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Archive for December, 2015

The Graveyard of the Pacific

By Linda Tancs

The Columbia River Bar represents a clash of the titans. That’s where the mighty Columbia River (the largest in the Pacific Northwest) meets the Pacific Ocean. As the river surges towards its meeting point, it drops a deposit of sand and silt that extends six miles into the ocean. Not surprisingly, this can result in a navigational nightmare. In fact, since 1792 around 2,000 ships have sunk in this area, earning it the moniker “Graveyard of the Pacific.” One of the most popular shipwrecks is the Peter Iredale. Its skeletal remains are on the beach at Clapsop Spit at Fort Stevens State Park in Hammond, Oregon.

The Graveyard of the Atlantic

By Linda Tancs

Shipwrecks play a major role in the history of the ocean just offshore of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a region appropriately named the Graveyard of the Atlantic. From Kitty Hawk south to Ocracoke, you can snorkel or dive around 3,000 wrecks, including the first colonial ships of the 1500s and the most German U-boats sunk off any state coast in America. Landlubbers need not miss out. The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras offers a full range of exhibits, programs and events covering all major wrecks as well as the area’s cultural and coastal history.

On the Ridge of First Mountain

By Linda Tancs

Originally known as “Kypsburg,” Kip’s Castle and its grounds span the ridge of First Mountain, on the border between Montclair and Verona townships in New Jersey. Constructed in the early 1900s for textile inventor and industrialist Frederick Ellsworth Kip and his wife, the estate’s glorious 9,000-square-foot mansion replicates a medieval Norman castle. The first floor is open for self-guided tours, a particular treat this time of year with holiday décor in full swing.

An Alaskan Hero

By Linda Tancs

On January 20, 1925, an outbreak of diphtheria in remote Nome, Alaska, made heroes out of a team of sled dogs thanks to their familiarity with the Iditarod Trail, a 674-mile route typically used to carry mail from Anchorage. In just six days a team of huskies led by Balto covered the route to deliver life saving serum to the citizens of Nome. After furious fundraising, Balto and six companions were brought to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1927 and given a hero’s welcome in a triumphant parade through Public Square. The dogs were then taken to the Brookside Zoo (now the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo) to live out their lives in dignity. When Balto died on March 14, 1933, the husky’s body was mounted and is now housed in the permanent collection at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Holiday of Holidays

By Linda Tancs

The largest city in northern Israel, Haifa is one of the country’s prettiest cities. Well known to cruisers, it also sports the nation’s largest port. During December weekends, it’s perhaps best known as the host of Holiday of Holidays, a festival at the crossroads of Hanukkah, Id al-Adha and Christmas. Street parties, performances, guided tours and exhibitions celebrate tolerance and unity among the three religions. Admission is free.

The Heart of Old New Orleans

By Linda Tancs

The triple-steepled cathedral forming the backdrop to a triumphal statue of Andrew Jackson in the Big Easy is one of the most iconic images of the city. Completed in 1727, St. Louis Cathedral fronts historically rich Jackson Square and kisses the Mississippi River in the heart of old New Orleans. Dedicated to Louis IX, sainted King of France, it remains the oldest Catholic cathedral in continuous use in the United States.

A Stay at Downton

By Linda Tancs

Fans of Downton Abbey may be depressed over the series’ end this season, but they’ll be delighted to learn that they can now stay on the grounds of the show’s stand-in castle, Highclere. London Lodge is a previously disused Georgian gatehouse that has been renovated to accommodate guests in all the luxury befitting an aristocrat. Get ready for life above stairs.

At the World’s Edge

By Linda Tancs

Located just north of the Arctic Circle in Norway, the former fishing village of Myken sits at the world’s edge. You might say the world is its oyster. Soon enough you can toast to that. Once the aging process is complete, the tiny hamlet of six full-time residents will be home to the world’s first Arctic whiskey, using desalinated seawater from Vestfjorden. The first bottle should debut in 2017.


A Miracle in Stone

By Linda Tancs

Touted as the largest man-made grotto in the world, Iowa’s Grotto of the Redemption is a religious shrine comprising nine grottos adorned with a vast collection of building materials, including petrified wood, malachite, azurite, agates, geodes, jasper, quartz, topaz, calcite, stalactites and stalagmites. Located in West Bend, it represents the lifelong work of Father Paul Dobberstein and is included in the National Register of Historic Places. The museum features tools used by Father Dobberstein in the construction of the grotto as well as a documentary video.

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