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Head-to-Toe in Kent

By Linda Tancs

If you’re longing for a safari-like experience outside Africa, then a visit to Kent, England, might just be the ticket. Yes, that’s right. Kent, the “Garden of England,” offers an enviable wildlife experience at Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve. The park is home to over 760 animals across 90 species, including spectacled bears, Kent’s only giraffe and the largest herd of black rhino in the UK. For added excitement, stay at one of their special lodges where floor-to-ceiling windows in each guest room afford head-to-toe views of wolves, tigers, lions, bears and giraffes in special enclosures. You can even hand-feed the giraffes at the Giraffe Lodge, just like at the Giraffe Manor in Kenya.

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July 4th at Monticello

By Linda Tancs

With enviable views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is one of the most famous and popular of the presidential estates, a World Heritage Site, museum, research institute and presidential library. Author of the Declaration of Independence, third president of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia, Jefferson died at the estate in 1826 on July 4th, of all days. The Fourth of July remains an auspicious day at Monticello, where an annual Independence Day celebration and naturalization ceremony take place. The festivities include a speaker, an open house with free walk-through tours of the mansion’s first floor and plenty of patriotic music. The estate is located at 931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A Milestone for the Cleveland Way

By Linda Tancs

The Cleveland Way, England’s Yorkshire national trail skirting the North York Moors National Park, turned the big 5-0 this year. Spanning nearly 110 miles, the country’s second-inaugurated national trail runs from Helmsley to Filey. If the length of it sounds intimidating, you should know that the fastest official completion time is 19 hours, 53 minutes and 38 seconds. No need to rush, though. You’ll want to take all the time you can enjoying the mix of dramatic coastline and heather moorland. Most people walk the route from Helmsley through to Filey in a clockwise direction. Rail or bus services can easily get you to the start.

War and Peace in Staten Island

By Linda Tancs

With U.S. Independence Day fast approaching, it’s a good time to consider how differently things could’ve turned out if a peace accord had been struck in 1776. In September of that year, members of the Continental Congress met with a British envoy at the home of a wealthy colonel in Staten Island, New York, to discuss the prospect for peace. Needless to say, the talks failed; the British would have no treaty with independence and the colonists would have no treaty without it. Now known as Conference House, the Dutch-style, stone colonial in which the peace conference was held is a National Historic Landmark, the only remaining pre-Revolution manor house  in New York City. It’s open on weekends from April through December.

It Flows in Takachiho

By Linda Tancs

In Takachiho, Japan, one might say you go with the flow. After all, it’s famous for Takachiho Gorge, formed from lava from Mount Aso that over time eroded to create towering cliffs of volcanic basalt columns complemented by plunging waterfalls. But it’s also considered the birthplace of nagashi-somen, a noodle rite involving catching ice-cold somen noodles with chopsticks as they float down a chute. Be grateful for the colander catching errant noodles at the end. A summertime tradition in most of the country, it’s practiced all the way to the end of November in Takachiho.

Australia’s Jumbo Shrimp

By Linda Tancs

Jumbo shrimp takes on a whole new meaning in West Ballina, Australia, where you’ll find The Big Prawn, billed as “the world’s largest artificial prawn.” Nearly 30 feet high and weighing around 40 tons, the beloved crustacean survived demolition years ago and was relocated to its current site beside Bunnings, a hardware store. As you might imagine, the prawn was built to celebrate the local fishing industry.

China’s Water City

By Linda Tancs

Some might say China invented canal culture, boasting the longest man-made waterway in the world, the Grand Canal. Stretching over 1,100 miles from the city of Beijing to the city of Hangzhou, the UNESCO World Heritage Site was built over 1,300 years ago to supply agricultural products to major cities like Beijing. Liaocheng was a key commercial port along the route, one reason why it’s known as the “water city.” Not surprisingly, its prominent association with this famous canal is highlighted at its Canal Museum. The city is also dotted with lakes, the centerpiece being Dongchang Lake. The museum is located within its scenic district. Liaocheng is about four hours away by train from Beijing.

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