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Archive for international travel

Prehistoric Europe in France

By Linda Tancs

Move over, Stonehenge. Impressive (and famous) as it is, England’s prehistoric monument is dwarfed by Carnac, the largest collection of megalithic standing stones in the world. Situated around the French village of Carnac in northwestern France, the Neolithic structures are believed to be funerary monuments. Comprising more than 3,000 prehistoric standing stones cut from local rock, the site features stone alignments, dolmens, tumuli and single menhirs erected by the pre-Celtic people of Brittany. Due to Brittany’s abundance of megalithic wonders, take advantage of the Megalithic Pass, which will give you reduced rates of entry to nearby attractions.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Tilting at Windmills in Spain

By Linda Tancs

The expression “tilting at windmills” means to attack imaginary enemies. It originated from the novel “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes, wherein Quixote mistakes windmill towers for giants and picks a fight with them. The iconic windmills of Consuegra in central Spain are attributed as the towers in question. Originally built to grind grain, the line of 12 Dutch-like towers is a tantalizing backdrop for the nearby medieval castle. Both the mills and the castle are a cultural historic site.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Wedded Bliss in Accettura

By Linda Tancs

Call it mat-TREE-mony—that is, a wedding of the arboreal kind. That’s right: a wedding of two trees, an oak and a holly. The unusual union is celebrated this time of year in southern Italy. Il Maggio di Accettura is an ancient pagan wedding festival celebrated in Accettura, a mountain village of about 2,000 people in the region of Basilicata. In case you were wondering, the oak is the groom and the holly is the bride. They’re cut, joined together (by the trunk of the oak and the top of the holly) and hoisted by a pulley over the main square of the town, followed by a procession of women wearing tiered headdresses made of candles and flowers. This centuries-old festival is undoubtedly one of the most unusual you’ll ever experience.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Exploring a Dome

By Linda Tancs

At 364 feet high, the dome of St Paul’s is the second largest cathedral dome in the world, an iconic part of the skyline of the City of London. At that height, you’ll find the dome’s Golden Gallery, a mere 528 steps from the cathedral floor. The smallest of three galleries in the dome, what it lacks in size it makes up for in sights. You’ll be treated to panoramic views of London that take in the River Thames, Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

The Castle in a Cloud

By Linda Tancs

Hohenzollern Castle was the seat of one of the most prominent dynasties in European history, chiefly as the ruling house of Brandenburg-Prussia and of imperial Germany. It’s often referred to as “the castle in a cloud” because of the way it looks on a foggy day. Among its many charms are the art collections, including a significant picture gallery, valuable silver and china as well as the crown of Prussian kings. You can download a castle walking tour, in English, on your phone. Trains run from Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof to Hechingen, where a shuttle bus takes visitors directly from the station to the castle car park. For amazing views, walk the steep ascent to the castle from the car park; otherwise, take the bus.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

France’s Opulent Bunker

By Linda Tancs

Arguably, the most interesting aspect of Château de Brézé in France’s Loire Valley is what’s beneath your feet. That’s because the castle boasts an underground fortress opulent enough to function as the main house, which is why it’s referred to as a castle under a castle. The vast, limestone-hollowed tunnels include a kitchen, a stable, a drawbridge and wine-making rooms. Dating from the Middle Ages, the bunker was likely built to protect its owners against marauders. Less than a mile of this labyrinth is accessible to visitors. Of course, the tasteful apartments of the castle proper are not to be missed. Also be sure to check out the dry moats, the deepest in Europe at around 60 feet!

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Dinosaur Trees in Australia

By Linda Tancs

Just a couple of hours northwest of Sydney is Wollemi National Park, a national park and wilderness area in Australia. Bushwalking is a popular activity thanks to the pristine, rugged wilderness met with pagoda rock formations, sandstone escarpments and deep gorges, among other things. In fact, one of the most fascinating discoveries of all time, the last surviving grove of Wollemi pine, occurred in 1994 during a bushwalking expedition in the deep gorges. Once thought to be extinct, its link to the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods puts it squarely in the backyard of the dinosaurs, who no doubt looked to the trees as a food source. Despite this discovery, the scarcity of the tree makes it highly endangered, and its location in the park is a closely-guarded secret. No worries, though. There’s enough extraordinary landscape to keep you occupied, and the softer light of autumn provides a great backdrop for outstanding photography.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Myth and Legend at Kylemore Abbey

By Linda Tancs

Kylemore Abbey is a Benedictine monastery founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle, in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. The abbey was founded for Benedictine nuns who fled Belgium during World War I. Legend has it that a giant living in mountains adjacent to the abbey threw a giant stone at his rival in the valley. The stone landed in an unusual position in the estate, where it remains today. Known as the Giant Ironing Stone (due to its resemblance to an iron used for clothes), it’s a popular wishing stone for visiting children, who also enjoy the pigs and Connemara ponies. The 1,000-acre site also features a six-acre Victorian walled garden as well as a lakeshore walk that will lead you to a neo-Gothic church that is now used for music recitals and poetry readings.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

A Figure of Eight in Italy

By Linda Tancs

Castel del Monte in southern Italy strikes a perfect octagonal shape. That’s part of what makes it unique, an octagonal plan with octagonal towers at each angle. Commissioned around 1240 by German Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, this fortress on a hill is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lauded for its harmonious blending of cultural elements from northern Europe, the Muslim world and classical antiquity, its exterior limestone block is remarkably intact. Located in Andria near Bari, you can easily reach it by bus, train or car.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

199 Steps and a Chair

By Linda Tancs

You’ll just need to climb a mere 199 stone steps to get fetching views of the harbor and town of Whitby in North Yorkshire, England. If that’s too arduous for you, then take the bus tour instead. No matter how you ascend, you’ll also get to visit the ruins of the Benedictine abbey that was founded after the Norman Conquest. A bit more off-the-beaten path is the abbey’s medieval, mile boundary marker. Known as the Whitby wishing chair, the seat-like stone base structure is all that remains of a cross marking the way to the abbey. As the name suggests, you’re supposed to sit in it and make a wish. You’ll find it at the junction of Love Lane and Stakesby Road on the western outskirts of town.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

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