Travelrific® Travel Journal

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Archive for April, 2016

Gateway to the Loire

By Linda Tancs

What do Amboise, Azay-le-Rideau, Chenonceau, Chinon, Langeais and Villandry have in common? They’re all just a stone’s throw away from Tours, a gateway city to the Loire Valley in France. Notwithstanding the splendor of these chateaux, the city is full of its own charms, like Place Plumereau. At the heart of the historic center, this small square is studded with eye-catching half-timbered houses. Now through September the place to see and be seen is La Guinguette de Tours sur Loire, a café at the docks offering a mix of dancing, film nights, food and drink and entertainment.

The Spirit of Things in Arizona

By Linda Tancs

The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, has one of the most outstanding collections of American Indian artwork in the country. It was founded in 1929 by Dwight and Maie Heard as a museum to house the family’s private collection of native artwork. Over the years it has become particularly known for its broad collection of about 1,200 katsina dolls donated by the late Senator Barry M. Goldwater and the Fred Harvey Company. In Hopi culture, katsina dolls are the carved representations of the Katsinam, the spirit messengers of the universe. Made from the root of the cottonwood tree, the dolls are distributed to young girls to teach them about their role in the tribal community. This art form enjoys commercial success as well, and the dolls are treasured by collectors worldwide.

Sunset Capital of Alabama

By Linda Tancs

Alabama’s Dauphin Island is so proud of its sunsets that it fancies itself the sunset capital of the state. It’s also one of the “birdiest.” In fact, the island is one of the top four birding areas in the U.S., visited by around 400 species. No wonder, then, that the spring migration is bringing flocks of tourists and birders to the coastal area these days.

Bright Lights in Center City

By Linda Tancs

Center City includes the central business district and central neighborhoods of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One of its jewels is Franklin Square, one of the five original public squares conceived by William Penn, the founder of the state. A year-round destination, it boasts a carousel, mini-golf course (featuring 18 holes designed after favorite Philly spots like Elfreth’s Alley, the Ben Franklin Bridge and the Liberty Bell) and two playgrounds. Now through June 12 add a Chinese lantern festival to the list—the first in the Northeast. Get ready to be bedazzled by LED-illuminated peacocks, lions, swans, a dragon and even a pagoda. The event will celebrate not only light but also culture in the nature of performances, culinary treats and craftworks.

A Pilgrimage of Faith

By Linda Tancs

Ujjain, a historic capital in central India in Madhya Pradesh, is a venerated pilgrimage site. One of the seven sacred cities of the Hindu faith, it is one of four sites attracting millions of Hindu pilgrims during the Kumbh Mela festival. The world’s largest religious gathering, it is held every third year at one of the four locations by rotation: Haridwar, Allahabad (Prayag), Nasik and Ujjain. Bathing in the river associated with each place during Kumbh Mela is said to wash away one’s sins. This year the event returns to Ujjain from April 22 to May 21.

Amazing Grapes

By Linda Tancs

Amazing Grapes is an annual wine auction event in New Orleans benefiting the Hermann-Grima and Gallier historic houses. These Victorian homes are two of the oldest in NOLA’s French Quarter. Taking place this Saturday at the Hermann-Grima house, the event will feature a wine tasting from Bizou Wines, a buffet by Broussard’s Restaurant and auctions featuring rare and hard-to-find wines as well as luxurious vacations and art.

The Home of Gin

By Linda Tancs

Beefeater is the world’s most awarded gin, boasting a recipe that’s virtually unchanged since the 1800s. Distilled in the heart of London, the facility is housed in an Edwardian building in Kennington that features original Victorian pot stills and a botanical room. Thanks to a custom built visitors center, you can view the original stills, watch the distilling process and learn about premium gin making spanning over 150 years. And what would a distillery tour be without a wee sample greeting you at the end. Cheers!

A Taste of the Mediterranean in New Jersey

By Linda Tancs

Inspired by the beauty and warmth of a Mediterranean villa, Van Vleck House & Gardens is a peaceful oasis in Montclair, New Jersey. It originated as a 12-acre private estate more than 140 years ago when successful businessman Joseph Van Vleck and his family moved to Montclair from Brooklyn in 1868. Of all the dwellings that once graced the property, the current home (built in 1916) remains and is surrounded by magnificent gardens open free of charge from dawn to dusk year round. The grounds are prized for a strong representation of ericaceous plants, particularly rhododendrons and azaleas. Other gems include the Chinese wisteria planted by Howard Van Vleck in 1939 and the stately Dawn redwood and Blue Atlas cedar in the rear garden.

Sweets and Savories in Laramie

By Linda Tancs

Late April marks the time when invitations are sent for summer Victorian tea at Wyoming’s Laramie Plains Museum. The event is appropriate enough, considering that the museum is housed at the historic Ivinson Mansion, a Victorian-era home boasting nearly 12,000 square feet. It was the home of Edward and Jane Ivinson, early leaders of Laramie’s thriving community in the Wyoming Territory as the West expanded with the development of the Union Pacific Railroad in the late 1800s. Wyoming would later join the Union in 1890. Museum tours are regularly offered from March through December.

A Humpback in New Mexico

By Linda Tancs

Ask anyone in northern New Mexico to name their most unusual geological oddity and they’ll likely say it’s Camel Rock. As the name implies, it’s a rock that looks like a camel—sitting down. Located in Pojoaque, this inanimate nod to an ancient mammal is a quirky attraction opposite a casino (called Camel Rock, of course) owned by Tesuque Pueblo. The big question is (no, not ‘guess what day it is’)—one hump, or two? You decide.

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