This Month in History: October

There’s a lot going on in the world these days, and sometimes it can seem like things that happen now are more important than anything in the past. It’s nice to look back and see what important things have occurred in the past to make our world better, and what things have happened that we’ve survived.

Let’s look at some of the things that happened in Octobers past.

Panama Canal Returned to Panama

The Panama Canal is an engineering marvel, bridging the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at the narrow isthmus of Panama in Central America. The United States began the project in order to cut the travel time from the East Coast to the West Coast by 6,000 miles.

The United States constructed the canal and maintained control for more than 60 years. But, after much protest by Panamanians wanting local control over the canal, the two countries agreed to give control of the canal back to Panama, starting October 1, 1979.

Panama Canal (Google Maps)
Panama Canal

Uganda Gains Independence from Great Britain

The people who live in what is now Uganda in Africa were first exposed to European traders and missionaries in the 1860s and 1870s, when they came looking for the source of the Nile river and trade routes. Shortly thereafter, Ugandan people were put under the “Ugandan Protectorate” by Great Britain.

This protectorate status lasted until October 9, 1962, when under Queen Elizabeth II, the country was granted independence and embraced as part of the Commonwealth of Nations. Since that time, the country has been independent, but often experiences political unrest and struggle for power.

Parliament of Uganda (Google Maps)
Parliament of Uganda

Nikita Khrushchev Pounds his Shoe at United Nations

After World War II, a “cold” war broke out between democratic countries led by the United States, and communist countries led by the Soviet Union. At a meeting of the heads of state of the members of the United Nations on October 12, 1960, the delegate from the Philippines was speaking out against communism, which enraged Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union. According to reports, he was so furious he removed his shoe and banged it on his table. This famous outburst was one of many, including the leader claiming that the Soviets would “bury” the Americans and win the war of global competition.

United Nations Headquarters Building (Google Maps)
United Nations Headquarters Building

Yale University is Founded

Fewer than 100 years after settling the area, colonists in Connecticut founded the first college in their colony, and the fourth in the entire colonies on October 16, 1701. The school formally changed its name to Yale College in 1718 after a benefactor. Since that time, Yale University has become one of the premier educational institutions in the world, and has educated five US presidents, as well as countless political leaders and business icons.

Yale (Google Maps)

Battle of Saratoga

The Battle of Saratoga in 1777 helped to turn the tide of the Revolution. British General John Burgoyne had a strategy to divide and conquer the American army, but he failed in two attempts in September and October, and was forced to surrender to American General Horatio Gates on October 17, 1777.

While this was just one of many battles, it showed French leaders that the American upstarts had a chance against the might of their enemy, the British, and joined the war on the side of the Americans. Their involvement was a critical point in helping America win her freedom from the British.

During the battle, American soldier Benedict Arnold was wounded in the leg. Later, he betrayed the country he fought for, but there’s still a monument to his service, in the shape of a boot no less!

Benedict Arnold's Boot Monument street view (StreetView)
Benedict Arnold's Boot Monument street view

US Invades Grenada

As dawn rose on October 25, 1983, US troops landed at the airport on the Caribbean island of Grenada. Over the previous few weeks, political instability had come to a breaking point, the leader overthrown and killed in riots, and unrest was growing worse. Grenada’s government requested international help, and because there were more than 600 US medical students on the island, President Reagan sent about 7,600 troops to restore peace to the country. The military action was over within a few days and with relatively few casualties.

Democratic elections were held in 1984, and the country has been democratic ever since.

Grenada Island (Google Maps)
Grenada Island

Shootout at the OK Corral

At 3:00 on October 26, 1881, the most famous gunfight in the Wild West took place in Tombstone, Arizona. After an old feud came to head between an outlaw gang and the police authorities in the small territory town, the five members of the Cowboys faced off against town Sheriff Virgil Earp, his brothers Morgan and Wyatt, and friend Doc Holliday. After 30 seconds of shooting, two outlaws were dead, the rest of the gang had scattered.

The feud didn’t end that day, and the two sides continued to settle scores for years.The shootout did not actually take place at the OK Corral, but down the street. Nonetheless, the OK Corral and Tombstone have become famous in American lore.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (StreetView)
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

These are just a few stories from the vault of history showing us that important, interesting, and outlandish things happen all the time.

Beautiful Parks Around the World

There’s nothing more refreshing than spending time outside, among beautiful trees, animals, and fresh air; and this year has taught us to appreciate the outdoors more than ever! Let’s take a look at some of the most beautiful city parks around the world.

Central Park

Central Park in New York City is hands down the most famous urban park in the world, and one of the biggest. It is very diverse, with lakes, ponds, hills, wooded areas, as well as sports complexes, theaters, and places for families and kids to play. More people visit Central Park than any other park in the world, and with all it has to offer, it’s no wonder why.

Everyone coming to New York must take a break in the park, whether it’s to lie on the grass or play in one of the many parks. As you step away from the street, it feels like you’re leaving the city and entering a whole new place where you can relax and take a break from the busiest city in the world.

Central Park (Google Maps)
Central Park

One of the most popular areas of the park is Strawberry Fields, a memorial to John Lennon of the Beatles. He lived at the Dakota building on the border of the park, and was shot and killed outside the building in 1980. The memorial area in the park is adjacent to his apartment building.

Strawberry Fields (John Lennon memorial) (Birds Eye)
Strawberry Fields (John Lennon memorial)

Tuileries Gardens

The Tuileries Gardens in downtown Paris, France, are some of the most beautifully landscaped urban gardens. Originally commissioned in the 1560s, it was the biggest and most elaborate garden in Paris. Over the years, it has been expanded and enhanced, and was opened to the public in 1667.

