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Archive for April, 2015

Great American Main Street

By Linda Tancs

What do New Jersey, Wyoming and Missouri have in common? For the current year, at least, the answer is that each state boasts a winning town in the 2015 Great American Main Street Award® contest. Each year the National Main Street Center (a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation) bestows honors on those communities it deems to be a shining example of commercial district revitalization. This year’s honorees are Cape Girardeau in Missouri, Montclair Center Business Improvement District in New Jersey and Rawlins, Wyoming. Thanks to the art of reinvention, you won’t find them rolling up the sidewalks at night.

Tropics Trivia in Taiwan

By Linda Tancs

The Tropic of Cancer is one of five major circles of latitude (the others being the Tropic of Capricorn, the Antarctic Circle, the Arctic Circle and the Equator).  In Taiwan, the Tropic of Cancer cuts through Shuishang Township (Chiayi County) and Ruisui and Fengbin townships (Hualien County), all of which have landmarks on the line.  Chiayi County is a special treasure, the only county in Taiwan with three major national scenic areas: Alishan National Scenic Area, Southwest Coast National Scenic Area, and Siraya National Scenic Area.  Some of the treasures you’ll find are Alishan (home of the renowned Alishan Forest Railway and the Tsou indigenous people), the fishing harbor of Dongshi (where Aogu Wetland Forest Park, the largest lowland forest park, is located) and the Budai salt fields, busiest this time of year when the sun is strongest and rain is scarce.

Plein Air on the Teche

By Linda Tancs

Picture this: a juried art exhibition amidst stately oak trees draped in Spanish moss framed by a classic antebellum historic house.  If that doesn’t get paint brushes moving, then what will?  This weekend marks the weeklong inaugural Plein Air Competition at Shadows-on-the-Teche, a 19th century southern Louisiana plantation.  Located in New Iberia’s Main Street District on the banks of Bayou Teche, The Shadows was built in 1834 for sugar planter David Weeks and preserves 150 years of history through four generations.

Palace of the Normans

By Linda Tancs

A stronghold of Palermo, Sicily, the Palace of the Normans is a testament to the cultural, historical and religious influence of the region’s invaders over the centuries.  The palace was begun in the 9th century when Sicily was under Islamic rule and still retains Arabian vaults in the basement.  When the Normans conquered Sicily in 1072, the building was transformed into an administrative and residential compound marked by arcades and exquisitely designed gardens, an appropriate dwelling for the Sicilian kingdom established under Norman rule.  King Roger II added the stunning Cappella Palatina, a chapel boasting Byzantine, Islamic and Norman styles that is highly prized for its elegant mosaics.  Following additional reconstruction by the Spanish and Bourbons, the palace ultimately became, and remains, the seat of Sicily’s regional parliament.

The Finger of God

By Linda Tancs

Known as the “finger of God,” the church steeple at Ulm Minster is the tallest in the world at nearly 530 feet.  You can reach the apex by climbing a mere 768 steps; congratulate yourself with a well-earned Märzen beer.  Striking as the church tower is, it’s not the only thing that sets this historic German city on the Danube apart from the rest.  For starters, it’s the birthplace of Albert Einstein.  It’s also home to such curiosities as the Schiefes Haus (crooked house) and  homes on stilts in the Fishermen’s Quarter.  And don’t miss the Rathaus (town hall), boasting beautiful 16th century murals and an astronomical clock dating from 1520.  Love carbs?  Then the Museum of Bread is for you, dedicated to the 6,000-year history of bread and the bakery trade.

The United States of North America

By Linda Tancs

Named for its two private owners, the Pope-Leighey House represents renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision to create affordable housing for middle-class families.  The architectural convention is often referred to as Usonian (thought to be an acronym for the United States of North America), characterized by a single-story, L-shaped home crafted with native materials.  Situated in Alexandria, Virginia, the house is part of the Woodlawn estate, which was originally part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Most Beautiful Village in England

By Linda Tancs

William Morris, a leader of the Arts & Crafts movement, referred to Bibury as the most beautiful village in England.  With the River Coln flowing alongside the main thoroughfare, it certainly is very charming, and the row of 17th century stone cottages along what is known as Arlington Row is a big draw.  Little did Morris know how popular indeed his pick would become.  The iconic image of Arlington Row is featured on the front inside cover of United Kingdom passports in an effort to deter forgery.  Everyone has their favorite Cotswold hamlet, of course.  What’s yours?


To the Moon and Back

By Linda Tancs

The shorebird Rufa red knot pursues an annual migration that, over the course of an average 13-year lifespan, represents a journey to the moon and back.  Well, almost.  The average distance to the moon is 237,000 miles; the average red knot will have traveled over 194,000 miles over a lifetime–breeding in the central Canadian Arctic and wintering in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, an exodus of roughly 14,950 miles each year.  But of course there are outliers.  Like the so-called Moonbird, calculated to be at least 21 years young and to have traveled a whopping 400,000 miles.  And that’s no April Fool’s joke.  Undoubtedly, Moonbird is the king of long-range fliers in the avian world.

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