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Archive for October, 2019

The Most Beautiful Place in America

By Linda Tancs

Miles of sand beach, bluffs that tower 450 feet above Lake Michigan, forests, clear inland lakes and unhindered night sky views are just some of the charms of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Reportedly named after a Native American legend of a mother bear who swims from Wisconsin to escape a forest fire, the locale was once voted “the most beautiful place in America” by Good Morning America. It certainly does offer spectacular views, like the ones from the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive (named for the lumberman who initiated the road), a 7.4-mile loop with overlooks of the Glen Lakes, the dunes and Lake Michigan. The Lake Michigan Overlook (stop #9 on the drive) is a visitor favorite, where the sunset is particularly outstanding. Pick up an interpretive guide for the scenic drive at the Visitor Center in Empire.

Bodacious Trees in South Carolina

By Linda Tancs

South Carolina is not lacking in bodacious trees, even champions. Literally. A champion tree is the largest of its species according to a standard measuring formula based on trunk circumference, tree height and average crown spread. They’re the star attraction at Congaree National Park, where you’ll find two champions for every three square miles. In fact, the park represents one of the tallest temperate deciduous forests in the world, the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. A great way to experience it is by canoeing or kayaking on the Cedar Creek Canoe Trail. You’ll learn even more if you take one of the limited, reservation-only, ranger-guided canoe tours.

Volcanic Splendor in Sicily

By Linda Tancs

Stromboli is more than an Italian-style turnover. It’s also one of a string of UNESCO-designated islands north of Sicily known as the Aeolian Islands. Shaped over the millenia by volcanic activity, the islands are named Lipari, Vulcano, Panarea, Salina, Alicudi, Filicudi and Stromboli. Charming and idyllic, each island has its own flair, from the street-free, donkey-fueled transport of Alicudi to the drama of a night cruise in Stromboli to witness its volcano’s fiery emissions, one of the most active volcanoes in Europe. From the largest of the islands (Lipari) to the smallest (Panarea), enjoy some local treats, like a sulfurous bath in Vulcano, sweet Malvasia wine and seasoned bread. Milazzo, Sicily, offers the most reliable ferry services to the islands.

A Bit of Everything in Tresco

By Linda Tancs

St. Mary’s is the largest island in England’s enchanted archipelago, Isles of Scilly, but Tresco is the only one that’s privately owned. That won’t stop you from experiencing the world renowned Abbey Garden, though. Established in the 1830s by Augustus Smith (an ancestor of the family responsible for the island), it hosts a spectacular collection of more than 20,000 exotic plants from 80 temperate coastal regions around the world. Smith also founded Valhalla Museum in a far corner of the garden, which displays figureheads salvaged from the islands’ shipwrecks in the 19th century. The garden is open daily. Fly to St. Mary’s with Skybus from Land’s End, Newquay or Exeter, or sail aboard Scillonian III from Penzance. Boat services from there will bring you to Tresco.

From Vaudeville House to Arts Incubator

By Linda Tancs

Opened in 1927 as a vaudeville house and movie palace in New Jersey, the Brook Theatre is one of only eight surviving vaudeville houses in the country. Located in Bound Brook and known today as the Brook Arts Center, the historic property was once known for vaudeville acts and circus shows. These days it serves as an arts incubator for artists’ plays as well as talent shows, musical performances and movies.

Heating Up in Iceland

By Linda Tancs

Though not faithful like Yellowstone’s Old Faithful, the Great Geysir in southwestern Iceland is the stuff of legend. The first geyser described in a printed source and the first known to modern Europeans, its name provides the origin for the English word “geyser.” Mostly dormant now, it’s aided by an otherwise active geothermal field starring Strokkur, which propels hot water as high as 100 feet into the air every 10 minutes or so. A peculiar offering in the area is the ability to assist a chef in the making of “hot spring bread,” which involves boiling eggs outside in a hot spring and digging up rye bread that has been “baking” underground for 24 hours. Located about 62 miles from Reykjavik, the geothermal field is part of Iceland’s famous “Golden Circle” tour.

Made From Scratch

By Linda Tancs

Brazil’s third most populous city, Brasília was built from scratch (an empty plateau in the heartland) in the 20th century, intended to replace Rio as the nation’s capital. It’s perhaps best known for its futuristic buildings such as the National Congress, the crown-like, hyperboloid structure of the cathedral and the presidential palace. Take in the bird’s-eye view from the TV tower, the highest point in the city.

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