Travelrific® Travel Journal

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Archive for August, 2022

Circus Splendor in Sarasota

By Linda Tancs

Circus mogul John Ringling and his wife Mabel wintered at a Mediterranean Revival-style mansion in Sarasota, Florida. It was modeled after the palazzos of Venice, Italy, and completed in 1926. Named Cà d’Zan (Venetian for “house of John”), the 36,000-square-foot palace reflects all of the splendor of the Gilded Age. You can explore the first floor of the manor, which includes living, dining and entertainment areas, all furnished just as in the days of the Ringlings’ residence. The home is part of a 66-acre museum complex adjacent to Sarasota Bay known as The Ringling, featuring the State Art Museum of Florida, Circus Museum and Bayfront Gardens. Museum admission alone does not include the mansion, so be sure to add it to your ticket purchase.

Wild Countryside in Belgium

By Linda Tancs

The Ardennes is a region of unspoiled nature that spans Belgium, France and Luxembourg. In southeastern Belgium, the Ardennes sports a matrix of fairy-tale castles, many dating back to the Middle Ages. One of the largest is Walzin Castle, perched on a cliff nearly 165 feet high. It overlooks the Lesse River, a popular spot for kayaking. In fact, kayaking is the best way to view this imposing 11th-century castle. Take some time to walk or hike the nature reserves and prehistoric caverns dotting the area.

An Impressionist’s Dream in Normandy

By Linda Tancs

Étretat is a commune in the Seine-Maritime department in the Normandy region of France. Long a haunt of Impressionist painters, it’s well known for striking rock formations carved out of its white cliffs, including the Porte d’Aval arch and L’Aiguille (the Needle), a pillar rising up from the Atlantic. The clifftop views are unforgettable and free to access. Once upon a time, Étretat thrived on its fishing trade and kelp was commonly harvested and burned on the beach for its iodine. At low tide, you may be treated to a kelp-covered beach at Porte d’Aval. Arrive at sunrise or sunset for spectacular photos.

Holy Water in Ecuador

By Linda Tancs

Nestled at the foot of Tungurahua (an active volcano) in Ecuador is Baños de Agua Santa (baths, or springs, of holy water). A major tourist center between the central Andes and the Amazon of Ecuador, it’s prized for its hot springs credited with healing powers. The views aren’t bad, either, surrounded as it is by mountains and waterfalls flowing into deep ravines. You can view the cascades on a gondola-style cable car strung from one hilltop to the next. As you might imagine, it’s a great locale for landscape photographers. Enjoy a three-and-a-half-hour drive south from Quito through the Andes.

The French in Maine

By Linda Tancs

In 1603, Pierre Dugua was commissioned by the King of France to initiate an expedition to the New World and to establish a French presence. By the summer of 1604, an expedition team sailed into Passamaquoddy Bay, an inlet between Maine and the Canadian province of New Brunswick, and settled on a small island they named Saint Croix (French for “cross”) because the confluence of the surrounding water systems looked akin to the shape of a cross. To commemorate the history of this settlement, Saint Croix Island International Historic Site was established. The area abounds with seals and birds and, approximately twice per day, the water and islands of the St. Croix River reveal the extreme tides of the Maine coast. When the tides drop below sea level, you’ll find shellfish, sea urchins and sediments normally under water. The site is located 8 miles south of Calais, Maine. A visitor center is inside the ranger station. Take the self-guided interpretative trail, featuring bronze figures of the French and members of the Passamaquoddy tribe as well as displays that discuss historical events and interactions between the two cultures.

Denmark’s Garden Island

By Linda Tancs

Dubbed Denmark’s “Garden Island,” Fyn boasts a treasure trove of castles and manor houses. Arguably its biggest tourist attraction is Egeskov Castle, reportedly Europe’s best-preserved Renaissance water castle. Since 1784, Egeskov has been in the possession of some remnant of the Bille family, who still live in the castle today. Some of the palace’s notable exhibitions are the dolls’ house with over 3,000 objects, a historical toys collection and a paper doll designed by Hans Christian Andersen. The fastest way to Egeskov by train is from Odense to Ringe, where you can pick up a taxi.

Kenya’s Grand Canyon

By Linda Tancs

The Marafa Depression is a vast canyon-like area resulting from soil erosion located near Malindi, Kenya. Known locally as “Hell’s Kitchen,” the view is actually heavenly. It’s a sandstone gorge punctuated with crayon box colors like red, white, orange and pink that are particularly luminous when mirrored by the sun at sundown. That’s why many tours will be timed to take in the sunset. Be sure to take a guided tour of the canyon, and don’t forget your camera.

Life in the Sandhills

By Linda Tancs

The Nebraskan Sandhills refers to a region of mixed-grass prairie on grass-stabilized sand dunes in north-central Nebraska. In the heart of the Sandhills is Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, an area encompassing nearly 72,000 acres of lakes, marshes and prairie grasses that provide a habitat for diverse wildlife. In fact, it’s home to 270 species of birds, 59 species of mammals and 22 species of reptiles and amphibians. Among many distinctions, the refuge is recognized by the state as a top ecotourism site and by the Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area, especially for its large population of greater prairie chickens. The Marsh Lakes Overlook and a short nature trail provide great views of the grasslands and marshes. You’ll also find an observation deck located on the old fire tower, a great place for bird watching and prairie views.

A Romanian Wonder

By Linda Tancs

Dubbed one of the Seven Wonders of Romania, Corvin Castle is a Gothic-Renaissance castle in Hunedoara and one of Europe’s largest castles. Built in the Middle Ages, it served as a fortress against the Ottomans before its makeover into a palace by John Hunyadi, a Hungarian general and governor. It bears the dubious distinction of being located next to a steel plant, the result of the 19th-century industrial revolution that overtook the area. A popular legend is that Dracula was imprisoned there. The closest big city is Deva; minibuses run regularly from there to Hunedoara.

Spain’s Game of Thrones

By Linda Tancs

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Alcázar of Seville is a royal palace in Seville, Spain. Hardly a relic, the upper chambers of the 12th-century palace are still used by the Spanish royal family as their official residence in Seville. Originally a Muslim fortress, it abounds with exotic Moorish architecture, as well as Gothic, Mudéjar, Renaissance and Baroque styles that have been added over the centuries. It’s prized for its tiles, especially those adorning Ambassadors’ Hall, the throne room of the original palace. The hall is one of the locations used to film the series, Game of Thrones. Other features used in filming were garden locales like Mercury’s Pond (a large pool decorated by frescoes and stonework punctuated with a bronze statue of Mercury) and the Carlos V Pavilion bounded by orange trees.

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