Since then, it has been a popular gathering place for the city’s residents. They come here to relax, walk, enjoy entertainment, and spend time in nature within the city limits. The Tuileries Gardens fit the Parisian personality perfectly: chic, classy, and understated. They are a great place to visit if you’re lucky enough to spend some time in the City of Lights.

Jardin des Tuileries (Google Maps)
Jardin des Tuileries

Griffith Park

Griffith Park is one of the largest urban parks in North America, even larger than Central Park. Griffith Park has a varied landscape, from remote caves amid rugged hills to the famed Griffith Observatory, from the iconic Hollywood sign to the Los Angeles Zoo.

Griffith Observatory (Google Maps)
Griffith Observatory

Griffith Park is central to the identity of Los Angeles, and is a great place to spend a day, whether you’re hiking in the rough hills, interacting with animals at the zoo, or taking in a performance at the Greek Theater. As far as parks go, this one is extraordinary.

Griffith Park and the L.A. Skyline (StreetView)
Griffith Park and the L.A. Skyline

Lumphini Park

While not as big or diverse as Griffith Park, Lumphini Park in downtown Bangkok, Thailand, is an integral part of city life. There is a beautiful lake, two miles of walking trails, many varieties of birds and wildlife to observe, and more. The park is especially important in the densely urban area because it provides social services including a library, apprentice schools, and education center to help homeless children.

Lumphini Park (Google Maps)
Lumphini Park

El Retiro, Spain

Parque del Buen Retiro, known as El Retiro, in Madrid, is perfectly named because the park is a wonderful retreat from the bustle of Spain’s capital city. The park started out as grounds for a palace in the 1500s, but eventually became public by 1868. The park has a large pond, free weekly outdoor concerts, multiple playgrounds, and many lovely walking paths.

There are several buildings that host exhibitions; the most famous of which is the Crystal Palace. The Palace is constructed of glass and iron, including a curved glass ceiling, which is an architectural marvel.  Being inside the palace, but seeing the sky and trees all around is simply enchanting.

'Palacio de Cristal' by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco (StreetView)
'Palacio de Cristal' by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco

Royal Botanic Garden

The Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, Australia, was established in 1816, and is both an important scientific institution as well as a beloved cultural and recreational center for the city. It has carefully cultivated gardens and less structured park areas, with both native and exotic wildlife. The Garden extends to the Sydney Harbor, and features a beautiful hand-constructed seawall.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney (StreetView)
Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

Along the harbor edge of the garden is the world-famous Sydney Opera House. It is a wonderful cultural institution, but it’s probably more famous because of it’s breathtaking, unique design. The shell-inspired design is recognized the world over.

Sydney Opera House (Birds Eye)
Sydney Opera House

These are just a few of the beautiful parks around the world. There are parks everywhere, so you don’t have to travel to a big city to enjoy a little respite from the busy world.

This Month in History: August

We’re making progress in the most interesting year in awhile, but 2020 isn’t the only time things have been wild. Let’s take a look back in history and see some important historical events.

Iraq Invades Kuwait

Tensions between Iraq and its neighboring country Kuwait were simmering for awhile over oil production issues when, on August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Within two days, the small country’s military was completely overrun, and shortly thereafter the country was annexed by Iraq.

Soon, a US-led coalition declared war on Iraq in what became known as the Gulf War. They started bombing Iraq on January 16, 1991, and after a five week ground assault, Kuwait was liberated from the Iraqis.

While the Iraqi military leadership had declared a retreat, a unit stationed at the Kuwait International Airport did not receive the message, and engaged allied forces in a several-hours long standoff before they surrendered.

Kuwait International Airport (Google Maps)
Kuwait International Airport

Lizzie Borden’s Parents are Murdered

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Andrew Borden and his wife Abby were found gruesomely murdered by an axe in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts. Andrew’s 32 year old daughter Lizzie Borden was the prime suspect, and tried for their murders.

While she was acquitted of the crimes, she lived the rest of her life under a haze of suspicion, and the macabre rhyme about the crime has ensured she will be remembered for many years to come. “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks. And when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.”

Lizzie Borden axe murder home (StreetView)
Lizzie Borden axe murder home

Marilyn Monroe Is Found Dead of a Drug Overdose

Marilyn Monroe was an actress, singer, and sex symbol in the 1950s and 1960s, starring in several popular films and capturing the attention of many American men, including, allegedly, President John F. Kenned. However, she was plagued by depression, drug addiction, and other maladies.

On August 5, her housekeeper found her dead, and it was determined that she passed away on the evening of August 4, 1962, of an intentional drug overdose.

Fans the world over mourned her death, and she is still beloved by many, and considered one of Hollywood’s brightest stars.

Marilyn Monroe's Last Residence (Birds Eye)
Marilyn Monroe's Last Residence

Atomic Bomb Dropped on Hiroshima

By the summer of 1945, the war in Europe had come to an end, but the war between the Allies and Japan continued to rage on. It became clear that to defeat Japan, it would cost many more American, and Japanese lives. The decision was made to use a new, catastrophic, weapon against Japan in an effort to expedite the end of the war.

On the morning of August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, killing up to 166,000 civilians. As a direct result of the bombs on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki, which was dropped three days later, Japan surrendered to the United States on August 15.

Hiroshima was nearly entirely destroyed that day, but the surviving residents rebuilt the city into a thriving, vibrant metropolis. The city has not forgotten its history, and a beautiful memorial park and museum serve to honor the dead and tell the story of that day.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (StreetView)
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Berlin Wall Erected

After the end of World War II, Germany and its capital Berlin were divided among the Allied victors: the US, France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. However, after years of deteriorating relations between the former Allies, the Soviets erected a wall to divide their sector from the sectors of Berlin on August 13, 1961. They claimed it would keep westerners out, but it was clearly designed to keep East Germans trapped and unable to escape.

