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A Super Grove in Singapore

By Linda Tancs

There are trees and then there are “supertrees.” In Singapore, the latter consists of a trunk core made of reinforced concrete wrapped with a steel frame. Planting panels are installed on the trunks for the planting of the living skin. Each canopy, shaped like an inverted umbrella, provides shade during the day and a light and sound show at night. Over 162,900 plants comprising more than 200 species and varieties of bromeliads, orchids, ferns and tropical flowering climbers have been planted on the panels. Towering at 16 stories, these unique trees can be found all around the Gardens by the Bay– 12 at the Supertree Grove and six at the Golden and Silver Gardens. Take in a different view of the Gardens and stroll along the OCBC Skyway, a 419-foot-long walkway at a height of 72 feet connecting two trees at the grove. Admission to the outdoor gardens is free. Tickets can be purchased for the Skyway and conservatories.

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Art and Life in Amsterdam

By Linda Tancs

Rembrandt, Netherlands’ greatest artist, lived and worked for 20 years in a building in the heart of Amsterdam. Now the Rembrandt House Museum, it has an almost complete collection of his etchings. That’s enough of a collection to inspire contemporary artists, who likewise have their works exhibited there. The 17th century home has been extensively refurbished with period art, objects and furniture. Free etching demonstrations take place twice daily in Rembrandt’s former graphic workshop, illustrating etching technique and the printing process of centuries ago.

Nebraska’s Foremost Citizen

By Linda Tancs

Nobel Prize-winner Sinclair Lewis called Willa Cather the foremost citizen of Nebraska because her books so vividly depicted the Cornhusker State. Indeed, her depictions of the Nebraska prairie and farming communities were important milestones in American literature, and she is one of the most important American novelists of the first half of the 20th century. Her childhood home in Red Cloud is a state historic site. Guided educational tours of the home and other historic buildings related to her life and writing are conducted throughout the year. To experience the topic of her writings, visit the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie, a 612-acre haven with nearly two miles of free public walking and hiking trails.

Stairway to Heaven

By Linda Tancs

You’ll be knocking at heaven’s door at China’s Tianmen Mountain, called one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. Located near Zhangjiajie, it boasts a water-eroded hole (cave) between two peaks, the highest hole of its kind in the world. After an investment of 999 steps and 30 minutes (your stairway to heaven), you’ll find yourself at the cave, where unforgettable photos await. If the hike is too arduous, then visit the new glass skywalk stretching around the mountain’s vertical cliffs, overlooking Tongtian Avenue (Avenue to the Sky), a mountain road with 99 turns. For a different perspective, take the cable car ride from a nearby rail station to the top of the mountain. April to October offers the best weather for a stunning visit.

Huguenots and Hackensacks

By Linda Tancs

In 1709 a group of French Huguenot merchants bought a tract of land in present-day New Jersey from the Hackensack Indians. Later in the 1700s a portion of that tract (Ho-Ho-Kus in Bergen County) became the site of the Hermitage, a significant example of the Gothic Revival style, with tall gable roofs, diamond-paned windows and pointed Tudor arches. The historic colonial home was a rest stop for George Washington when he passed through Ho-Ho-Kus in 1778 after the Battle of Monmouth. Among other notable figures to visit the house during the Revolutionary War were James Monroe, William Paterson, the Marquis de Lafayette, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Today a National Historic Landmark and house museum, the Hermitage is a rich source of history and the site of numerous Native American artifacts found bordering the property. Tours are available year round Wednesday through Sunday.

An Exceptional Sense of Place

By Linda Tancs

Frederic Church, a major Hudson River School painter, had talents beyond the brush. A self-taught architect and landscape designer, he indulged his influences from world travels in the design and construction of a Victorian villa with Middle Eastern accents and named it Olana after a fortress-treasure house in ancient Greater Persia. Its 250-acre naturalistic landscape is one of Church’s great works of art and is one of the most intact artist-designed landscapes in the United States. Because it was created in the area of the birthplace of the Hudson River School arts movement, it possesses an exceptional sense of place—not to mention enviable views of the Hudson River valley. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Olana’s opening to the public, which includes the seasonal, popular guided house tour and year-round, self-guided landscape tours.

Talking to the Animals in Australia

By Linda Tancs

Pat a kangaroo, howl with the dingoes or laugh with the kookaburras. It’s entirely up to you at Fraser Coast Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland, Australia. Visits are guided and interactions with the animals are monitored by staff. It’s located just 30 minutes from Hervey Bay, the whale watching capital of Queensland and the gateway to spectacular Fraser Island.

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