October 8 Bond. James Bond.

The latest installment of the James Bond series, No Time to Die, comes to US theaters on October 8 after three Covid-related delays, and it’s certain to be worth the wait. Daniel Craig leading up the cast for the fifth, and final, time. In honor of the film, let’s take a look at where some of the most exciting and memorable scenes have taken place.

MI6 Headquarters

MI6 is the nickname of the super spy agency, Secret Intelligence Service. Its headquarters in Vauxhall, in London, is a mainstay in the James Bond series plots. It is where Bond works with his supervisor, M, and the super cool research agent Q, who constantly creates amazing spy tools, fast cars, and other gadgets to help Bond always gain the upper hand.

MI6/SIS headquarters (StreetView)
MI6/SIS headquarters

Dr. No’s Lair, Crab Key, Jamaica, Featured in Dr. No

The first James Bond film, Dr. No, was filmed largely onsite in Jamaica. The evil villain Dr. No has a secret lair in Crab Key island, where he tries to use radiation and other tools to try to start a war between the Americans and Russians. Fortunately, Bond is able to overpower the evil scientist and avert a third world war. And at the end of the day, he has a new love interest, of course.

007 Dr. No's Crab Key Island (Google Maps)
007 Dr. No's Crab Key Island

Fort Knox, Kentucky, Featured in Goldfinger

In the third installment of the series, James Bond discovers an evil man running a global gold smuggling ring. Bond tracks Goldfinger, for whom  the film is named, to Fort Knox in Kentucky. Here, Bond fights the evil villain who is trying to rob the gold depository. Bond, along with the troops stationed at Fort Knox, were able to save the day. Later, Bond and Goldfinger fight on an airplane and Goldfinger is tragically sucked out the window to his death before Bond ends the film stranded in the water with the beautiful Pussy Galore.

Fort Knox, U.S. Bullion Depository (Birds Eye)
Fort Knox, U.S. Bullion Depository

Himeji Castle in Japan, Featured in You Only Live Twice

In the fifth Bond film, James Bond is investigating the mystery of a hijacked American spacecraft. Clues lead Bond to Japan, where he crosses the islands on the tail of another SPECTRE villain. On the way, Bond encounters ninjas training at Himeji Castle, which is the largest and most popular castle in the country. Eventually, Bond discovers a secret SPECTRE lair inside a volcano and prevents the US from launching nuclear weapons at the USSR.

Himeji Castle (StreetView)
Himeji Castle

Pyramids of Giza, Featured in The Spy Who Loved Me

In The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond is paired with a Russian spy to track down a missing submarine stolen by an evil businessman and scientist Karl Stromberg. The team travels across Egypt, including to the Pyramids of Giza, as they track down the scientist and search for answers about the submarine. Stromberg wants to start World War III and create an underwater world, but Bond and his Russian spy partner work together and are able to avert nuclear war and kill Stromberg.

Pyramids of Giza (Google Maps)
Pyramids of Giza

The Demilitarized Zone, Featured in Die Another Day

Die Another Day starts with Bond infiltrating a North Korean military base to uncover information about conflict diamonds. He is captured and held as a prisoner by the North Koreans until was to be traded in a prisoner exchange at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. Eventually, Bond tracks the evil villain back to the DMZ. There, it’s revealed the villain, Graves is secretly a North Korean Colonel who is planning to cut a path through the DMZ to allow North Korean troops to invade South Korea. After a high-stakes fight on an airplane, Bond kills the villain and once again saves the day and the world.

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

Lake Como, Italy, Featured in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig made his Bond debut in Casino Royale in 2006, and has been the lead in the series ever since. In Casino Royale, Bond travels across Europe playing high-stakes poker and other risky games to track down a man intent on using a planned terrorist attack to make a fortune. After averting disaster but losing his lover, Vesper Lynd, in the process, Bond tracks the evil villain Mr. White to a house in lovely Lake Como, Italy. There, he shoots the villain in the leg and introduces himself as “Bond. James Bond”.