This wall became a symbol of the divide between “east” and “west”, communism and democracy, until it came down on November 9, 1989. While the wall is mostly gone, some pieces have been preserved as living symbols of the division, and unity, of the country.

Remains of Berlin Wall (Mühlenstrasse) (Google Maps)
Remains of Berlin Wall (Mühlenstrasse)

Mount Vesuvius Erupts

Mount Vesuvius in southern Italy near Naples is an active volcano.

Its most famous eruption began early in the morning of August 24, 79 AD. It destroyed several nearby cities, including Pompeii and Herculaneum. The volcano began by spewing ash, giving residents of nearby cities a warning that the volcano was beginning to erupt. By the afternoon, the volcano shifted to violent and deadly eruptions, killing some people in an instant from the heat of the ash and lava.

It is estimated that more than 16,000 people died, some instantly. Many bodies, as well as much of the cities, have been preserved in remarkable condition due to the ash and lava that fell down on the cities. Sites are continually being excavated, and scientists and anthropologists are learning so much from the incredibly well-preserved sites. Tourists can visit the destroyed cities as well.

Pompeii - House Of The Faun (Birds Eye)
Pompeii - House Of The Faun

Princess Diana Dies in Car Crash

Diana Spencer became a princess when she married Prince Charles in 1981, and became a global icon over the next decade, earning the nickname “The People’s Princess”. The couple divorced, but Diana continued to be one of the most famous, and most photographed people in the world. Every aspect of her life was public fodder, and she was hounded by aggressive paparazzi wherever she went.

On August 30, 1997, she and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, were in a car crash in Paris, France. Early the next morning, she was declared dead at a local hospital, plunging the world into shock and mourning.

Alma tunnel where Lady Diana died (Google Maps)
Alma tunnel where Lady Diana died

Even now, more than 20 years later, she is still known around the world for her popularity, charity work, and kind personality.

This year may feel unique in terms of crazy events, but when we reflect on things from our past, it helps to put our challenges, and successes, in perspective. Here’s hoping that the rest of 2020 will be memorable for the best of reasons!

This Month in History: June

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that we’re living in unprecedented times. But as big and life changing as things feel these days, we can look back through history and see that a few people can change history, and that living one’s best life is the most important thing they can do to change the world.

Massacre at Tienanmen Square

Months of student-led protests in Beijing resulted in a military crackdown and the deaths of hundreds or thousands of protesters and bystanders. Protesters were demonstrating in favor of increased transparency, democracy, and freedom of speech. After weeks of growing frustration, the government called in more than 300,000 soldiers to counter the protests on June 4, 1989.

Soldiers used force in several instances, including driving a tank into a group of protesters, firing on unarmed students and other acts of violence. The next day, a lone protester stood in Tienanmen Square, blocking a line of tanks,  and becoming the face of the protest.

Tiananmen Square (Google Maps)
Tiananmen Square

Robert F. Kennedy is Assassinated

Just a few years after the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kenned, Robert F. Kennedy was running for the Democratic nomination for president. He held an election night celebration at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California on June 5, 1968.

After the event, he and his security team were leaving the hotel through the kitchen when he was shot by Sirhan Sirhan. He died the next day. His assassination was one of many in the decade, contributing to the tumultuous and chaotic feeling of the 1960s politically and socially as people fought for change and looked for stability at the same time.

Ambassador Hotel (former) (Google Maps)
Ambassador Hotel (former)

Medgar Evers is Murdered in Mississippi

Medgar Evars was an African American civil rights activist in Mississippi. He worked for integrated education and for the NAACP. He was a target of white supremacists and anti-integration advocates. Threats were so serious that even his children were trained in how to respond to an attack.

On June 12, 1963, he was shot in his driveway. He died later that evening after achieving the dubious groundbreaking distinction of being the first African American admitted to an all-white hospital in Mississippi. He was buried on June 19 in Arlington Cemetery. His assassin was originally acquitted, but convicted in 1994.

Medgar Evers Murder (StreetView)
Medgar Evers Murder

Watergate Hotel Break-in

In the nighttime hours of June 17, 1972, five men were arrested inside the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Office Building in Washington, D.C. They were hired by people tied to the Nixon reelection campaign, and as the investigation went on, it was clear that President Nixon himself was deeply involved in illegal activities intended to help him win reelection.

The arrests led to a years-long investigation and the resignation of President Nixon to avoid impeachment and removal by the House of Representatives and Senate.

Watergate Hotel (Birds Eye)
Watergate Hotel

Napoleon is Defeated at Waterloo

Napoleon Bonaparte rose to prominence and eventual power after the mess of the French Revolution. Being Emperor of France wasn’t enough, and Napoleon spent a decade invading other European countries and acquiring more territory. He was pushed from power in 1814, but came back in 1815.

The major powers of Europe formed a coalition to defeat Napoleon, and on June 18, 1815, armies from England, Prussia, and other countries met Napoleon’s army and defeated them just outside the Belgian town of Waterloo. Napoleon abdicated days later, this time for good. Europe formed new alliances that maintained peace for decades and laid the groundwork for the alliances that would lead to World War I.

Lion hill of Waterloo (Google Maps)
Lion hill of Waterloo

Berlin Airlift Begins

After World War II, control over Germany was divided among the victors: United States, Great Britain, France, and the USSR. The capitol Berlin was also divided. Because Berlin was deep inside the Soviet zone, it was difficult to keep the western side supplied.

In 1948, the USSR cut off all roads and train supply routes in an effort to gain total control over the city. Starting on June 26, 1948, the three allied countries airlifted in food and supplies to keep the city supplied. After more than a year, 2.3 million tons of supplies, and airplanes landing nearly every 30 seconds, the Soviets backed down and opened up the traditional supply routes.

