Magical destinations to discover every day ...

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Rock of Cashel, Ireland

High ground is valuable ground when you need to fend off an attack, and since the Rock of Cashel sits on a knoll above the surrounding countryside, it makes perfect sense that the Kings of Munster made it their 5th-century home. What few remnants remain from that time have mostly been dug from the ground, and today what draws visitors to the Rock of Cashel are the impressive religious monuments—most notably the Romanesque Cormec’s Chapel that was built in the late 12th century.

Unlike some of Ireland’s other Romanesque churches—which can have very simple structures—Cormec’s Chapel features complex arches and amazingly intricate designs. On the chapel’s impressively preserved interior, a sarcophagus was uncovered that could possibly contain the body of Cormec himself, although more impressive than the ancient tomb are the Romanesque frescoes which are believed to be the oldest wall paintings in Ireland.

Outside the church, in the surrounding graveyard, classic Celtic high crosses dot the grassy landscape and a round tower built in 1101 rises high above the fields. Beneath the entrance, at the Hall of the Vicars Choral, a small museum highlights pieces that have been excavated from the knoll, and even if you aren’t devoutly religious, there’s no denying the powerful feelings that are found on this sacred mound.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve - Guanacaste & Northwest Costa Rica

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (Reserva Biologica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde) contains four different ecological zones, with the majority still untouched forest. Considered one of the most important biological reserves in the world, this site is one of the few places where you can take a photo on the Continental Divide with one foot on the Pacific side and the other on the Caribbean side.

Another draw is the site's eight-mile (13 km) network of trails tat offer a well-rounded immersion into the biodiversity of Costa Rica. Monteverde is home to over 3,000 known plant species, 755 of which are trees alone. Here you can visit “La Ventana,” the scenic overlook displaying the beautiful panoramas created by the continental divide.

The reserve also includes the Monteverde Biological Reserve, Santa Elena and the Children's Eternal Rain Forest, part of the Arenal Volcano National Park.

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Fort Calgary Historic Park - Calgary, Canada

Visit the spot where Calgary was born at Fort Calgary, and explore the city’s formative years from 1875 to 1914. A wooden fort was built here by the North West Mounted Police in 1875, and today, the legacy of those times is re-created with interactive exhibits, replica barracks, guided tours and an interpretive center.

Dine in the former home of a Canadian Mountie, try on an authentic Mountie uniform and explore the fort’s extensive riverside grounds surrounding the meeting point of the Elbow and Bow rivers.

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Phillip Island Nature Parks, Australia

Only 90 minutes from the teeming streets of modern, fast-paced Melbourne, Phillip Island is known for its wildlife and scenic, rural shores. The fact that the island has remained so wild is in large part due to the Phillip Island Nature Parks that preserve, protect—and importantly, promote—the island’s wildlife wealth.

Though the parks are commercial enterprises that charge admission fees to visit, all of the money goes directly back into wildlife conservation.

The Phillip Island Nature Parks cover 4,460 acres and include the Koala Conservation Center, The Nobbies Center, Churchill Island Heritage Farm and the famous Penguin Parade. The organization also manages conservation areas such as Pyramid Walk and Cape Woolamai, where the rugged nature of the island’s coastline impresses with every turn.

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Remarkable Rocks - Kangaroo Island, Australia

500 million year old granite has been shaped by the elements to create the intriguing formations that are the Remarkable Rocks.  Perched on a large granite dome that drops abruptly to the crashing surf, the Remarkable Rocks are changing even today.

Information boards display pictures of the rocks from the 1800s alongside current photographs, as well as detailed information on the weathering process.

The Remarkable Rocks have been weathered into strange and unique shapes – many visitors enjoy picking out familiar objects in the formations, such as giant chairs and hooks. Enhancing their beauty are the colours in the granite uncovered as the rocks are worn down – blues, blacks and pinks play across the surface of the rocks.

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