James Bond's House (Casino Royale) (Bing Maps)
James Bond's House (Casino Royale)

Westminster Bridge, London, Featured in Spectre

In the 2015 Bond film Spectre, Bond goes rogue to avenge the death of M, and find a reason for all the suffering he has endured. From Mexico to Austria, to Morocco, Bond is on the trail of SPECTRE once again, only to end up back in London. There, it is revealed SPECTRE is attempting to infiltrate MI6 itself, and only Bond and his trusted team can stop it. After preventing a major catastrophe and murder of his newfound female companion, Bond must fight one more battle against Blofeld, the founder of SPECTRE. Bond bravely shoots down Blofeld’s helicopter, which crashes into London’s Westminster Bridge. Bond ensures Blofeld is arrested, and then leaves with the lovely Swann. He has saved the day once again.

Westminster Bridge (Birds Eye)
Westminster Bridge

Bond has traveled the world countless times as he’s saved the world from nuclear attack, avoided World War III, and prevented terrorists from seizing control of national intelligence, gold supplies, and more. It’s going to be a wild ride from the start in Bond’s newest film No Time to Die, premiering in the US on November 20, 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

The Unsolved Crimes of the Zodiac Killer

The fear a serial killer can strike within a community is profound and only truly ends when the serial killer is brought to justice. The Zodiac Killer terrorized the San Francisco, California region by attacking at least seven people, four men and three women, between December 1968 and October 1969.

During the ten months that the killer was active, he taunted the public by sending letters and puzzles to the media to promote his crimes. What made his reign of terror more frightening was that his victims were assaulted at various times and in various fashions, making it harder to track him. He claimed many more victims than are officially linked to him, and there are several unsolved crimes that could have been committed by him.

Lake Herman Road attack

The first two Zodiac victims were teenagers David Arthur Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen, murdered on December 20, 1968. The two were on a date, and had parked at a “lovers’ lane” on Lake Herman Road in Benicia. According to the investigation, the killer pulled aside their vehicle, exited his car, ordered the two out of their vehicle and shot them one at a time.

Zodiac Killer - Lake Herman Road attack (Google Maps)
Zodiac Killer - Lake Herman Road attack

Blue Rock Springs attack

The next known victims were killed on July 4, 1969. Michael Mageau and Darlene Ferrin were together in a parked car when another car came along side them, shooting into the car from the passenger side. Ferrin died at the scene but Mageau survived. Later that night, a man called the police station taking credit for the Blue Rock Springs attack as well as the one on Lake Herman Road the previous year.

Zodiac Killer - Blue Rock Springs attack (Google Maps)
Zodiac Killer - Blue Rock Springs attack

The next month, the killer began sending letters and cryptograms to the local newspapers, often demanding the letters be published to avoid a killing spree, threats he never followed through to completion. It was in one of these letters that he gave himself the nickname “Zodiac”. The cryptogram was alleged to include his identity, but when cracked, it was nothing more than a typo-ridden explanation of his bizarre motives.

Lake Berryessa attack

On September 27, two college students, Bryan Hartnell and Cecilia Shepard, were on a picnic at Lake Berryessa when a man wearing a hood and sunglasses covering his face threatened them at gunpoint, making Shepard tie up Hartnell with rope, then tying her up. He then stabbed each of them multiple times.

Later in the evening, the police department received a call from the killer reporting his act. Shepard and Hartnell both initially survived the attack and were able to provide details about the crime and the attacker, but Shepard died two days later.

Zodiac Killer - Lake Berryessa attack (Google Maps)
Zodiac Killer - Lake Berryessa attack

Presidio Heights attack

On October 11, 1969, cab driver Paul Stein was attacked and murdered by an apparent passenger, who shot him in the head, took his keys and wallet, and a portion of Stein’s bloodstained shirt. He used pieces of Stein’s torn shirt to later taunt the police .

While the crime was witnessed by local teens, miscommunications in the report and description of the suspect led to the police likely encountering but not stopping the killer just minutes after the murder.

The Zodiac Killer later claimed to the media that he had spoken with police just three minutes after the murder, further taunting the police and terrifying the public. He thoroughly enjoyed communicating with the media, even getting a famous lawyer to appear on a talk show at his request.