The Berlin Airlift was the first of many tense conflicts between the USSR and the west during the Cold War.

Berlin airlift DC-4 at Tempelhof Airport (Google Maps)
Berlin airlift DC-4 at Tempelhof Airport

Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

While all political assassinations are intended to cause chaos, likely no single assassination has had a greater impact on the world than the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the presumptive heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. He was killed on June 28, 1914, while traveling in a motorcade in Sarajevo by a young revolutionary. His death, and that of his wife Sophie, had global importance because they set of a chain of events that caused World War I, and the deaths of more than 40 million soldiers and civilians worldwide.

Where WWI started - Franz Ferdinand assassination (Google Maps)
Where WWI started - Franz Ferdinand assassination

These are just a few of so many important events in Junes past, and knowing people have experienced so many crazy, life-changing, and amazing moments, and the world keeps on going can give us confidence that we can survive and thrive during these trying times.

This Month in History: May

The world is witnessing history unfold as the Corona Virus, or Covid-19, spreads throughout the world. It’s a stark reminder that history happens every day.

And while we cannot stop bad things from occurring on a global scale, we can look to history to see great events, and the individuals who play a role in them.

May 1: Empire State Building Officially Opens

When the Empire State Building opened in New York City on May, 1931, the city was in the midst of a “race into the sky” where multiple buildings were vying to be the tallest building in the city, and the world.

The Art Deco structure was the tallest building in the world until it was passed by the World Trade Center.

Empire State Building (Birds Eye)
Empire State Building

May 4: National Guard Fires on Kent State Protestors

As the Vietnam War dragged on, American sentiment turned strongly against the war. In early May 1970, a series of increasingly violent protests on the campus of Kent State University culminated in a large protest on the Commons on May 4. The National Guard had been called out, and, for unknown reasons, the soldiers fired on the dispersing crowd, wounding nine and killing four students.

A photograph taken as a young woman knelt over a dead student’s body has become a symbol of the day’s events and of the anti-war protest movement overall.

Memorials for the fallen are important parts of the Commons, and of the university’s commemoration of the event.

Kent State (Google Maps)
Kent State

May 12: King George VI is Crowned in Westminster Abbey

King George VI became King of of the United Kingdom on December 11, 1936, but did not hold his coronation until May 12, 1937. He reluctantly stepped into the role of King when his brother, King Edward VIII, chose to abdicate the throne to be with Wallace Simpson.

George brought with him a vital sense of unification and patriotism that was critical as the country prepared to enter what would become World War II.

May 17: Founding of the New York Stock Exchange

On May 17, 1792, 24 men got together on Wall Street in New York City and signed an agreement to organize securities trading among them. The agreement held, and the organization grew into the New York Stock Exchange, the largest trading floor in the world, and has made the term “Wall Street” synonymous with wealth, prestige and power.

New York Stock Exchange (StreetView)
New York Stock Exchange

May 23: Bonnie and Clyde are Gunned Down

During the Depression, the tale of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow and the Barrow gang captivated the nation; the idea of a gun-wielding criminal couple too much to resist. The gang was famous for robbing banks, gas stations, and country stores. They killed nine police officers and four civilians along the way.

In early 1934, the gang was pursued relentlessly by authorities. The gang was tracked to Gibsland, Louisiana, and in the morning of May 23, a posse ambushed them, shooting Bonnie and Clyde up to 50 times each. There is now a monument marking the place they were killed.

Bonnie & Clyde Ambush/Death site (StreetView)
Bonnie & Clyde Ambush/Death site

There is a museum in Gibsland, run by the son of one of the posse members.

Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum (StreetView)
Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum

May 29: Constantinople Falls to the Turks

If you know the song, you know the history: “Istanbul was Constantinople”, but you may not know the details. After more than a thousand years as the head of the Roman Empire, the city of Constantinople had been severely weakened, but was still an impenetrable fortress due to the 12-foot thick Theodosian walls built in the 5th Century.

However, by 1453, the advent of weapons technology and gunpowder proved too much, and the walls were breached on May 29 by Mehmet the Conqueror. After three days of brutal looting, Mehmet restored peace to the city. He made Constantinople his capitol and renamed it Istanbul, which is now the capitol of Turkey.

Portions of the walls still stand, reminding residents and visitors of the history and power of the ancient city.

Walls of Constantinople (Google Maps)
Walls of Constantinople

May 31: Johnstown, Pennsylvania Flood

Johnstown, Pennsylvania was an industrial town of more than 30,000 built on the Little Conemaugh River. In May 1889, the area was hit by a series of rain storms, including one 24 hour period that dumped 6-10 inches. The rain caused a dam about 14 miles upriver to break, sending a massive river of debris and rushing water that wiped out three towns and killed more than 2,200 people. 

It caused nearly half a billion dollars in damages (in today’s dollars), and led to legislation improving working and safety standards and requiring organizations to take increased responsibility for accidents. Clara Barton, a famous Civil War nurse who founded the Red Cross, led the volunteer relief effort. A memorial now exists at the site of the dam break, preserving parts of the dam and the river bed.

Johnstown Flood National Memorial (Birds Eye)
Johnstown Flood National Memorial

Everyone has the chance to make history, whether it’s in the newspaper or just changing the life of a friend, neighbor, or stranger for the better. We should all try to make the world around us a better place; we can certainly use it.

Beautiful Places Around the World We Can Enjoy from Our Living Room

While most of us are practicing social distancing, now is a good time to take a virtual tour of some of the most beautiful natural wonders around the world.

