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Archive for October, 2016

Top Stones in London

By Linda Tancs

So what does a famous London cemetery have to do with geology? The answer lies in the rocks, of course. The rocks used for headstones at Highgate Cemetery make it a great place to see a wide range of geology in an urban setting. In the East Cemetery (highly popular due to the burial site of Karl Marx) these include granite, gabbro, larvikite, marble and some limestone monuments containing fossils. Thanks to the range of rocks and stones used as headstones, mausoleums and monuments, the cemetery was voted one of the top 100 geosites in the U.K. and Ireland by The Geological Society. Built in 1839, Highgate was one of Victorian London’s most elaborate cemeteries, with Gothic catacombs and mausoleums in Egyptian and Classical styles. Visitors may roam the East Cemetery freely with payment of an admission charge. The West Cemetery is open to guided tours only. Take Archway, not Highgate, tube.

Bows and Arrows in Montalcino

By Linda Tancs

Sagra del Tordo (Festival of the Thrush) is a highly anticipated event in Tuscany for tourists and locals alike. Held every year on the last weekend of October, the celebration takes place in the medieval city of Montalcino, south of Siena. Largely intact since the Middle Ages, its fortress is the backdrop for the annual fiesta, highlighted by a procession of over 100 men and women wearing medieval garb. The march leads to the archery field and is followed by a longbow tournament. Enjoy the weekend spectacle with a feast at the ramparts fit for a king, including some of that world renowned Brunello wine.

The Picasso Route

By Linda Tancs

Pablo Picasso was only 14 years old when he arrived in Barcelona, Spain. Lauded there for his success, the city’s Picasso Route is a trail chronicling the artistic studies of his formative years. His art school, La Llotja, wasn’t far from his home, a flat in the tony residential block called Porxos d’en Xifré. Its rooftop views provided ample inspiration for the painter’s landscapes and seascapes. Picasso donated a large number of his works to Barcelona, housed today at the city’s Museu Picasso. A short distance from the museum, the Plaça Nova is another feature of the walking tour. There you’ll find  the artist’s only piece of public art in the city: the three friezes on the façade of the Col·legi d’Arquitectes building, executed by the Norwegian sculptor and photographer Carl Nesjar according to original drawings by Picasso.

A Sacred Space in Manhattan

By Linda Tancs

From about the 1690s until 1794, enslaved Africans were buried in a cemetery in present-day Lower Manhattan, running from Chambers Street at Broadway to Foley Square. Long forgotten after years of landfill and development, the sacred space was rediscovered in 1991 upon the construction of a federal office building. The excavated remains were reinterred in seven burial mounds at the African Burial Ground National Monument. Located on a parcel of land surrounded by federal buildings just north of City Hall on 290 Broadway, the monument’s most poignant reminder of slavery’s ominous past is an imposing granite building called the Ancestral Chamber, tapered to mimic the cramped quarters of the slave ships that would bring Africans on their perilous transatlantic journey to America. A narrow opening in its roof reveals to visitors just a glimpse of sky.

The History of Polish Jews

By Linda Tancs

The Museum of the History of Polish Jews stands in what was once the heart of Jewish Warsaw—an area the Nazis turned into the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. Its compelling location underscores its role as a narrator of history and its standing as an important and innovative center for research, education and culture as well as a platform for social change. The museum traces 1,000 years of the Jewish community’s history in Poland, and its core exhibit includes artifacts, paintings, reconstructions, interactive installations and video.

The Heart of It in Lyon

By Linda Tancs

To the Lyonnais, there’s no such thing as a bad restaurant. The rest of us would likely agree, or else the French city of Lyon would not be widely recognized as the nation’s capital of gastronomy. Home to chitterling sausages and pike dumplings, you’ll find that and more at Les Halles Paul Bocuse, the city’s famed indoor food market with nearly five dozen stalls selling countless gourmet delights. Once you’ve overindulged, walk it off in the old quarter, a World Heritage Site featuring a picturesque mix of Renaissance mansions, narrow alleys and dozens more restaurants. A must-see is Rue Saint-Jean, the old town’s main street. It’s surrounded by the city’s distinctive traboules, pathways joining two streets by going through several buildings. 


New Jersey’s Mighty Oak

By Linda Tancs

In an area replete with Revolutionary War history stands a mighty white oak, its age estimated at 600 years. The tree in question is lovingly referred to as the Holy Oak, a Nature-supplied frontispiece for the 1717 Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church. The New Jersey gem is credited as the oldest white oak tree in the Northern Hemisphere and possibly in the world. Given its age, you can imagine the degree of lore associated with it. Is it the burial spot for flag maker Betsy Ross? A meeting point for George Washington during his march to Morristown after the Battle of Princeton in 1777? No one knows for sure, but there’s no doubt that the old gal has seen her share of action since colonial times. Although it has managed to exceed its usual lifespan of 300 to 350 years by at least as many years, the grand dame is succumbing to the effects of old age although the locals will continue to investigate all means to maintain the relationship between town and tree.

What’s Hot in Idaho

By Linda Tancs

Idaho is one hot destination, literally. Just head on over to Lava Hot Springs, a quaint resort town on the way to Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons. Its therapeutic hot springs attract visitors from around the world. In addition to public pools (including an indoor aquatic center), many hotels have private hot pools. Even the “coolest” hot pool is pretty hot. Can you stand the heat? If not, then maybe an onsite massage is in order.

Where the North Begins

By Linda Tancs

Portage, Wisconsin, dubs itself a city “where the North begins.” Located along the Fox/Wisconsin water route, it certainly was an important asset in the Northwest Territory, leading to the construction of a fort there (Fort Winnebago) in the 1800s. The location of the town at the split of the Wisconsin and Fox rivers is what gives the site its name “Portage,” which means carrying a boat or its cargo between two navigable waters. The third oldest settlement in the state, it also boasts the historic Indian Agency House, one of Wisconsin’s earliest houses. The Federal-style house served as the residence of the family of John Kinzie, the U.S. agent for the Winnebago Nation.

Steaming Through Cass

By Linda Tancs

Cass, West Virginia, is a charming old logging town founded in 1900 by a pulp and paper company. Its main attraction is Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, home of the railway line built in 1901 to haul lumber to the town mill. Lest you think it’s a quaint site riddled with old, rusty railroad cars, the astonishing fact is that Cass is home to the world’s largest fleet of geared Shay locomotives. Many of the passenger cars are old logging flat cars that have been refurbished for use as part of a popular train excursion, allowing visitors to relive an era when steam-driven locomotives were an essential part of everyday life. For a taste of this bygone era, take the excursion to Whittaker Station, the location of an authentic logging camp recreated by the volunteers of the Mountain State Railroad & Logging Historical Association. Just four miles up the track from Cass, the journey includes a stopover for breathtaking country views.

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