Zodiac Killer - Presidio Heights attack (Google Maps)
Zodiac Killer - Presidio Heights attack

Modesto attack

Kathleen Johns was a young pregnant mother who was driving near Modesto when she was encouraged to pull over by another driver. The driver informed her that her tire was loose and offered to tighten it. Instead, he apparently loosened it so that when she attempted to drive, it fell off and she was forced to accept a ride from him to a service station.

Instead of helping her, he drove her and her child around for about 90 minutes before she was able to escape. Four months later, in a letter to a local paper, the Zodiac Killer took credit for Johns’ abduction.

Possible Santa Barbara attack

Several unsolved crimes are often linked to the Zodiac Killer, either because he took credit for them in media correspondence or the method of attack matches his known patterns.

On June 4, 1963, two high school seniors were murdered on a beach in Santa Barbara County. They were bound, unsuccessfully, and then shot multiple times each. If this were committed by the Zodiac Killer, it would have been one of his earliest known crimes.

Possible Zodiac Killer - Santa Barbara attack (Google Maps)
Possible Zodiac Killer - Santa Barbara attack

The Zodiac Killer continued to send messages to the media, with the last confirmed message sent in February 1974. Several unauthenticated letters were also received over the years, along with countless forgeries claiming to be from the killer.

While the case is cold, having been more than 45 years since the last known contact, local police forces are still investigating the crimes. In May 2018, stamps were sent to be analyzed for DNA evidence, but the results have not been released. Even after all this time, the Zodiac remains one of the most mysterious and famous serial killers of the 20th century.

The US Open Tennis Championship

The US Open Tennis Championship has been in full swing for nearly two weeks now, and it will wrap up later this week.

As these amazing athletes compete on the court for the last of the annual Grand Slams, let’s take a look at the venues, people, and history involved in one of tennis’s greatest, and most historical, events.

USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, NY

The fourth, and final, Grand Slam, is held annually at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York. There are a total of 22 courts among three stadiums, which are among the largest-capacity in the world. The Arthur Ashe Stadium is the largest tennis stadium in the world, and even features a retractable roof.

The tennis center is named after famed tennis champion and female tennis advocate Billie Jean King. She has long been considered one of the best female tennis athletes of all time.

USTA National Tennis Center (Google Maps)
USTA National Tennis Center

International Tennis Hall of Fame, RI

In 1881, the first national tennis competition in the United States was held at the Newport Casino in Rhode Island. Contrary to what the name implies, the facility was designed as an athletic center for well-to-do residents, rather than a gambling facility.

The nation-wide tennis event was held here until 1914, when the event moved elsewhere. In 1954, the building was turned into the Tennis Hall of Fame. The hall includes 252 inducted members, from 23 countries.

There is a museum dedicated to the game of tennis, retelling the history of tennis from its medieval, royal starts, to today, as well as memorabilia and other interesting exhibits. Fitting in with the modern age, these exhibits are accessible virtually, as well as in person.

International Tennis Hall of Fame (Google Maps)
International Tennis Hall of Fame

Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, AU

The professional tennis season has started with the Australian Open in January or February nearly every year since 1905. The event has been hosted in several Australian cities, and even in New Zealand, but since 1972, it’s been hosted in Melbourne.

It boasts the highest attendance of the four grand slams, with more than 800,000 attending in 2020, and has been held at the Melbourne Park since 1988. The Rod Laver Arena is the largest of the courts, named after a three-time Australian Open winner and world-renowned player. The stadium was the first tennis stadium to have a retractable roof, for indoor play in hot or wet conditions.

Rod Laver Arena (Birds Eye)
Rod Laver Arena

Roland Garros, Paris, FR

The French Open, officially called “Roland-Garros” after famed French aviator Roland Garros, is held in May each year. Roland-Garros is played at the eponymous stadium Rolland-Garros in Paris. The tournament is known as the most difficult of the Grand Slams because it is played on clay, which makes the game more challenging, and because it requires more rounds to the championship, and other reasons.

The now-unique clay court was once a common feature of tennis courts. The courts at Roland-Garros are actually limestone covered with a thin, hard-packed layer of crushed brick, which mimics the natural clay court well without the drawbacks of the old style. The red courts are a hallmark of the tournament, and are important to the identity of the meet.

