Travelrific® Travel Journal

Picture postcards in prose.™ Check out the blogroll on the front page for official merchandise and other resources!

Archive for November, 2019

A Kiwi Christmas

By Linda Tancs

Auckland, New Zealand’s capital, offers adventure in every direction. In the area known locally as East Auckland, the coastline beckons water enthusiasts eager to experience the Hauraki Gulf, an area comprising over 2 million acres of blue waters dotted with emerald islands reachable by water taxis. This time of year, though, it’s the pohutukawa trees (known as the New Zealand Christmas tree for its crimson flowers) that grab the regional spotlight. One of Auckland’s most spectacular driving routes is along the Pohutukawa Coast, named after the iconic tree.

Contemplating Bruges

By Linda Tancs

The Beguinage in the Belgian city of Bruges is the only preserved beguinage (a complex created to house beguines, lay religious women who lived in community without taking vows or retiring from the world). Dating to the 13th century, it’s one of the city’s best-known landmarks, comprising a collection of white-painted houses, a chapel and various buildings. Now occupied by nuns of the Order of St. Benedict, the park-like ambience (which does include an actual park populated with swans and poplar trees) provides a tranquil resting spot for locals and tourists.

The Burghers of Calais

By Linda Tancs

France and England may seem like kissing cousins in modern times thanks to the Chunnel (the predominately underwater rail tunnel linking the two countries), but history reminds us that it wasn’t always the case. Consider the Hundred Years’ War, when Calais was under siege by the English for about 11 months. Facing starvation, the French decided to surrender, led by six noblemen who were willing to be executed for the cause, only to be spared by the English king’s wife. The episode is marked by Rodin’s sculpture, La Statue des Six Bourgeois de Calais, the most photographed monument in the city. It stands in front of the Town Hall, considered one of the most beautiful in Europe, adorned with a massive belfry.

Wetlands in Spain’s Heartland

By Linda Tancs

Castilla-La Mancha is a region in central Spain particularly known as the setting of the 17th-century novel “Don Quixote.” But it’s also a bird watcher’s paradise, especially amid the wetlands in Tablas de Daimiel National Park on the La Mancha plain. Formed by the overflowing in the confluence of the Guadiana and Cigüela rivers, the wetlands are strategically situated on the migration routes of many bird species, including those that winter in the park. Its water birds are primary ambassadors, including the great crested grebe, little grebe and black-necked grebe, heron and cattle egret. The main access road to the park departs from the N-420 road from Ciudad Real to Puerto Lapice, which leads to the visitor center.

Lost and Found in Charlottesville

By Linda Tancs

Almost lost to history, extensive archaeological work has revealed the original footprint of Highland, home to U.S. President James Monroe. It burned down in the 1800s, but the guest house remains, filled with family furniture and portraits. A devoted public servant for 50 years, Monroe was the most popular U.S. president of his era, a four-term Virginia governor, Secretary of State and Secretary of War (under James Madison) and an international diplomat, among other things. The grounds include the Highland Rustic Trails, interpretive trails that wind through the pasture and wooded hillside of the estate. In addition to traditional guided tours, the estate offers augmented reality tours featuring a wearable glass device imposing characters of the era (including Monroe) for a more authentic experience. Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, Highland is part of William and Mary, Monroe’s alma mater.

Birthplace of Paella

By Linda Tancs

Just a short drive from Valencia, Spain, is Albufera Natural Park, home to some of the country’s most scenic wetlands and lagoons. The area is also touted as the birthplace of paella. You can enjoy both facets of the area with a traditional boat tour through the lagoon and then partake in some paella prepared with ingredients from the vegetable gardens that surround the wetlands.

Sweden’s Wild Heart

By Linda Tancs

One of Europe’s oldest national parks, Sarek National Park in the Swedish Lapland is considered the continent’s last true wilderness. That’s probably true. Aside from the fact that there’s no road leading into it, it has an amazing variety of wildlife, including Europe’s largest moose, tons of reindeer, bears, wolverine, lynx and golden eagles. It’s remote, the ancestral land of the Sámi people. It contains six of Sweden’s highest mountains, almost 100 glaciers and dense vegetation in the Rapa Valley, the park’s largest valley. Enjoyable any time of year, it’s nearing on winter season, the longest. That means snow-illuminated tundra and Northern Lights. Hike in, ski in or take a helicopter drop.

Scotland’s Oldest Museum

By Linda Tancs

Elgin Museum is Scotland’s oldest independent museum. Although there’s a special emphasis on the history of its locale along the Moray Firth, it features everything from fish fossils dating back over 450 million years to a 21st century, energy-saving light bulb. If you need another reason to visit Elgin, then consider that it’s nestled in a world-famous whisky region. A number of local distilleries, including Glen Moray, Gordon & MacPhail and Glen Elgin, have open days for the public and whisky trails.

Sleep for Bibliophiles

By Linda Tancs

A haven for bibliophiles lies just miles from the English/Welsh border in Hawarden, Wales. In that small, ancient village you’ll find a “residential” library fit for a king. That’s right, a place where you can sleep, eat and drink—and read, of course. Founded by Victorian Prime Minister William Gladstone, Gladstone’s Library is a Grade-I listed building with 26 rooms surrounded by a print collection of 250,000 items accessible well after the general public has left the building. The U.K.’s only residential library, it gives new meaning to the term “bedtime stories.”

The Fountains of Heraklion

By Linda Tancs

The capital of Crete, Heraklion demonstrates the diversity resulting from Venetian and Ottoman rule. In particular, its Venetian and Turkish fountains are a focal point in this popular cruise port. Morosini Fountain (“the Lions”) is the most popular Venetian-style fountain, located in Lions Square, the nerve center of the city. When the Ottomans conquered Crete, they built several charitable fountains (sebil) for their subjects. Perhaps the best known is the sebil at Kornarou Square, a polygonal building with arched windows once containing a tap and a stone trough. It now houses a coffee shop.

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