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Archive for October, 2017

History of the Jack-O’-Lantern

By Linda Tancs

The Irish legend of Stingy Jack gave birth to the jack-o’-lantern. When Jack ran into the devil at a local pub, he tricked the devil into buying him a drink by promising him his soul in exchange for a sixpence. Well, when the devil transformed into a coin, Jack held on to it instead and covered it with crosses so the devil couldn’t change back. Eventually Jack relented but, figuring he’d have to fulfill his promise, he tried to buy more time by asking the devil to pluck him an apple to eat from a nearby tree. Then he covered the tree with crosses and trapped the evil one again. When Jack died, he was denied entrance to heaven because of his deceitful ways. Likewise, the devil turned him away, tossing him an ember to roam about the night. Stingy Jack placed the ember in a hollowed-out turnip to light his way as he scoured the earth for a final resting place. The Irish called the ghost of Stingy Jack, “Jack of the Lantern”—Jack O’ Lantern.

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The Most Lighthouses in Canada

By Linda Tancs

Nova Scotia has the largest number of lighthouses of any province in Canada. One of the most popular and iconic is Peggy’s Point, located in the quaint fishing village of Peggy’s Cove on the Bluenose Coast. Built in 1915 and located just an hour from Halifax, its ground floor even used to operate as a post office during the summer months until 2009. Nonetheless, it’s still a living postcard, arguably the most photographed lighthouse in the nation.

The Lees of Virginia

By Linda Tancs

A successful tobacco planter and land speculator, Thomas Lee purchased property in Virginia in 1717 and began construction on a large brick Great House that survives today. Named Stratford for his grandfather’s home in London, the family homestead gave rise to a series of illustrious family members, counting among them two brothers who signed the Declaration of Independence, diplomats, a women’s rights advocate and one of the first judges elected to the commonwealth’s supreme court. But perhaps the most famous occupant of Stratford Hall Plantation (as it’s known today) is Robert E. Lee, the future General of the Confederate Army, who was born there in 1807. In addition to a tour of the Great House, visitors will enjoy the formal East Garden, restored to a typical 18th century English style. Nature trails follow the garden past the north gate. The south entrance to the house is equally impressive, described by General Lee himself as opening up to a row of poplars. The south lawn terminates in a ha-ha wall, an 18th century device which permits an uninterrupted view of the plantation while preventing the encroachment of livestock.

The Red City

By Linda Tancs

A popular tourist destination since the 1960s, Marrakech is immortalized in a 1960s song by Crosby, Stills & Nash. It’s Morocco’s “red city” due to the hue covering the walls in the old section (Medina). But even more striking is the Medina’s combination of Amazigh, Arabic and Moorish architecture and its lively public square, Djemaa el-Fnaa, bursting at the seams with circus-like entertainment such as acrobats, fire eaters, belly dancers and street entertainers. New museums and cultural attractions are a boon to its arts industry, which includes an arts festival and magician’s festival.

Canada’s Polar Bear Haven

By Linda Tancs

Autumn brings large numbers of polar bears to Cape Churchill within Wapusk National Park in Manitoba, Canada. The park is located within the range of the Western Hudson Bay population of polar bears, numbering approximately 1,000 bears. Wapusk protects one of the largest polar bear maternity denning areas in the world, mothers and cubs emerging from their earth dens in early spring. Access to Wapusk is via authorized commercial tour operators in Churchill. There are upcoming opportunities to view polar bears from tundra vehicles and a lodge at Cape Churchill.

The Cradle of Caen’s Heritage

By Linda Tancs

Caen is the capital of northern France’s Lower Normandy region. The cradle of its heritage is Château de Caen, a medieval castle that is one of the largest in Europe. Built around 1060 by William the Conqueror, it stands on a hill flanked by the Romanesque abbeys of Saint-Étienne (also known as the Men’s Abbey) and Sainte-Trinité (the Ladies’ Abbey), which date from the same period and were built to appease the Pope’s disapproval of William’s marriage to his cousin Matilda of Flanders. The castle is home to the Normandy Museum (devoted to WWII and the Battle of Normandy) and the Fine Arts Museum.

Secret of the South Atlantic

By Linda Tancs

One of the world’s remotest islands, St. Helena may very well be one of the South Atlantic’s best kept secrets. Of course, history buffs know that it’s the locale where the British exiled Napoleon after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. Not surprisingly, the general’s house and its original furnishings are a major tourist draw—that is, for those tourists who have been able to get there. Until now, the tiny British overseas territory was accessible via private flights or the last commercially operating Royal Mail ship. But thankfully the island has caught up with the 21st century with the introduction of weekly flights via South African airline Airlink. The upcoming whale shark season (November to April) is not to be missed; marine tour operators offer opportunities to swim with them. This subtropical paradise also offers an array of endemic wildlife and flora at Diana’s Peak National Park, the island’s highest point.

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