Roland Garros (Google Maps)
Roland Garros

Wimbedon, London, GB

On the heels of the French Open comes Wimbeldon, the oldest and most prestigious tennis championship. Officially called the “Championships, Wimbledon”, the event is unique because it is the only one of the Grand Slams still played on grass.

The event takes place in late June and early July, and is held at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, in Wimbledon, an area of London. Players must follow a strict all-white dress code, and spectators often dress up. The event has the added prestige of royal attendants, as many members of the British royal family enjoy watching the sport. Prince William and his wife Kate love to attend the event.

The stadium installed retractable roofs in 2009, to allow athletes to compete in inclimate weather, which is a great feature considering the summer weather in England can be rainy.

All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (Google Maps)
All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club

Tennis has a long, and formal history. Knowing a little more about where it came from, and where the athletes compete these days, makes the fast-paced, aggressive sport even more exciting and engaging. Game, Set, Match!

Hawaii: Paradise on Earth

Hawaii, the chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean, has been America’s paradise and dream vacation since it joined the United States on August 21, 1959.

The 50th state is everything people imagine and more. It has big city life in Honolulu, sandy beaches of all shapes and colors, high mountains and volcanoes, rain forests, snorkeling and diving, and an amazing diversity of cultures, traditions and foods.

Let’s take a look at some amazing places on the islands of Hawaii, Maui, Oahu and Kauai.

The biggest island in the archipelago is Hawaii, also known as the Big Island. The island is constantly growing, since there are two active volcanoes on the island.

Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park, Hawaii

Established in 1978, the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park was created to protect both the beautiful but fragile ecosystems of the Hawaiian sea, beach and mountain areas, as well as preserve and document the native Hawaiian culture. Visitors can SCUBA, snorkel, and do other water activities, as well as hike throughout the many trails.

Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park (StreetView)
Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park

Mauna Loa, Hawaii

Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on earth, and is constantly (in geological time), but slowly, erupting. Although it hasn’t had an eruption in more than 30 years, scientists are always observing it for potential eruptions, as there is significant volcanic activity inside the mountain. Tourists can hike or even take helicopter rides to view the volcano up close!

Mauna Loa volcano lava flow (Google Maps)
Mauna Loa volcano lava flow

Waikiki Beach, Oahu

Oahu is the third largest island, but is home to the most Hawaiians and the state’s capital, Honolulu. The big city is built right on the ocean, providing an amazing blend of relaxing beach life and fun nightlife.

Waikiki Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world, known for beautiful vistas as well as elite surfing, and it is actually part of the city Honolulu. World surfing competitions are regularly held on the beach, which is suffering from massive and rapid erosion.

Waikiki Beach (Google Maps)
Waikiki Beach

Matsumoto Shave Ice, Oahu

Anyone who has been to Hawaii has had shave ice, and everyone knows that Matsumoto’s ice is possibly the best. Located on the North Shore of Oahu, it has grown from a tiny store to a major tourist destination. The ice is great, and worth the inevitable wait that comes with becoming an international sensation.

Matsumoto Shave Ice (StreetView)
Matsumoto Shave Ice

Diamond Head, Oahu

Volcanoes are an everyday sight in Hawaii, and Diamond Head in the suburbs of Honolulu is a really cool place to visit. It is a beach, a volcano, a tourist destination and a state monument.

Diamond Head State Monument (Google Maps)
Diamond Head State Monument

Diamond Head Lighthouse, Oahu

Diamond Head beach juts out at the bottom of the South Shore of the island, and a lighthouse on the beach helps direct ocean traffic and serves as a Coast Guard site, as well as serves as a cool sight to see for tourists.

Diamond Head Lighthouse (Birds Eye)
Diamond Head Lighthouse

Pearl Harbor, Oahu

Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu is a military base that was attacked on December 7, 1941, bringing the United States into World War II. The site of the attack has been turned into a memorial for those killed or wounded on that day. Visitors to Oahu should make a day trip to see the memorials and learn more about the attack and the aftermath.