Mystic Falls, Yellowstone

Mystic Falls in Yellowstone National Park is just one of hundreds of breathtaking sites to see in the park. It is a 70-foot waterfall that can be reached by a short 1.2 mile hike in the Upper Geyser Basin. The waterfall cascades down the mountain canyon, providing a beautiful and calming view for those who reach the destination.

For those hiking in real life, take the clockwise route to take advantage of the easier slope and to enjoy a dramatic reveal of the falls when you reach your destination.

Mystic Falls (StreetView)
Mystic Falls

Uluru, Australia

Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock by non-indigenous Australians, is a massive rock formation that juts up nearly 3,000 feet from the surrounding area. It is sacred to the Aboriginal people, and is one of Australia’s most famous landmarks. The formation is nearly five miles around, and is a great tourist destination.

Visitors will be in awe of the rock’s beauty and how it appears to glow red at sunrise and sunset, and change colors throughout the day.

Uluru / Ayers Rock (Google Maps)
Uluru / Ayers Rock

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia

Flowing from the Zambezi River is Victoria Falls, named in honor of Queen Victoria of Great Britain. The waterfall is considered the largest in the world because of its combined width and height, though it is neither the single widest or tallest waterfall.

The waterfall is dramatic because of the vast plateau that extends for hundreds of miles in every direction. The falls rest on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, and serves as a symbol of how nature’s beauty cannot be contained to any one country.

Victoria Falls (Google Maps)
Victoria Falls

Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Grand Canyon in the southern United States is one of the largest, and most breathtaking, canyons in the world. It has been carved by the Colorado River over two billion years, and visitors are impressed that the small, muddy river has created something so vast and beautiful.

Visitors to the Grand Canyon National Park can hike into the valleys and walk along crests and ridges to take pictures of some of the most impressive views of nature’s slow and steady progress.

Grand Canyon (Google Maps)
Grand Canyon

Lake Como

Lake Como in Italy is famous for being a vacation spot for the rich and famous, but it’s no wonder people flock to its shores, because it is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places on Earth. The lake was formed by glacier activity, and the mountain lake retains some feel of ancient, more peaceful times.

Villas and small villages dot the lake’s perimeter, adding to the quaint, delicate feel of the region that immediately invites visitors to relax, settle in and become part of the surroundings.

View of Lake Como from Castello di Vezio (StreetView)
View of Lake Como from Castello di Vezio

Mount Everest

No list of Earth’s amazing locations would be complete without a mention of Mount Everest, the largest mountain in the world, nestled in the beautiful Himalayan mountain range. It peaks at nearly 9,000 feet, making it as remote as you can get on the surface of the Earth.

In the last century, climbing the mountain has become a goal of endurance climbers, celebrities, and people looking to break down barriers; but most of us just look at the icy wonder in amazement and appreciate the pristine beauty of the tallest peak in the world.

Mount Everest (Google Maps)
Mount Everest

These are just a few of the beautiful places on Earth that we can all enjoy from indoors, and soon we’ll be out and about enjoying the beautiful scenery closer to home.

This Month in History: January

It’s a new year, and a time to reflect on what you’ve done in the past, and how you want to steer your future. Looking back on historical events can help us maintain a good perspective as we work to create a positive, successful future.

So, as we welcome the new year, let’s look back on some past events.

January 1: Opening of Ellis Island

As immigrants flooded into the United States, especially from Europe, the federal government needed a facility to process all the people arriving by boat in New York City.

Ellis Island was turned into a massive station to screen and process immigrants. It opened on January 1, 1892, and served in various capacities until it was closed in 1954.

During that time, an estimated 12 million immigrants passed through the doors, and most were welcomed into the United States to work, live, become citizens and contribute to the melting pot culture of the country.

Ellis Island (Birds Eye)
Ellis Island

As immigrants arrived in New York Harbor, they could see the Statue of Liberty, representing the American culture of welcoming immigrants and visitors with welcome arms, giving them hope of a new life in America.

Statue Of Liberty (Birds Eye)
Statue Of Liberty

January 5: Khmer Rogue Takes Power in Cambodia

While the United States was fighting the North Vietnamese, the neighboring country of Cambodia broke out in a civil war. In 1975, the Communist Party of Kampuchea, or Khmer Rouge, won. On January 5, 1976, the Khmer Rogue, led by the infamous Pol Pot, announced a new government and constitution.

Over the next four years, a massive genocide took place, killing roughly 2 million people or 25 percent of the entire population. The autocratic regime was overthrown in 1979.

Much of the genocide took place in “killing fields” throughout the country, where more than one million people, men, women and children, were murdered and buried in mass graves.

The Killing Fields (Google Maps)
The Killing Fields

January 8: Elvis Presley is Born

On January 8, 1935, a king was born. Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi.

His first record was released in 1956, and over the next 20 years, he would be the greatest star in the rock and roll universe. Songs such as Hound Dog, All Shook Up, and Love Me Tender have made him the best selling solo artist of all time, a record which endures to this day.

Elvis Presley's Birthplace (Birds Eye)
Elvis Presley's Birthplace

Elvis passed away suddenly in his home Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee. Fans can visit the home, and it has become a major tourist attraction for the region.

Graceland (StreetView)

January 15: Coronation of Elizabeth I

Born in 1533 to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth was never expected to be queen, but the death of first her brother Edward VI, the overthrow of Lady Jane Grey, and then the death of her sister Mary, led to Elizabeth becoming queen in 1558. On January 15, 1559, Elizabeth was crowned Queen Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey in London.

Westminster Abbey (StreetView)
Westminster Abbey

She was welcomed to the throne by the mostly Protestant country, and they looked to her for peace and stability after decades of religious and political instability. She ruled as queen until she died in 1603, reigning for 44 mostly peaceful years.

