  So how do you go about exploring such a vast expanse?  Why not start at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center in Fort Davis, Texas.  Beginning hikers will love the Hummingbird and Butterfly Trail, a short, easy trail with spectacular views of Mitre Peak.  The more difficult Outside Loop Trail will take you up to Clayton’s Overlook, the highest point on the property.  Plant and bird lovers should flock to Modesta Canyon Trail.  If hiking is too strenuous, be sure to visit the botanical gardens, where they say it’s quiet enough to hear nature speak.

Big Trees Abound in New Jersey

By Linda Tancs

The New Jersey Forest Service has been keeping a record of the largest trees in the state since the 1950s.  Consider the silver maple off Route 179 in Ringoes, measuring 27 feet in circumference.  That tree also happens to be 208 years old.  And there’s the 175-year-old slippery elm (named for its sticky inner bark) in Wantage and the largest red oak (the State Tree) in Wyckoff.   These and other trees are part of the Champion Big Tree Register.  In 1884, New Jersey celebrated its first official Arbor Day celebration.  Tomorrow is National Arbor Day, a special day for tree planting celebrated nationwide.  Plant a tree.  Who knows, it just might grow up to be a champ.

Waxing Poetic in Wales

By Linda Tancs

Welshman Dylan Thomas is best known for his poetry although he also wrote scripts for radio broadcasts, radio plays, short stories, films and an unfinished novel.  Wales is undergoing a yearlong celebration of the centenary of his birth.  The son of Swansea wrote many of his major works at a house in Laugharne, where the annual Laugharne Weekend takes place each April.  This year’s centenary event will feature additional poetry weekends there into early May.

A Shrine to Innovation

By Linda Tancs

If you think the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan is just a shrine for car enthusiasts, then think again.  Sure, you’ll find the first Mustang and the last Model T among its collection, but you’ll also discover a world of innovation through amazing exhibits like Made in America, featuring a Newcomen engine, gothic steam engine and McCoy lubricator.  The sprawling museum compound also celebrates pioneering in aviation, including a replica of the Wright Flyer.  And don’t miss Greenfield Village.  Founded in 1929 as an educational and historic landmark, it comprises seven districts chronicling 300 years of American industrialism in railroading, farming, handiworks, patentable inventions and, of course, automotive engineering.

The Oldest City in Holland

By Linda Tancs

Located in the western Netherlands, the medieval city of Dordrecht is Holland’s oldest city and ancient capital.   Its attractions are easily navigable via numerous bicycling paths, which isn’t at all surprising considering that the nation has more bikes than residents.  One of the oldest dwellings is ‘t Zeepaert, adorned with a decorative Gothic stepped gable of Belgian blue limestone.  Augustijnenkerk is an old abbey church dating from the 1200s with 200 tombstones, including that of Dutch painter Aelbert Cuyp.  A city of harbors and monuments, Voorstraatshaven forms its backbone.  Among all of its attractions, perhaps nothing is as monumental as the full-sized replica of Noah’s Ark, a museum that retells the biblical saga.  The unsinkable dream of builder Johan Huibers features commanding views of the Merwede River and the city.

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