Travelrific® Travel Journal

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Archive for December, 2015

Europe’s Tallest Sand Dune

By Linda Tancs

On a clear day you can see forever (or at least as far as the Pyrenees) from Europe’s largest mound of sand. Located on the western coast of France in the Arcachon Bay area outside Bordeaux, the Dune du Pilat (derived from pilhar, meaning “mound”) is a behemoth boasting 60 million cubed meters of sand—350 feet high and two miles long. Dare to master the summit? They’ve built 154 steps into it for that purpose.

On the Fringes of the Sahara

By Linda Tancs

Mushrooms. Ice cream cones. Giant pebbles. The desert has a way of making you see things. That’s no less so at the White Desert. On the fringes of the Sahara some 300 miles southwest of Cairo, the desert is a national park of Egypt. It’s best known for its peculiar wind-carved chalk rock formations (hence, the mushroom reference) arising from centuries of erosion and sandstorms. Local Bedouins are available for guided tours.

Rocks of Ages

By Linda Tancs

Cappadocia, Turkey, is a kingdom of caves and rock formations. Above ground, the chimney-like rocks have been carved into dwellings and, in some cases, luxury hotels. Below ground teems an ancient metropolis, carved deep into the earth by troglodytes. How best to view it depends on your point of view, literally. How about a hot air balloon ride above ground? Some of the underground cities, like Derinkuyu (the deepest), are open for tours.

The Sky Garden

By Linda Tancs

Public gardens abound in London, England, but a bird’s-eye view is a visual feast. It’s hard to top (no pun intended) Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street. Spanning three floors, it offers unrivaled views of the City of London. The highest public garden in the capital, you’ll discover exquisitely landscaped gardens, observation decks and an open air terrace. Tickets are free but are limited daily and must be booked in advance.

King of the Nutcrackers

By Linda Tancs

Boasting one of the world’s largest nutcracker collections, the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum in Washington State touts the evolution of the nutcracker. Such a collection would hardly be complete without the hundreds of traditional toy soldiers with gaping mouths that make their appearance in homes at Christmas time. But you’ll also find over 6,000 nutcrackers—representing the work of over 50 countries—carved from wood, metal, ivory, porcelain and other materials. Their designs, both simplistic and artistic, run the gamut from serious to whimsical, ecclesiastical to risqué and menacing to cute. Visitors from over 75 countries have been greeted by Karl, a 6-foot-tall Bavarian nutcracker carved in Oberammergau.

Best Known Street in Texas

By Linda Tancs

The heart of Austin, Texas, 6th Street is an entertainment mecca. On the one hand, you’ll find historic buildings hosting bars, restaurants and an eclectic set of entertainment venues boasting everything from country to punk. On the other hand, quieter pursuits await thanks to art galleries and antique shops. No wonder the variety attracts showcase events like the Austin Mardi Gras celebration, SXSW, The Republic of Texas Bikers Rally, the Pecan Street Festival (the street’s former name) and the infamous Halloween celebration. Get ready to party.

New Glass in China

By Linda Tancs

Twenty-five times stronger than other forms of glass, the glass-bottomed suspension bridge at Shiniuzhai National Geological Park in southeastern China’s Hunan province is aptly named Brave Man’s Bridge (Haohan Qiao). It stands, after all, 590 feet above a valley, a vertigo-inducing attraction in a land enamored with skywalks these days. But, as the saying goes, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The skywalk to end all skywalks is afoot (no pun intended) in Zhangjiajie National Park. Spanning a gap between two cliffs at a height of 984 feet and a length of 1,410, it will be the world’s highest and longest glass-bottomed bridge.

Something Wild in Oregon

By Linda Tancs

There’s always something wild going on at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. Extending one mile into the Pacific Ocean from the Oregon coast, this oceanfront park with a beach reveals an array of life. At low tide the ocean floor unveils pools of colorful animals including orange sea stars, purple sea urchins and giant green anemones. Harbor seals and peregrine falcons vie for attention. And around this time of year the gray whales are on their migratory path to Mexico. Above all else (literally) is Yaquina Head, the state’s tallest lighthouse at 93 feet, boasting a fully automated first order Fresnel lens. The lighthouse is open for limited, ranger-led tours.

Under the Blanket of Snow

By Linda Tancs

Hurricane Ridge is the most easily accessed mountain area within Olympic National Park in Washington State. Blanketed with over 10 feet of snow for most of the winter, snow enthusiasts enjoy the winter scenery, along with snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and sledding. The snow moles, on the other hand, enjoy their privacy. Endemic to the park, Olympic snow moles are scurrying beneath this blanket of snow, which provides them with ample water for the short summer season ahead.

Chocolate for a Cause

By Linda Tancs

Famagusta Gate is one of three original entrances into the old city of Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus. Not surprisingly, it serves as a cultural center. This weekend you could call it a chocolate center. That’s because the third annual chocolate festival is coming to town. A festive event, previous participants included ION chocolate, Lindt, Kalopesas and Platres Chocolate Workshop. Live chocolate shows, lessons and exhibitions are on the agenda. As usual, proceeds will be donated to local charities, a good reason to indulge without guilt.

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