January 21: Vladimir Lenin Dies

Vladimir Lenin was born in Russia in 1870, and became a revolutionary who advocated for Marxist communism, and became the leader of Russia in 1917, at the end of the Russian Revolution. In his short time in power, he led the country through wars, economic expansion and massive reshaping of the social structure. He rebranded the country as the Soviet Union.

He passed away on January 21, 1924, leaving power to Joseph Stalin, who quickly became a dictatorial leader of the Soviet Union. Long after his death, Lenin and his political movement continue to influence the world.

Lenin was buried in a massive mausoleum in Moscow, and more than 2.5 million people visit the tomb each year.

Mausoleum of Lenin (Google Maps)
Mausoleum of Lenin

January 22: Roe v. Wade Decided at the Supreme Court

On January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down one of the most controversial decisions in their history. Roe v. Wade was decided by a 7-2 margin, declaring that the Constitution allowed for a woman to have an abortion, with certain restrictions and guidance for the states enforcing the laws.

Since its decision, Roe has been a focal point for politicians and political debate in the United States, and the issue is far from settled.

US Supreme Court (StreetView)
US Supreme Court

January 27: Liberation of Auschwitz

Nazi Germany established several concentration camps where they housed first political prisoners and then other “undesirables” including Jews, homosexuals, and others. Over the course of the war, between 15 and 20 million people were forced into the camps.

Auschwitz, in Poland, was possibly the worst of these camps. The camp housed an estimated 1.3 million people, more than 1.1 million of whom died or were murdered at the site. On January 27, 1945, Russian soldiers liberated what was left of the mostly-abandoned camp, and the Nazis’ worst atrocities were revealed to the world.

The words “Arbeit Macht Frei” or “Work Will Set You Free” at the gates of the camp have become immortal, haunting, representations of the worst of what the Nazis did to their enemies.

Auschwitz II-Birkenau Concentration Camp (StreetView)
Auschwitz II-Birkenau Concentration Camp

These are just a few of the important historical events of Januarys past, and they certainly illustrate the importance of knowing our history to both celebrate the great moments and remember the bad events in order to ensure a better future.

This Month in History: November

Taking time to reflect on the past is important because it gives us an opportunity to review where we’ve been and how far we’ve come, to celebrate the amazing things that have been accomplished by ordinary people, and to remember the events that changed the course of history.

Let’s look back through history to review some of the important events that occurred in Novembers past.

November 1: Creation of the European Union

On November 1, 1993, the European Union (EU) came into effect, bringing together 12 countries in an economic and political union, lowering barriers and eliminating borders to promote unity among the countries.

Since then, the organization has grown to 28 member states functioning in an ever closer union.

Vrijthof (Maastricht) (Birds Eye)
Vrijthof (Maastricht)

November 3: Panamanian Independence

After breaking away from Spain along with the rest of South America in 1819, Panama was part of an ambitious attempt to govern most of the region as one country. Panama then “separated” from Colombia in 1903.

Panama’s independence allowed the country to take full control of the future Panama Canal, a waterway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, reducing travel time for people and goods, and effectively making the world smaller and more accessible.

Panama Canal (Google Maps)
Panama Canal

November 4: Discovery of King Tut’s Tomb

King Tutankhamun, or King Tut, was an ancient Egyptian king who ruled in his youth for about ten years. His tomb was discovered by Howard Carter as part of a massive unearthing of ancient royal burial sites in the Valley of the Kings, on November 4, 1915.

The contents were breathtaking, including a stunning blue and gold mask that has become famous the world over.

King Tut & the Valley of the Kings (Google Maps)
King Tut & the Valley of the Kings

November 9: Fall of the Berlin Wall

After World War II, the victors, including the US and the Soviet Union, divided supervision of Germany, and divided the capital city of Berlin as well. To prevent defectors, the Soviet Union built a wall between the eastern and western portions of the city.

It stood until November 9, 1989, when revolution led to the political and physical barrier between the two cities coming down.

The citizens of East and West Berlin physically tore down portions of the wall, and these images of citizens rising up against an oppressive regime became the symbol of the end of the Cold War.

Berlin Wall (StreetView)
Berlin Wall

November 11: Veteran’s Day

After more than four years of brutal fighting on a global scale, the great powers of the world declared a ceasefire, ending World War I. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, in 1918, fighting was officially halted. Since that day, grateful citizens have commemorated the date, remembering the war and the soldiers who fought it in and every other war. In Europe it is known as Armistice Day and in the United States it is called Veterans Day.

Flanders, a region in Belgium, experienced particularly intense fighting and casualties, and has been memorialized in poem. An American cemetery was built for the many soldiers who died fighting in World War I.

Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial (Google Maps)
Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial

November 17: Suez Canal

The Suez Canal, a waterway connection between the Mediterranean and Red Sea, was officially opened November 17, 1869. The Egyptian canal created a new trade route between Europe and Asia, cutting off thousands of miles of dangerous sea travel around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern end of Africa.

The canal is still in constant use today, making global travel and trade faster and more convenient.

Suez Canal (Google Maps)
Suez Canal

November 19

Four months after the Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln traveled to the site to dedicate a soldiers’ cemetery.  President Lincoln’s short speech followed a two-hour keynote address, and while well-received, was not lauded right away. However, with the perspective of history, his speech is recognized as one of the most important speeches in America. It canonized the American ideal of “government by the people, of the people, and for the people”.

Gettysburg (Google Maps)

November 22

One of the most infamous events in American history is the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963. The President and his wife traveled to Texas on a political trip. The presidential motorcade traveled downtown to greet well-wishers. President Kennedy was shot in the neck and head by Lee Harvey Oswald. He died a few hours later.

