Travelrific® Travel Journal

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Archive for May, 2014

Royal Hospital Welcomes Visitors

By Linda Tancs

Today marks the birthday of Britain’s King Charles II.  It’s a day fondly regarded at London’s Royal Hospital Chelsea; King Charles founded the hospital in 1681 as a retirement home for war veterans (pensioners).  Nearest the day is the hospital’s seminal annual event–a parade presided over by a member of the Royal Family.  This year’s festivities will take place on 5 June.  You can always visit the hospital, led by a Chelsea Pensioner, for a small fee featuring a 90-minute daily walking tour.  Otherwise, you can visit the grounds, chapel and Great Hall on your own for free.

A Star in the East

By Linda Tancs

There’s a star in the East–no, not the biblical kind: the Hollywood kind.  A 26-foot-tall sculpture of Marilyn Monroe is a featured attraction at New Jersey’s Grounds for Sculpture.  Created by renowned sculptor and philanthropist Seward Johnson, the piece returns “home” from Palm Springs as part of the Hamilton museum’s retrospective on Johnson’s career.  Taking place through September, the months-long festivities will include hands-on art-making workshops, tours of the park and artwork, screenings of archival footage, and an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour with Johnson.

New Jersey’s Largest Rose Garden

By Linda Tancs

This time of year, New Jersey’s Rudolf van der Goot Rose Garden is at its peak.  The state’s largest public rose garden is awash in color and aroma–hardly surprising, with 325 varieties abounding.  A popular locale for wedding photography, the one-acre site is located in Colonial Park in Somerset.  Don’t expect to find too many wilts; only roses that thrive in central New Jersey are kept in the garden.  Let’s give that a green thumbs-up!

Durham’s Seat of Power

By Linda Tancs

Once upon a time, following the Norman Conquest, there were two kings in England.  That unusual circumstance arose in England’s County Durham.  During William the Conqueror’s time, the two most powerful men in that northeastern region were the earl and the Bishop of Durham.  Recognizing the need for a local power to guard against Scottish marauders, the Bishop of Durham was granted unusual authority by the king, including the ability to raise taxes, mint coins and hold parliaments.  As a result, the successive bishops came to be known as the Prince Bishops.  They even had their own palace–Auckland Castle.  High above the Wear Valley in Bishop Auckland, the castle is no longer the Bishop of Durham’s official residence although he works there.  Now fully open to the public for the first time, the castle’s parkland extends almost 200 acres.  A crowd favorite is Deer House, a folly built in Gothic Revival style.  Other interesting features are the Throne Room and St. Peter’s Chapel, the largest private chapel in Europe.

Born Free

By Linda Tancs

In Africa’s Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the animals are born free.  One of the largest conservation areas of its kind, the absence of man-made barriers allows game including lions, leopards, cheetahs, antelope, springbok and wildebeest to roam freely.  Although wildlife can be spotted year-round, viewing is best before the end of the rainy season this month.  The park is located between South Africa and Botswana in the southern Kalahari Desert.

A Symbol of Resilience in Manhattan

By Linda Tancs

Today marks the official opening of New York City’s National September 11  Museum to the general public.  The complex includes an outdoor memorial plaza with reflecting pools (already accessible to visitors from around the world) and a museum of 10,000 artifacts and exhibits, including personal effects, wreckage and videos.  The twin reflecting pools sit within the footprints where the World Trade Center’s twin towers once stood.  The name of every person who died during the 1993 attack as well as those who died on September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon are inscribed into bronze panels edging the pools.  Inside, the museum’s Last Column (an imposing hulk of steel that helped support the inner core of the south tower and was last to be salvaged) serves as a somber backdrop in a cavernous hall that recounts the heroism and courage displayed on that fateful day.  Purchase advance museum tickets for access at your preferred time and date.  The site is within easy reach of public transportation.

Gone With the Wind

By Linda Tancs

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gone With the Wind spawned one of the highest-grossing motion pictures of all time, not to mention classic quotes.  Fans may love to talk the talk, but now they can walk the walk via the Gone With the Wind Trail.  Winding its way in and around Atlanta, the journey takes in sites such as Margaret Mitchell’s house (an apartment in the 1930s, which she famously referred to as “the dump”), her grave at Oakland Cemetery and the Gone With the Wind Museum, where Scarlett’s honeymoon gown (one of only eight originals known to exist) is a popular attraction.  Springtime is a great time for a visit, when the state is awash in color thanks to plentiful azaleas, wisteria and magnolias.  Don’t expect to complete the entire circuit (taking in Atlanta, Marietta and Jonesboro) in a single day.  Why should you?  As Scarlett so aptly put it, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Take a Walk

By Linda Tancs

Writer Robert Louis Stevenson once remarked that the forest changes and renews a weary spirit.  That’s good news for England’s Midlands: the centre of England, once a hub for the Industrial Revolution, is being renewed and recharged with the dedication of 200 square miles to conservation.  Dubbed The National Forest, it embraces parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire.  And what better way to explore a forest than on foot!  This year marks the launch of the National Forest Way, a 75-mile waymarked path traversing the region.  Coinciding with the launch of the trail is the National Forest Walking Festival.  Taking place through 29 May, you’ll have over 70 walks to choose from as you ramble in the woodlands.

Hanseatic Links are Celebrated

By Linda Tancs

Throughout the North Sea and Baltic Sea regions, seafaring merchants joined together centuries ago to form a social, cultural and economic alliance known as the Hanseatic League.  During medieval times, League members met on a “Hanse day” to agree on commercial matters.   Nowadays Hanseatic unity is celebrated each year on International Hanse Day.  Celebrated on the third Saturday of May, the maritime communities commemorate their Hanseatic links, past and present.  At England’s King’s Lynn, for instance, the medieval maritime town will feature guided walking tours along the waterfront, fire breathers and minstrels, archery, craft demonstrations and fireworks.

The Spice Coast of India

By Linda Tancs

Located on the southwestern coast of India, Kerala is a bridge to many cultures thanks to its ancient standing as India’s Spice Coast.  Trade brought gastronomic, literary and architectural influences from the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, French and the British.  Nowadays, Kerala is equally celebrated for its unique geographical features and tourist appeal.  Bounded by the Arabian Sea in the west, the Western Ghats in the east, and networked by 44 rivers, India’s most pristine state offers a pleasing, year-round climate to enjoy its beaches, backwaters, hill stations and exotic wildlife.  Small wonder that it’s known as God’s Own Country.


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