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Archive for December, 2016

An Island of Adventure in Plymouth

By Linda Tancs

Almost in the middle of Plymouth Sound, Drake’s Island marks the spot from which Sir Francis Drake (the isle’s namesake) sailed in 1577 to circumnavigate the world. His statue stands on the Hoe, overlooking the island. Fortified as a British defense against the French and Spanish, Drake’s Island held a strategic position guarding Devonport’s growing naval base. Later, it was used as a prison. The most prominent person to be imprisoned there was Major-General John Lambert, who had hoped to succeed Cromwell as Lord Protector. Nowadays, it’s privately owned. Content yourself with views from the Hoe and Smeaton’s Tower.

A Swiss Shortcut

By Linda Tancs

Switzerland’s Gotthard Base Tunnel (not to be confused with the original Gotthard scenic line) entered into full service yesterday. Decades in the making, the rail tunnel is the world’s longest, stretching for 35 miles. It’s also the deepest, with over 6,500 feet of rock between the tunnel and the earth’s surface in some places. This engineering marvel provides an efficient shortcut through the Alps, paring an hour off the travel time between Zurich and Milan, Italy.

The Crags of Santa Barbara

By Linda Tancs

California’s Rattlesnake Canyon trail moves north and eastward for nearly three miles up Rattlesnake Canyon and ends on Gibraltar Road. Besides the beautiful views of Santa Barbara, Montecito, birds and wildflowers, this part of Santa Barbara’s back country offers the intrepid the formidable Gibraltar Rock. Located next to its namesake road, the formation’s south face is akin to a bunny slope. Those desiring more of a challenge should head for the west face and the cliff’s subsidiary formations. There you’ll meet up with climbs bearing names like Sweating Buckets, The Nose, Toxic Waste Wall and The Bolt Ladder. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Denver’s First Block

By Linda Tancs

Denver, Colorado, was officially chartered in 1861, and Larimer Street (named after the city’s founder) became the city’s first street. Historically preserved for 51 years now, the site saw its fortunes fall with the crash of silver and rise again during Prohibition as host of the city’s hottest speakeasy. The luster quickly faded when the old street became skid row amidst rising development in other parts of the city following World War II. Community activism resulted in restoration beginning with the 1400 block of Larimer Street, now known as Larimer Square. Located in historic Lower Downtown (LoDo), the tony locale now boasts a lively mix of restaurants, clubs and shops. Its oldest retailer, Gusterman Silversmiths, is still a treasured tenant.

Congregating in Salem

By Linda Tancs

The Town of Salem in North Carolina was founded in 1766 by the Moravians, a Protestant religious group that first organized in the 15th century in what is now known as the Czech Republic. It served as an administrative center for the Moravian missionaries who settled in the area, surrounded by five outlying congregations. Throughout the year, the old town offers a variety of historic workshops highlighting skills from hearthside cooking to pottery. Ongoing research continues to unearth the practices of the area’s earliest settlers. In particular, Old Salem Museums & Gardens is dedicated to continual learning and ongoing research in the areas of decorative arts, material culture, Moravian and Southern history, archaeology and architecture.

America’s Oldest Restaurant

By Linda Tancs

Along Boston’s Freedom Trail you’ll find America’s oldest restaurant, Union Oyster House. Housed in a building dating back to pre-Revolutionary days (1716), its stalls and oyster bars remain in their original positions since the opening in 1826. The brick structure was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2003 and is a rare surviving example of the city’s Georgian architecture. A favorite of statesmen, artists, travelers, inventors, athletes and theatre figures, it’s notable as the home of Isaiah Thomas (publisher of The Massachusetts Spy from 1771 to 1775) and the place where Louis Philippe, later King of France, taught French to prominent Bostonians. The toothpick (invented by a Maine family in the timber industry) also made its debut there. Not only is the Massachusetts eatery America’s oldest restaurant, but it’s also one of the world’s oldest establishments (the oldest being Botín in Madrid, founded in 1725).

Napoleonic History in Moravia

By Linda Tancs

Bounded by Bohemia on the west and northwest, by Silesia on the northeast, by Slovakia on the east and by Lower Austria on the south, Moravia is a historic region in the Czech Republic. In this land of chateaux and unique folklore you’ll find significant developments in European history, like the Battle of Austerlitz. Also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors, it was a decisive engagement in the War of the Third Coalition, which was fought between the forces of Napoleonic France on one side and an alliance between the Holy Roman Empire, Russia and Austria on the other.  It represents arguably the greatest victory achieved by Napoleon, who defeated the much larger Russian and Austrian armies in December 1805 near the village of Austerlitz in modern-day Slavkov. An annual reenactment takes place between Dec. 2 and Dec. 4, featuring military camps, concerts and costumed tours of Slavkov Château by Napoleon himself.

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