The X marks the spot where President Kennedy was shot (StreetView)
The X marks the spot where President Kennedy was shot

His wife Jacqueline planned a memorable state funeral, and he was laid to rest in Arlington Cemetery, with an “eternal flame” memorial.

John F. Kennedy burial site (Google Maps)
John F. Kennedy burial site

November 26

On the evening of November 26, 2008, a coordinated terror attack in Mumbai, India, began. Terrorists attacked 12 separate sites throughout the city, and the attacks lasted four days. More than 174 people died, including 31 individuals at the five-star Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which was also the final place to be secured by government forces on Sunday, November 29. The hotel became a symbol of the attacks and the impact they had on the psyche and economy of Mumbai and India.

Taj Mahal Palace & Tower (Google Maps)
Taj Mahal Palace & Tower

Every day, history is being made. Not everyone will discover an ancient tomb or give a memorable speech, but everyone has the potential to change the world around them. So, be bold and make your own history.

Celebrity Honeymoon Destinations

Celebrities are known for their elaborate lifestyles, and that extravagance often extends to weddings and honeymoons. These celebrity honeymoon destinations show us that if you can, you should certainly do what these newlyweds did—dream big and enjoy every minute of the vacation!

Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux—Bora Bora

Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux were engaged for years before secretly tying the knot at their Bel Air mansion in front of a surprised but celebratory audience who arrived at their house expecting to attend a surprise birthday party put on by the happy couple.

Jennifer Aniston's house (Google Maps)
Jennifer Aniston's house

After their backyard wedding, Aniston and Theroux were off to Bora Bora, with several of their closest friends including Courtney Cox, Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher, Jimmy Kimmel and his wife, Chelsea Handler and Jason Bateman.

Once in Bora Bora, the entourage stayed at the five-star Four Seasons Bora Bora, which has individual bungalows for residents, catamaran tours, water activities, SCUBA diving and more. The island paradise was the perfect getaway for the happy couple and their friends to really celebrate their love and marriage.

Photo Credit: Four Seasons Bora Bora
Photo Credit: Four Seasons Bora Bora
Four Seasons
Photo Credit: Four Seasons Bora Bora

George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin Clooney—North Island Seychelles

George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin Clooney are the epitome of class, style and luxury. When you have a four day wedding celebration in Venice, Italy with all the A-list celebrities from around the world, you have to do something spectacular for your honeymoon.

That mission was accomplished when they headed over to the Seychelles, a group of islands made famous in the United States when Prince William and Kate Middleton honeymooned there after their 2011 wedding.

George Clooney's House (Google Maps)
George Clooney's House
George Clooney's house (StreetView)
George Clooney's house
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's House (Google Maps)
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's House

Their Seychelles destination was the exclusive and secluded North Island resort that advertises a unique, private and extraordinary vacation. Guests arrive at the North Island via helicopter, which provides a grand entrance worthy of such a remote, breathtaking and all-encompassing experience sure to be enjoyed at the resort.

Photo Credit: Martin Harvey

Once on the resort, guests have every need and want catered to by a well-trained and extremely professional staff. Hotel suites are designed for privacy, integrating their design into the tropical environment of the island.

Villa North Island
Photo Credit: North Island Seychelles

Guests have their choice of many activities, from relaxing massages and spa treatments to catered beach activities, jungle excursions and water activities. The area boasts incredible warm water SCUBA diving, shark tours, snorkeling and other water activities.

North Island Scuba
Photo Credit: North Island Seychelles

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West—Ballyfin Demesne, Ireland

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West do everything big. Even Kanye’s wedding proposal was big! He rented out AT&T Field in San Francisco, hired a 50 piece orchestra and had a fireworks show just to propose to her in October 2013.

Kim Kardashian & Kanye West's House (Google Maps)
Kim Kardashian & Kanye West's House

So when after their wedding they took off for their destination in Ireland, some were quite surprised. Ireland doesn’t seem like the first choice for the scene-seeking Kardashian and West. However, their honeymoon was remarkable nonetheless.

Ballyfin Ireland
Photo Credit: Courtesy Ballyfin Demesne

Their Irish destination was the historic Ballyfin Demesne, an 18th century hotel near the mountains, declared the best hotel in the world by Conde Nast travel magazine. The five-star hotel has only 20 rooms, with an incredible staff that caters to every need of their guests, ensuring they have an experience worthy of the reputation.

Ballyfin Ireland 2
Photo Credit: Ballyfin Demesne

The hotel was opened in 2011, after being painstakingly decorated in the romantic style, with imported 19th century Italian mosaic tile, a medieval inspired castle tower, small lakes and 614 acres of gardens perfect for guests to explore and enjoy.

Ballyfin Ireland 3
Photo Credit: Ballyfin Demesne

The hotel is located near many fun outdoor activities, including rowing on serene lakes, meandering through landscaped and wild gardens, golfing, mountain biking and socializing with locals at pubs.

Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth—Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Reese Witherspoon has a reputation as an all-American girl, but after she and agent Jim Toth married at their California ranch, the two flew to the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

Reese Witherspoon's House (former) (Birds Eye)
Reese Witherspoon's House (former)

Positano is a small village on the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy, built on the steep mountainside rising up from the Mediterranean Ocean. The couple stayed at the award winning hotel Sirenuse, in the high cliffs of Positano. American writer John Steinbeck stayed there in his Italian travels in the 1950s. His article for Harper’s Bazaar turned Positano from a poor fishing village to a tourist hot spot for visitors from around the world.

Photo Credit: Sirenuse Hotel

Steinbeck wrote that the hotel, creating an international reputation for history, magnificence and romantic memories that has only grown since his writing. “We went to the Sirenuse, an old family house converted into a first class hotel, spotless and cool, with grape arbors over its outside dining rooms. Every room has its little balcony and looks out over the blue sea to the islands of the sirens from which those ladies sang so sweetly”.

