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Archive for January, 2015

A Giant Tale in Albania

By Linda Tancs

The relatively small country of Albania sports a giant tale.  According to legend, the Tomorr and Shpirag mountains in Berat were once giants vying for the affection of a young maiden.  Upon their deaths in the ensuing battle, the maiden’s voluminous tears formed the Osum River.  Nice story, but the locals would much rather you remember their fair town as the “city of a thousand windows.”  That moniker arises from the view below the citadel, where an impressive array of windows strikes the eye thanks to the homes nestled in the rocky castle hill.


Two Thousand Feet of Art

By Linda Tancs

Nestled between the northern banks of the Ohio River and east of the Scioto River is Portsmouth, Ohio.  Given its location at the confluence of these rivers, it’s not surprising that great flooding over nearly a century beginning in the 1800s necessitated the building of a floodwall after the great flood of 1937.  But this isn’t your ordinary run-of-the-mill floodwall.  It’s an outdoor art gallery depicting the last two centuries of the history of Portsmouth and the surrounding area, extending for over 2,000 feet along Front Street in the historic Boneyfiddle District of downtown Portsmouth.  Believed to be the largest known work of art by a single artist, the Portsmouth Murals can be viewed on foot with self-guided audio or from the comfort of your car.

Getting to Know Jax

By Linda Tancs

There are a lot of interesting things you may not know about Jacksonville, Florida.  Take the ostrich farm, for instance.  That’s what you would have found in the 1900s at Dixieland Park, a Disney-like attraction located around the site of the present-day Hilton at Southbank.  And there’s the film industry; 30 film companies and early greats like Oliver Hardy and Fatty Arbuckle made movies there until Hollywood proved more hospitable.  Even the city’s St. Johns River is unique, one of the few in the world that runs north.  Perhaps the most surprising fact about Florida’s largest city is that it’s also the largest city in the contiguous United States by land mass, encompassing a whopping 840 square miles.  Now you know Jax.

A Farm in Brooklyn

By Linda Tancs

Wyckoff, Wycoff, Wykoff, Wikoff or Wicoff.  No matter how you spell it, the vast majority of Americans and Canadians bearing the surname can trace their lineage to a tenant farmer on a homestead located in present-day Brooklyn, New York.   Their common link is Pieter Claesen, who ultimately chose the surname Wykhof (later Wyckoff) when required to do so by the British when they assumed control of what was then the Dutch-controlled colony of New Netherland.  Now a museum and testament to Dutch architecture and farm life, the Wyckoff family occupied their Brooklyn homestead for eight successive generations until 1901.  Wyckoff House is open to guided tours on Fridays and Saturdays.   Located on Clarendon Road, the site is easily accessible via public transit.

The Highest Tides

By Linda Tancs

Atlantic Canada’s Bay of Fundy captures the world’s highest tides.  Stretching between the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, this ocean bay bests the combined flow of the world’s freshwater rivers in every tide cycle with 160 billion tons of seawater.  It takes six hours and 13 minutes for the tide to go from low to high (or vice versa).  Needless to say, a tidal coastline like this offers plenty of hiking and kayaking opportunities.  And don’t miss the rare northern right whale at the bay’s mouth.  Previously in January the tides were exceptionally high, but great viewing is yours year-round.  The best airport for arrivals is Halifax Robert L. Stanfield Airport.

Shetland’s Ancient Capital

By Linda Tancs

On the southern peninsula of Mainland, Shetland, you’ll find its ancient capital, Scalloway.  Derived from Old Norse meaning “bay of the huts,” the picturesque village with Viking roots can trace its habitation back to the Bronze Age.  Its breathtaking view is punctuated at the Scord, an approach by road that encompasses the harbor, the castle, a bridge and some islets.  The four-story castle dominates the village and is probably one of the only fortified structures that a visitor can see by obtaining a key from the local hotel.

Visiting Nancy

By Linda Tancs

Who would think that a deposed Polish king would contribute much to 18th century European architecture in northeastern France?  Well, that’s what you’ll find in Nancy, a historic French city.  Thanks to an uprising in the 1700s, Nancy and its environs (formerly the Duchy of Upper Lorraine) were granted to Stanisław Leszczyński, former King of Poland.  The new duke built Stanislas Square to honor his son-in-law Louis XV of France.  Befitting its royal connection, the square boasts immense classical façades laden with wrought-iron railings embellished with gold.  City Hall, the Grand Hotel and the opera house complete the panorama of what is considered to be one of the most beautiful royal squares in Europe.  Nancy is 90 minutes by high-speed TGV train direct from Gare de l’Est in Paris.

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