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Archive for June, 2015

Wine Doggies of Yakima

By Linda Tancs

A bung is the plug that goes into a wine barrel. Not surprisingly, dogs enjoy chasing and chewing on them. That’s how Bung, a working wine dog at Bonair Winery in central Washington’s Yakima Valley, got his name. He’s one of many working dogs in the fertile valley’s vineyards, helping his owner retrieve errant bungs as the vintner checks the prized contents of the barrels for quality. Winery dogs take on many roles, like greeter, floor sweeper and fetcher-in-chief. Dogs are such an integral part of life in the wine valley that many of the wineries as well as lodging and dining establishments are pet friendly. Fido will have lots of company.

A Grand Procession in Brussels

By Linda Tancs

Today is the first of two annual summer processions in Brussels. Known as the Ommegang (procession), it’s a medieval procession begun in 1549 as a celebration of the entry of Charles V and his court into Brussels, where the monarch resided most of the time and wielded much of his power over a mighty empire. The processional route, replete with hundreds of costumed performers, begins at Parc de Bruxelles and ends at Grand Place. Access to the route is free, but tickets are required for the performance at Grand Place. The Ommegang takes place a second time on 2 July.

Utah’s First National Park

By Linda Tancs

Located on State Route 9 in southwest Utah, Zion National Park is Utah’s first national park. The 229-square-mile park is rife with history dating back 10,000 years, a land occupied by peoples ranging from prehistoric hunter-gatherers and ancestral tribes to Mormon pioneers. The best way to see an area this vast is to take a classic hike, like the eight mile climb to Observation Point. At 6,508 feet above sea level, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views that may very well include the California Condor. Released in Vermillion Cliffs, Arizona, in the late 1990s, they are increasingly being sighted in the park. Parking is limited inside Zion, and parking lots at the visitor center commonly fill before noon. To avoid parking hassles, park in the town of Springdale and ride the free town shuttle to the park.

New York City Goes a Little Bit Country

By Linda Tancs

Hey, New York City, ready for some honky tonk? Don’t worry about heading to Nashville. Nashville is coming to you. Farmborough is a brand new three day country music festival coming to Randall’s Island in New York City this weekend. The lineup reads like a who’s who of the CMAs: Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley, Dwight Yoakam, Luke Bryan, Maddie & Tae, Brandy Clark, Cassadee Pope, and the list goes on and on. Randall’s Island is easily accessible via car, ferry, taxi, bus, subway and bike. Y’all come down now, ya hear?

The Gibraltar of the Caribbean

By Linda Tancs

The most popular historic site in Puerto Rico is undoubtedly El Morro in Old San Juan. Otherwise known as Castillo San Felipe del Morro, it’s a citadel named in honor of King Philip II of Spain, built to defend what was a jewel in the crown of the Spanish empire in the Americas. And defend it did, for the most part. The fortress only fell once–to the Earl of Cumberland, who took the fortress by land for about 33 days in 1598. You’ll capture it the same way: on foot, down a large green field. You’ll be rewarded with breathtaking ocean views.

Absolute Desert

By Linda Tancs

The Atacama Desert is a 600-mile strip of land from Peru’s southern border into northern Chile, the driest non-polar desert in the world. So dry, in fact, that some stretches have not seen a drop of rain in over 400 years. But for all its aridity, don’t be fooled into thinking this is just some barren dust bowl; the oasis is teeming with native cultures, soothing hot springs and pluming geysers. That’s particularly true at San Pedro de Atacama, where just a short distance away you’ll also find the largest salt flat in Chile and volcanoes beckoning in the distance. Late June is a perfect time to visit because of the numerous festivals leading up to Saint Peter and Saint Paul Feast Day on 29 June. San Pedro lies at around 7,500 feet above sea level; take precautions against altitude sickness.

Virginia’s Oldest Plantation

By Linda Tancs

Shirley Plantation has survived Indian uprisings, Bacon’s Rebellion, the American Revolution, the American Civil War, and the Great Depression. In the hands of 11 generations of the same family, it’s Virginia’s first plantation and the oldest family-owned business in North America. A National Historic Landmark, it remains a working plantation, a private family home and a growing business, presided over by direct descendants of Edward Hill I, who founded the site in 1613. Lauded as the most intact 18th century estate in Virginia, the Great House is a treasure trove of original family furnishings, portraits, silver, and hand-carved woodwork, and its “flying staircase” and Queen Anne forecourt are the only remaining examples in North America of this architectural style. In addition to a guided tour of the mansion, the self-guided grounds tour includes formal gardens and eight original colonial outbuildings. This unique part of America’s heritage is located in Charles City, east of Richmond and west of Jamestown in the heart of Virginia.

Legendary Waterloo

By Linda Tancs

On June 18, 1815, French forces under Napoleon Bonaparte met a bloody end against British troops led by the Duke of Wellington near the village of Waterloo in modern-day Belgium. The historic victory would end France’s quest for domination of Europe and give rise to one of the world’s greatest generals. Across Britain, the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo is being celebrated throughout the year with re-enactments, exhibitions and concerts. A particular project of interest is the Descendants Book, a collection of stories about the soldiers who fought at Waterloo. Are your ancestors among them? You can add your own details.

Midsummer’s Eve in Germany

By Linda Tancs

Located at the confluence of the Rhine and Main, the German city Mainz is the home of the movable type printing press, invented by native son Johannes Gutenberg. One of the city’s most defining features, it’s no surprise that the print tradition takes on a prominent role during the Midsummer’s Eve Fair. A major festival, the four-day event includes a traditional baptism ritual for apprentice printers and typesetters, along with the expected entertainment and fireworks above the Rhine. This year’s fair takes place from June 19 to June 22.

A Farewell to Arms in Slovenia

By Linda Tancs

Kobarid is a town located in the Upper Soča Valley in western Slovenia along the border with Italy. Its pastoral character—punctuated with picturesque mountains and peaceful green valleys—belies a stark history as the site of a bloody campaign during World War I. This amiable little town is where the Italian offensive gave way to the Austro-Hungarian army after a series of battles along the Soča Front, a conflict that was documented by Ernest Hemingway in his novel A Farewell to Arms. The town’s monument and church up the hill, overlooking the valley and the Soča River, is where you’ll find the final resting place of over 7,000 Italian soldiers.

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