Sirenuse 2
Photo Credit: Sirenuse Hotel

In recent years, the hotel has developed a more high-end reputation, including adding an oyster and champagne bar, five-star spa and ensuring the hotel rooms and customer service are worthy of the hotel’s international acclaim.

Sirenuse 3
Photo Credit: Sirenuse Hotel

A beach vacation with friends, an exclusive island, a castle in the European countryside and a romantic hotel on the cliffs of Italy, it’s clear these celebrities know how to live! Here’s to hoping they keep the romance of these destinations alive and remain as happy as the day they said “I do”!

What’s North Korea Really Like?

North Korea is always in the news these days, but for as much as we hear about the country, most people know very little about the so-called “Hermit Kingdom”.

It’s difficult to get permission to enter the country, and tourists are required to have North Korean escorts whenever they leave special tourist zones. Pictures are often staged or prohibited outright, so even those who see the country often cannot show what it is really like.

For those not lucky or daring enough to visit the country in person, we’ve got a virtual tour right here!


Pyongyang is the capital and largest city, with over three million people. It was bombed heavily during the Korean War, and rebuilt with a Soviet communist influence. Huge grey buildings dominate the landscape in much of the city.

Pyongyang skyline (StreetView)
Pyongyang skyline


Tower of Juche Ideal

The 560 foot monument commemorates the 70th birthday of regime founder Kim Il Sung and the principles that he used to create his own brand of nationalist communism. He preached a unique blend of self-reliance, independence, and communism, which North Koreans call “Juche” that has molded the country’s outlook.

The Tower of Juche Ideal reminds viewers of their strong values and encourages unity against all outside forces.

Tower of the Juche Ideal (Juche Sasang Tap) (Google Maps)
Tower of the Juche Ideal (Juche Sasang Tap)

Tourists can visit the top of the tower, which is the second tallest tower in the world.

Juche Tower & Worker's Party of Korea statue (StreetView)
Juche Tower & Worker's Party of Korea statue

Ryugyong Hotel

This hotel, nicknamed the “Hotel of Doom” is the largest structure in North Korea, but it is still uncompleted. It was supposed to be completed in 1989, but it was beset by a multitude of delays and problems.

Construction briefly resumed in 2008 but again stopped in 2013, and has not progressed since then.

Nonetheless, it is the tallest building in North Korea and the uniquely design pyramid structure dominates the Pyongyang skyline.

Ryugyong Hotel (tallest building in North Korea) (Google Maps)
Ryugyong Hotel (tallest building in North Korea)

Kaeson Amusement Park

Not everything in North Korea is about working for the good of the state. The Kaeson Amusement Park in Pyongyang is a small fun park with at least ten rides, including a roller coaster imported from Italy.

Happiest Place in North Korea (Google Maps)
Happiest Place in North Korea

USS Pueblo

In 1968, the American spy ship the USS Pueblo was captured by a North Korean submarine in a highly disputed international event which has never been resolved. American soldiers were held in prisoner of war camps for nearly a year before being released, in terrible health conditions, over the Bridge of No Return.

The ship has been on display as part of a larger museum system since 2013.

USS Pueblo (Google Maps)
USS Pueblo

Demilitarized Zone

The two Koreas have had a tenuous peace since the cessation of hostilities in 1953, but the war between them is technically not over. A line was drawn between the two countries in 1953 as part of the ceasefire, which has been called the Military Demarcation Line.

Along either side of this line is the demilitarized zone, DMZ, which serves as a buffer between the two countries to reduce potential hostilities.

Small Military position next to DMZ, North Korea (Google Maps)
Small Military position next to DMZ, North Korea

However, many military bases, installations and temporary facilities have been established right along the Zone, and North Korea is constantly found to be in violation of the DMZ space. For example, they have attempted several times to tunnel under the Zone into South Korea.

3rd Infiltration Tunnel (Google Maps)
3rd Infiltration Tunnel

Bridge of No Return

Tourists and normal visitors cannot visit the DMZ, but soldiers are stationed all along the border of the DMZ, in a constant state of readiness.

The Bridge of No Return was constructed after the war to allow prisoners of war to cross back into their country of origin. It earned its nickname when prisoners held by South Korea were taken to the bridge and given the chance to remain in the democratic South Korea, or return to communist North Korea.

If they crossed the bridge, they could never return, which is how it earned its name.

Bridge of No Return (Google Maps)
Bridge of No Return


Nicknamed the “Truce Village”, Panmunjom is a former village where the armistice was signed in 1953.

Truce Village, The (Google Maps)
Truce Village, The

It has since become a site of high tensions, where propaganda is continually broadcast from North Korea in an attempt to intimidate South Korean soldiers and convince their North Korean counterparts that their government is superior.

It has been in the news recently as high-level talks between North and South Korea, and even a potential site for talks between North Korean and US officials in relation to the proposed meeting between President Donald Trump and Leader Kim Jung Un.

Kijong-dong (Google Maps)

Guard Post Ouellette

On the South Korean size is the Guard Post Ouellette, where presidents, prime ministers and other government officials go to see the DMZ firsthand. Tourists can get relatively close to the DMZ, but cannot visit Guard Posts or military camps, as they are always on high alert and not suitable for civilians.

Guard Post (OP) Ouellette (Google Maps)
Guard Post (OP) Ouellette

The country of North Korea is fascinating, and out of reach for most of us, except for a virtual guide. The country puts so much effort into projecting a strong and confident image, but even a virtual tour shows that the country lags behind most of the world in progress and independence.

If you ever make it to North Korea, be careful and let us know all about your trip when you return!