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A Village’s Best Friend

By Linda Tancs

A best friend sees you through thick and thin. That’s pretty much what a 400-year-old lime tree in Messemen, Belgium, has done. The village’s beloved, fragrant lime tree witnessed the church fire of 1645, the village’s inauguration as a principality in 1650 and the defeat of French invaders in 1798. Its gnarled trunk only adds to its charm, making it the subject of many paintings.

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Purple Mountain Majesty in China

By Linda Tancs

An easy getaway from Shanghai, Nanjing is home to Purple Mountain, so-named for the color of the clouds often seen at its peak. Part of Zhongshan Mountain National Park, it’s regarded as one of the most famous mountains in southern China. A cable car ride up the mountain will reward you with great views of the Yangtze River and the city. Pick a sunny day for the best views.

Chicago’s Bridges

By Linda Tancs

Chicago, Illinois, may be better known for its deep dish pizza and skyscrapers, but it’s the bridges that really steal the show. Home primarily to the trunnion bascule-style bridge, the city purportedly sports more movable bridges than any other locale in North America. You can learn all about Chicago’s bridge-building history at the McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum, located within the five-story bridgehouse of the iconic Michigan Avenue Bridge. For a real treat, watch the bridge lift from inside the facility. To accommodate sail boats and other tall vessels traveling between the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, Chicago’s bridges open approximately 40 times a year from April to November.

Munich’s Portal

By Linda Tancs

Among Europe’s biggest city parks, the English Garden in Munich, Germany, rivals New York City’s storied Central Park. An outstanding example of a classical landscape garden, it comprises woodland, meadows and water. Its network of pathways includes bridle paths and over 100 bridges and footbridges. Extending from the Court and Finance Gardens at Odeonsplatz into the open countryside far to the north of the city, this inner-city playground begun in 1789 counts more than 5 million visitors annually. A popular meeting point is the Chinese Tower, where a 7,000-seat beer garden is one of the biggest in Bavaria.

Dining in the Sky

By Linda Tancs

Once upon a time only an airline meal would’ve qualified as sky dining. Nowadays you can eliminate the fuselage and dine at table while suspended in the air by a massive crane. That’s the concept behind Dinner in the Sky, a vertigo-inducing gastronomic adventure originating in Belgium. Available now in more than 40 countries, this flying dinner party has made its way to locales including the Las Vegas Strip, the marina of Dubai, the banks of the St. Lawrence River and the beach of Copacabana. These unique events have featured iconic chefs like Pierre Gagnaire, Marc Veyrat, Heston Blumenthal and Paco Roncero. Will you send your taste buds to new heights?

China’s Ancient Northern Capital

By Linda Tancs

Although leading the country industrially (and having been named a model city for environmental protection), China’s northeastern city of Shenyang boasts impressive history and landscaping as well. Its imperial palace might not have the glitz of the Forbidden City, but it was built by the first Qing Emperor in 1625 and served as the seat of that dynasty. Both the palace and the emperors’ tombs are UNESCO sites. And despite being the largest city in northern China, there’s plenty of open space thanks to Beiling Park’s pine forests and lakes and the Expo Garden. It’s worth noting that passport holders of eligible countries are granted a visa-free stay of up to 72 hours when taking an international transfer via Taoxian International Airport. That’s enough time to soak in some attractions.

From Quarry to Garden

By Linda Tancs

Over a century ago, Jennie Butchart decided to transform an abandoned quarry into a garden. The result is The Butchart Gardens, one of the world’s premier floral show gardens. Located on Vancouver Island, Canada, this National Historic Site is resplendent year round. You’ll find remnants of the old quarry at the Sunken Garden’s expansive walls. From there you’ll encounter one of the finest dahlia gardens in the region (particularly this time of year) along the Concert Lawn Walk. Another favorite this season is the Rose Garden, with its extensive collection of floribundas, ramblers, climbers and hybrid tea roses. Summer is also a great time to take a boat tour of Tod Inlet from the wharf near the bottom of the Japanese Garden. And don’t miss the lush color in the Italian and Mediterranean gardens. A fireworks show every Saturday night in summer will round out your colorful experience.

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