Niagara Falls. From its initial formation some ten thousand years ago during the Wisconsin glaciation through its erosion during the following millennia, this location has showcased the raw natural power of the planet. After its formation, this spot has also awed and amazed first the native inhabitants of the region, and then from 1604 on, European explorers and tourists. Today, in 2017, Niagara Falls is not just a regional tourist attraction, but a well-known and sought after world-wide tourist destination. Unlike many other natural wonders, however, Niagara Falls straddles an international border (Canada - United States) and has a number of distinctive attractions for visitors; some with history; and some that are for the more adventurous.
In addition to its iconic destinations, such as the Space Needle, Seattle, and its surrounding suburbs is home to a number of stranger destinations, such as the Fremont Troll, Fremont Lenin, and of course, Bruce Lee’s grave. While all of these spots and many others have a certain amount of quirkiness, there is only one spot in all of Seattle where the quirkiness and the mainstream meets, and that is the Gum Wall at Pike Place Market. In all fairness, even without the Gum Wall, Pike Place Market is a unique spot that has more than a bit of quirkiness on its own. From the fresh produce, to fish being thrown, to all sorts of stores that sell almost anything new and used from all over the world, the market is a spot that represents Seattle in the minds of tourists from around the globe. With this backdrop, perhaps it is unsurprising that the Gum Wall arose one night in the midst of souvenirs, ghost stories, and street performers.
Generally, winter months and winter sports get all of the publicity about proper layering for obvious reasons. For me, however, layering is just as important during the summer months, mainly because no matter where one goes and what one does, one will encounter long days, heat, and a lot of sun exposure. In this regard, having a reliable base layer than can keep one cool, not get soaked with perspiration, and hold up to the rigors of multi-sport activities is worth its weight in gold, especially if it does not become smelly after a long day.
No matter what country one is in, there are always locations that have changed the direction of history. Some of these locations, like Gettysburg and Waterloo are well-known, and well visited. Other locations, like Mahon’s Rock in Ireland, are hardly visited, but are equally important. One of the most important historical figures in Ireland is Brian Boru, who became high king of Ireland in the late 900’s, before being killed at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. However, what is not well-known is that Brian’s rise was predicated on the killing of his brother, Mathgamain (Mahon), who was, prior to his death, Brian’s leige, and the King of Munster. While Irish medieval history is complex, what is known is that in 976, Mahon was betrayed at a meeting that he thought would be with the Bishop of Cork, and kidnapped. Once kidnapped, he was brought to a remote location - Mushera Mountain - far from his base of power - and killed on the rock that remains to this day. In order to avenge his brother, Brian started a series of campaigns that ended with him ruling Ireland, and occupying his fateful place in history - things that would not have happened without the actions that occurred on a remote mountain on a remote rock.
While the entirety of New Zealand has a number of pristine beaches, only one beach has a unique off-shore man-made feature and that beach is Victory Beach on the Otago Peninsula. The beach is named for the SS Victory, which, in 1861, ran aground at the end of the beach when under the control of one George Hand (who was later found to be intoxicated at the time of the wreck). While the majority of the wreck was auctioned off during the nineteenth century, and is now absent from the beach, one item remains - one of the huge flywheels of the wreck, which remains affixed about ten feet from the shore, a giant steampunk relic of a long-lost time.
Unless one is an avid spelunker, one does not think of caves when one thinks of Ireland. However, the island is actually a location with a number of interesting geological features, including a number of caves that can be explored by a casual traveler. Generally, most of the caves in Ireland are known as “Show Caves”, which means they are operated by either a onsite concessionaire, or the government, and access is regulated via guided tours. While there are caves one can explore on one’s own, most notably in the Burren region, these caves are the purview of actual cavers, not casual tourists. Out of all of the caves in Ireland, there is only one cave that was the actual site of a mass murder, and that is Dunmore Cave.
One of the most magical things about Ireland is that no matter where one goes in the country, that area is guaranteed to have a local legend of some sort. From Saints, to Holy Wells, to ghosts, monsters, the Devil himself, sprites, fairies, leprechauns and more, the land is inhabited by magical creatures and secret portals to other magical realms. And, with many places of otherworldly scenery, even if you are a non-believer, it is easy to see how such myths, legends, and stories came about. Out of all of these places, however, there is only one spot where one can visit where two giants battled, or depending on the account, where one giant tricked another, and that is the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.