Travelrific® Travel Journal

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Archive for April, 2015

The Marlstone City

By Linda Tancs

Valkenburg is the central town in the municipality of Valkenburg aan de Geul in the southeastern Dutch province of Limburg. It’s equally as charming as nearby Maastricht (Limburg’s capital city) although probably not as well known despite having been fought after for centuries.  In fact, the city and its environs were conquered in medieval times by Duke Philip the Bold for Burgundy. No doubt he was attracted to the warm yellow glow of marlstone girding its cliffs. Marlstone was mined to build the old castle (now in ruins), cultivated from the caves that now serve as a major tourist attraction. At a unique cave gallery, professional marlstone sculptors will help you unleash your inner Claus Sluter.

Island of the Arts

By Linda Tancs

In the Gulf Islands of British Columbia on Canada’s west coast you’ll find Canada’s best loved outdoor market on Salt Spring Island.  Internationally known, Saturday’s Market in the Park features over 100 artists, writers, musicians and farmers, showcasing their handiwork under the market rule of “make it, bake it or grow it.”  The world-class artistry exhibited at this seasonal event has garnered the island the moniker “island of the arts.” The market  takes place weekly on Saturdays from April through October in Centennial Park and in the adjacent parking area in downtown Ganges.

A Classic Combination in Scotland

By Linda Tancs

Scotland’s Dumfries House is an all-around classic, inside and out.  Set amidst 2,000 rustic acres in Ayrshire, the 18th century country house is a neoclassical gem designed by Robert Adam, one of the most important British architects of his day.  Inside, the house enjoys the distinction of holding one of the largest collections of Chippendale furniture in the world, a classic by any standard.  A royal restoration begun in 2007 saved the property from an uncertain future.

The Calendar Islands

By Linda Tancs

On the southern coast of Maine lies Casco Bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Maine. Blessed with a multitude of islands, the region is referred to as The Calendar Islands, suggesting you’ll need a calendar’s worth of time to see them all. Well, maybe not quite, but the slower pace of life will encourage you to take all the time you want. There’s something for everyone on the larger islands served by the year-round ferry. Cyclists will love the dirt roads on Cliff Island. Golfers will appreciate the ability to perfect their long drive on breezy Chebeague Island. Naturalists will enjoy hiking the trails along Long Island’s large conservation area. Historians can stroll around the former parade grounds of Fort McKinley on Great Diamond Island. Culture buffs will love the thriving artist community on Peaks Island. Need more inspiration? The Maine Island Trail Association offers a handy guide on places to explore.

A Prehistoric Masterpiece Unveiled in France

By Linda Tancs

Discovered in 1994 in the Ardèche department of southern France, the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc cave contains the earliest known and best preserved figurative cave paintings in the world depicting Upper Paleolithic life.  Its 36,000-year-old paintings cover not only the typical herbivores dominating Paleolithic life but also stunning images of bears, panthers, lions and other predatory animals–424 animals and 14 species in all.  This prehistoric masterpiece would be lost to public viewing (in consideration of the need for preservation) were it not for the replica cave constructed less than five miles from the original site.  The official opening is on Saturday, 25 April.

The Essence of Extremadura

By Linda Tancs

Badajoz is the capital of Badajoz Province in the autonomous community of Extremadura, Spain.  Kissing the border with Portugal, a key focal point for spectacular views is Alcazaba, a fortress built in the 8th century by its Moorish conquerors. It’s surrounded by a host of little squares and gardens from which spring other imposing sites like the fortress-inspired cathedral and palatial museums.  But nothing is as emblematic as Puerta de Palmas, an entrance point to the city marked by two majestic cylindrical towers guarding their namesake bridge across the Guadiana River.  Take a walk across the bridge and enjoy the riverside.

Books and Brew

By Linda Tancs

There’s certainly nothing special about brew on a college campus.  But when the brew is an 18th century brewery unearthed at the second oldest college in the United States–well, that’s something special.  The discovery was made at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  And what, you might wonder, comprised a brew of the 1700s?  One concoction was a mix of water, persimmons, hops and yeast.

The Glass City

By Linda Tancs

In the 19th century, architect Alphonse Balat designed a complex of greenhouses for Belgian King Leopold II to complement the castle of Laeken.  Known as the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, the sweeping collection of rotundas, cupolas and galleries comprising metal and glass resembles a glass city.  Some of the king’s original plant collections still exist, surrounded by rare and valuable plants meticulously labeled.  Continuing a century-old tradition of opening the luxurious collection to public view for a limited time, this year’s opening–punctuated by blooming azaleas–began on 17 April and continues until 8 May.

Oklahoma City Remembers

By Linda Tancs

The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum remembers those who were killed, those who survived and those whose lives were changed forever following the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.  The memorial comprises an outdoor symbolic garden featuring the gripping Field of Empty Chairs, one for each of the lives lost.  Indoors, the highly interactive museum takes visitors on a chronological, self-guided tour through the events of the day and its aftermath.  The 20th anniversary of this significant terrorist attack is on 19 April.

Denver’s Oldest House

By Linda Tancs

Denver’s Four Mile House is the city’s oldest structure, a testament to Colorado’s frontier past.  Operating as a stage stop in the 1860s, it was the last stop coming west to Denver along the Cherokee Trail.  The house is the centerpiece of Four Mile Historic Park, a 12-acre park just miles from downtown Denver.  The locale offers year round educational programming showcasing Colorado’s rich pioneer history.   The house museum is open for tours Wednesday through Sunday.

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