Pearl Harbor (Google Maps)
Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona, Oahu

The USS Arizona was a battleship that sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor, and is one of the ships turned into a living memorial of the tragic day.

USS Arizona (BB-39) Memorial (Birds Eye)
USS Arizona (BB-39) Memorial
 

Haleakala Crater, Maui

The Halekala volcano makes up a large majority of the island Maui. The volcano is also a national park, and provides visitors with a desert environment completely different than the tropical beaches and rain forests many dream of when planning vacations to the archipelago. Nonetheless, visitors love to hike the caldera to view the magnificent sunrise. Scientists are drawn to the area because its unique location and climate provides superior clarity for telescopes peering into the universe.

Haleakala Crater - Maui (Google Maps)
Haleakala Crater - Maui

Waimea Canyon National Park, Kauai

Kauai is nicknamed the “Garden Island” and it is breathtaking. Mountains jut out of the ocean, and tropical vegetation thrives. Some areas of the island get more than 450 inches of rainfall a year, more than anywhere else! The rainfall contributes to the unique landscape, which includes Waimea Canyon, which is more than 3,000 feet deep, and visitors love to hike through the park’s trails and enjoy the matchless beauties of the island.

Visitors to Hawaii should be prepared to be blown away over and over, as they view sites unlike anything else in the other 49 states. Volcanoes, beaches, sunrises and sunsets, tropical forests, mountains, valleys and more make this last state perhaps the best.

Waimea Canyon State Park (StreetView)
Waimea Canyon State Park

American Castles

From Hawaii to New York, there are stunning castles throughout the United States, so if you can’t afford a castle of your own or a trip to Europe, check out this list and see what might be close to you!

Iolani Palace

One castle that truly does have royal heritage is the Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Hawaii. The kingdom of Hawaii was ruled for nearly one hundred years, from 1795 to 1893, before eventually becoming a US territory and then state.

The area that became the palace grounds had long been a sacred burial site for the local nobility, and a large house was constructed in the early 1830s. King Kamehameha III turned the mansion into his royal court, but only years later did it become the palace we can visit today.

Iolani Palace (Birds Eye)
Iolani Palace

The interior decor rivals that of any royal palace, with a throne room, grand hall and many lavish rooms for meeting and entertaining. The red throne room commands respect for the royalty visitors were permitted to see, and the formality of the state dining room was on par with any other monarch of the time. The building was so modern, it had electricity and phone lines before the White House.

Iolani Palace Throne Room
Photo Credit: Iolani Palace

Visitors can tour the palace and grounds year round, and the site would be an amazing addition to any visit to Hawaii!

ʻIolani Palace (StreetView)
ʻIolani Palace

Biltmore Estates

Renowned as “America’s largest home”, this residence was built for the Vanderbilt family, the wealthy railroad and shipping family of the Gilded Age. Started in 1889 as a summer residence, the estate initially comprised nearly 95,000 acres of land, but was reduced to about 8,000 acres in 1914.

Biltmore Estate (StreetView)
Biltmore Estate

The mansion was filled with authentic European furniture,  tapestries, linens, and works of art as much as 300 years old. Famous guests included writers Edith Wharton and Henry James, Presidents James McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

Much of the original land was sold and became part of a national park in 1914. During Wold War II, many famous and important paintings from Washington D.C.’s National Gallery of Art were stored here to keep them safe in the event of an attack on the nation’s capital. The estate was turned into a museum in the 1960s, and currently has over one million visitors annually.

Biltmore House (Birds Eye)
Biltmore House

Hearst Castle

Newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst, commissioned one of America’s grandest residences near San Luis Obispo, California. Nicknamed The Enchanted Hill or The Ranch, the mansion was originally intended to be a simple bungalow, but those plans were quickly put aside in favor of a much grander design.

Hearst Castle (Google Maps)
Hearst Castle

The main building has a distinctly Spanish cathedral feel. The estate boasts nearly 60 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, indoor and outdoor pools, a specially designed movie theater, and even a small zoo complete with zebras. The famous Neptune Pool includes an ancient Roman temple front that was imported from Italy.

During its heyday, the Hearst Castle hosted many famous and important figures including Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Greta Garbo, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

The estate is both grandiose and breathtaking and has been a tourist attraction for over 60 years. Visitors can see the site year round, as it is a California State Park.

