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Archive for February, 2020

A Little Alabama in California

By Linda Tancs

If you’re a fan of natural stone arches like those found in Arches National Park, then you’ll surely love Alabama Hills. No, it isn’t in Alabama; you’ll find it west of Lone Pine in Inyo County, California. And you’ll find more than arches (most of which bear an east/west view). In fact, you’ll be amazed at the bevy of golden granite boulders rising like sharpened pencils from the desert floor. This region of rock formations got its name from Southern sympathizers celebrating the victories of the CSS Alabama, the most successful and notorious Confederate raiding vessel of the Civil War.

Good to the Last Drop in Nashville

By Linda Tancs

The Cheek family of Nashville, Tennessee, were successful entrepreneurs. One of their ventures gave rise to Maxwell House coffee, proclaimed to be “good to the last drop” by President Theodore Roosevelt. Thanks to their efforts, the public gets to enjoy the mansion and gardens of Cheekwood. Originally built as the home of Leslie and Mabel Cheek in 1929, the 55-acre estate is now the site of a botanical garden as well as an art museum in the mansion. The estate is also one of the finest examples of the Country Place Era, a period of American landscape architecture design reflecting the commissioning of extensive gardens intended to emulate those found among the grand manor estates in Europe. The site is less than nine miles southwest of downtown Nashville.

Royal Digs in Northern Ireland

By Linda Tancs

An official residence of Queen Elizabeth II in Northern Ireland, Hillsborough Castle in County Down has undergone a massive restoration not only to the Georgian house but also to the gardens, featuring a remodeled Walled Garden and a previously unseen Lost Garden. Entry to the manor is by guided tour only, where visitors will see the State Rooms, including the Throne Room, scene of the Queen’s coronation ball in 1953. The house is also the home of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. After the 45-minute house tour, be sure to leave plenty of time to meander the 100-acre garden.

Murals Galore in Moose Jaw

By Linda Tancs

Moose Jaw is a city in southern Saskatchewan, Canada. Situated on the Trans-Canada Highway, it was chosen as a division point for the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1800s and became a boom town in the 1920s after those railway connections drew numerous manufacturing industries. Today it boasts of itself as the mural capital of North America, sporting some 46 outdoor murals on building exteriors downtown. That’s sure to please lovers of street art. While you’re there, don’t miss Mac the Moose, a giant moose sculpture on the grounds of the town’s visitor’s center on the corner of East Thatcher Drive and the Trans-Canada Highway.

The Wall of Love

By Linda Tancs

Where else but in the “city of love” would you expect to find a “I Love You Wall”? A must-see for romance seekers in Paris (especially with Valentine’s Day right around the corner), Le mur des je t’aime is a mural built on a surface of 430 square feet comprising 612 squares of enameled lava, on which “I love you” is rendered 311 times in 250 languages. Located on the square at Place des Abbesses in Montmartre, admission is free.

A Rival to Versailles

By Linda Tancs

The Medici family ruled Florence, Italy, during the Renaissance. Their contributions to local culture are legendary, as are the many villas and gardens that family members accumulated over the centuries. One of their largest estates was Villa di Pratolino, its mansion and park environment worthy of comparison to Versailles. Eventually abandoned, the villa and the majority of its outdoor trappings became lost to history, and the complex was eventually purchased by a Florentine council for use as a public park. It hasn’t lost all of its Medici charms, however. A surviving element of the original estate is the imposing Colossus of the Apennines, a gigantic, 16th-century stone sculpture by Giambologna. Pratolino is about seven miles from the center of Florence; take bus #25A from Piazza San Marco.

A Crown Jewel of Civil War Sites

By Linda Tancs

Called “the new crown jewel of Civil War sites in America” by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James M. McPherson of Princeton University, Pamplin Historical Park & The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier is a 424-acre historical campus commemorating people and events related to the war. Set amidst a once-threatened Civil War battlefield near Petersburg, Virginia, the site features numerous museums, a restored plantation, walking trails, encampments and costumed interpretation. The local railroad’s ability to supply Confederate forces was an appealing reason for battles in this area. You can still see the depot in Old Towne Petersburg.

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