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Archive for short reads

Veteran Trees at Hatfield

By Linda Tancs

Just 21 miles north of London, England, Hatfield House is a fine Jacobean house and garden in a spectacular countryside setting in Hertfordshire. Blessed with an extensive parkland, three separate walks range in length from just over one mile to just over three miles. The medieval grounds, site of the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth I, boast ancient oak, hornbeam and beech pollards. One ancient oak in the park reputedly marks the place where the young Princess Elizabeth first heard of her accession to the throne. Hatfield House is nowadays the home of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and their family. The pedestrian entrance to Hatfield Park is opposite Hatfield railway station. The fast train from Kings Cross to Hatfield takes 20 minutes.

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San Francisco’s Little Giant

By Linda Tancs

The Mission District of San Francisco, California, is nowadays a culturally diverse and trendy part of the city. But were it not for a working fire hydrant on April 18, 1906, it would have likely been lost to the ages. That’s when a disastrous earthquake brought the city to its knees, spawning the Great Fire left largely unquenched by a series of broken water mains—except for a certain fire hydrant on the southwest corner of Dolores Park in the western edge of the Mission District. Against all odds, the lone functioning hydrant (nicknamed “little giant”) is credited with saving the district. Each year on April 18 it receives a fresh coat of gold paint.

Sydney’s Big Fiddle

By Linda Tancs

Located in Nova Scotia, Canada, Cape Breton boasts a Celtic heritage and fiddle music. In Sydney, its harbor town, stands a big fiddle honoring its musical heritage. Reportedly the largest illuminated fiddle in the world, the 60-foot-tall sculpture was created by a local artist in 2005. Still thriving today, the Celtic culture on the island is the only one of its kind in North America, where the continent’s only living history museum for Gaelic language and culture is found.

East Anglia’s Waterfront Town

By Linda Tancs

Steeped in history, Ipswich is a waterfront town in East Anglia. The county town of Suffolk, it’s the oldest Anglo-Saxon town in England. The town was granted a royal charter in 1200 and has been closely linked with the discovery of the New World and with historical figures such as Cardinal Wolsey and Charles Dickens. The town’s unique and free museum delves into Suffolk’s past from the Iron Age to the Romans and Saxons. Woolly mammoths were believed to have lived in the Ipswich area until 11,500 years ago, a fact commemorated by the life-size model that serves as a mascot in the museum.

Old London Town

By Linda Tancs

London Town—Maryland, that is—boasts a colonial history that was all but forgotten following a change in trade routes that basically shuttered the thriving port town by the end of the 18th century. Thanks to a revival in interest sparked by an archaeological dig, the colonial seaport just 15 miles from Annapolis is now brimming with activities and interactive exhibits staffed on weekends with costumed interpreters. The crown jewel of the historic area is the William Brown House, a National Historic Landmark. Built by merchant William Brown to be an upscale inn and tavern, the Georgian-style brick mansion later functioned as an almshouse in the 1820s and continued to shelter the destitute until 1965. The area also features more than 10 acres of beautiful woodland and ornamental gardens, a colonial-era carpenter’s shop and the recreated Lord Mayor’s Tenement on the former site of a home for low-income families.

One of America’s Oldest Regions

By Linda Tancs

Virginia’s Eastern Shore is one of America’s oldest regions. Settled in 1615, it predates the landing of the Mayflower by five years. A narrow, 70-mile peninsula with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Chesapeake Bay on the other, the area is the antidote to commercial, blanket-to-blanket beach communities found elsewhere. Of course, there are beaches (six public ones) as well as wildlife refuges and a National Seashore. Historically, many districts in the towns are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The region also hosts the homestead of one of America’s influential colonial families and the repository for the oldest continual court records. Accomac is particularly famous for its debtors’ prison (used until 1849), a rare survivor of penal architecture of the colonial period. Highway 13, commonly known as Route 13, is the major north-south highway on the Eastern Shore. Heavily traveled in summertime, you’ll find little congestion this time of year.

Azaleas Bloom in Tokyo

By Linda Tancs

Every year between early April and early May, Tokyo’s Nezu Shrine is ablaze in color as 100 varieties of azaleas bloom in its garden. And so marks the Azalea Festival, where visitors are treated to some rare varieties such as Fuji-tsutsuji (tiny bean-size flowers), Hanaguruma (pinwheel-like flowers) and Karafune (black azalea). Along with the flowers, there’s a plant fair, an antique fair, festive stalls and a special timed viewing of Sanjuroku kasen-e paintings.

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