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Iceland in Miniature

By Linda Tancs

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is often referred to as Iceland in miniature. True enough, considering its 56 miles cover everything the country has to offer, from volcanoes and lava fields to glaciers, cliffs and beaches. At the westernmost part of the peninsula is Snæfellsjökull National Park, the only Icelandic national park that stretches to the sea. The area takes its name from the saga of Bárður Snæfellsás, the half-man, half-troll protector of the region whose colossal stone statue is in Arnarstapi.

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Beer in the Baltics

By Linda Tancs

Aldaris Beer Museum and Brewery is the first of its kind in Latvia and one of the most modern beer museums in the Baltics. The launch of the facility in 2015 coincided with the opening of the First Latvian Beer Congress, which brought together nearly 100 representatives of its beer industry. Located on the outskirts of Riga, the museum is situated in an old part of the Aldaris brewery, offering visitors a collection of exhibits related to beer, as well as tastings and the opportunity to attend beer-making classes. Of particular interest is the room housing the vats, which has remained practically unchanged since 1938. Take tram No. 5 from Riga’s city center to “Aldaris.”

Space in New Mexico

By Linda Tancs

The New Mexico Museum of Space History highlights events in the Tularosa Basin and greater New Mexico that advanced our exploration and knowledge of space. In fact, many major breakthroughs in technology occurred in the Alamogordo area, some calling it the cradle of America’s space program. The museum’s more celebrated objects include a very large moon rock and rare replicas of the first man-made satellites, Sputnik and Explorer.

Gardens at the Getty

By Linda Tancs

The J. Paul Getty Museum (the Getty) celebrates visual arts of outstanding quality and historical importance at two locales in California. In Los Angeles, the Getty Center houses an international collection of European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts and photography from its beginnings to the present. In Malibu, the Getty Villa is dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria. What both venues have in common are extraordinary gardens. Just like ancient Rome, the gardens at the villa are integral to the site, boasting fountains, arbors and reflecting ponds designed after ancient Roman models and planted with species known from the ancient Mediterranean. The heart of the Getty Center is its Central Garden, featuring a natural ravine and tree-lined walkway amidst 500 varieties of plant material. The Center has reopened after a rash of wildfires in the area.

Pigs and Acorns

By Linda Tancs

Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche is a nature reserve tucked away in Spain’s Huelva province. Located 90 minutes away from Seville by car, the area comprises mainly Mediterranean oak woodlands where the region’s famed black pigs (the source of jamón ibérico) forage for acorns. The dark-gray or black pigs are descendants of the Mediterranean wild hog and gorge on acorns that give them their distinctive flavor. A gourmand’s delight is not limited to this famed product of southwestern Spain, however. You can also enjoy Aracena cheese or chestnuts.

An Empire Builder in Minnesota

By Linda Tancs

James J. Hill was a railroad magnate, builder of the Great Northern Railway. His Minnesota home, near the Cathedral of Saint Paul, is a National Historic Landmark. Completed in 1891, the mansion was the largest and most expensive home in Minnesota and a leader of its age, with central heating, gas and electric lighting, plumbing, ventilation, security and communication. The massive Richardsonian Romanesque style mansion boasts a whopping 36,500 square feet on five floors, including 13 bathrooms, 22 fireplaces, 16 cut-glass chandeliers, a two-story skylit art gallery and a three-story pipe organ created by renowned Boston organ-maker, George Hutchings. Guided tours begin every half hour and last 75 minutes.

Dickens’ House in Town

By Linda Tancs

“My house in town” is how Charles Dickens referred to 48 Doughty Street, the London home that bore witness to some of the writer’s seminal occasions, like the birth of his two eldest daughters and the writing of such best-loved works as Oliver Twist. Now the Charles Dickens Museum, his only remaining home in London houses the world’s finest and most comprehensive collection of material relating to one of the world’s greatest storytellers, with over 100,000 items including furniture, personal effects, paintings, prints, photographs, letters, manuscripts and rare editions. Christmas at the Museum is a particularly festive highlight. Bedecked with holly and ivy, what better place to experience the rich traditions of a Dickensian Christmas than in the home of the author of A Christmas Carol!

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