Hearst Castle Library
Photo Credit: The Hearst Castle

Boldt Castle

George Boldt rose from humble beginnings in Germany to become a successful entrepreneur and hotelier in the late 1800s and the turn of the century. He is credited for the popularity of Thousand Island dressing, which was a specialty at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, which he managed.

Boldt Castle (Birds Eye)
Boldt Castle

As a gift to his wife, Boldt started construction in 1900 on a large mansion estate on Heart Island off the coast of New York City. Sadly, Boldt’s wife died suddenly in 1904 and Boldt stopped work on the mansion and never returned to the island.

After decades of disrepair, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority purchased the island with the intent to restore the site and open it to the public. The site is now restored to its former grandeur and is continually being enhanced to fulfill the original vision of Brandt and his wife.

Boldt Island
Photo Credit: The Boldt Castle

The construction included a castle-like residence, an entertainment venue designed in the fashion of a medieval defensive tower, a grand entry arch for guest arriving by boat, landscaped grounds and gardens, and other out buildings.

The Castle is the largest building on the island, including a ground level pool, ballroom, grand library and tower room six stories above ground.

Guests can get to the island through one of many tourist boats or take their own boat if they want. Many couples have their weddings and receptions, as well as other special events on the grounds.

Boldt Castle Powerhouse (Birds Eye)
Boldt Castle Powerhouse

This is just a short list of the many mansions and castles across the United States. While they may not be as old or historic as European castles, they are all residences grand enough to rival anything Europe has to offer!

Hottest Places on Earth

This has been an insane, record-breaking summer. We’ve seen multiple heat waves across the US, Canada, and Scandinavia. It’s August, summer is winding down, but it’s not over yet.

As we count down the days to cooler weather, let’s look at some of the hottest places on earth, and remember: We’re grateful for air conditioning.

Death Valley, California, USA

Holding the world record for hottest temperature of ambient air, Death Valley in California has a well-earned reputation as the hottest place on earth. A now-disputed record was set in 1913. But just last month, a more accurate record was likely set, at 130°F. Either way, Death Valley sees some of the hottest temperatures each year.

Furnace Creek (Google Maps)
Furnace Creek

Death Valley, in spite of its name, is a popular tourist destination. People can hike, camp, and even star gaze, in the park. It is designated as a “dark sky” site, meaning that night light pollution is intentionally restricted to promote the study of astronomy.

Dante's View (StreetView)
Dante's View

Kebili, Tunisia

Kebili, one of the oldest towns in Tunisia, was settled because it is an oasis in the Sahara Desert. Signs of human habitation there date back around 200,000 years. It claims a recorded temperature of 131°F, but the record is disputed. Nonetheless, it does have a reputation for being an insanely hot place.

The city is within the Sahara Desert, which has a global reputation as being a hot, dry, unforgiving place. The area around Kebili is particularly hot and dry due to a weather phenomenon where wind coming off the leeward side of a mountain is particularly dry and hot. This, combined with the geographic features of sand and rock, makes Kebili so toasty.

Kebili Oasis (Google Maps)
Kebili Oasis

Turbat, Pakistan

Located in southwest Pakistan, the city of Turbat is considered one of the hottest cities in Asia, and holds a record of the fourth hottest recorded temperature ever.

The record was set on May 27, 2017, when the temperature reached 128.7°F. What’s even crazier is that the record was during a heat wave, where the city’s temperatures reached 122°F for four days in a row!

Turbat International Airport (TUK) (Google Maps)
Turbat International Airport (TUK)

Dallol, Ethiopia

Dallol, Ethiopia has earned the award for hottest inhabited place on earth. The average high is between 86°F and 101.7°F, which seems just brutal! In spite of the intense heat, the area has been inhabited by pastoral tribes for millennia. A small community was established in the 20th century as part of international efforts to mine salt from the area, but as the market has changed, most people have left the area.

Dallol is an otherworldly place, close to the Red Sea but more than 400 feet below sea level. It is also one of the world’s most volcanic regions. The desirable salts are pushed up from the soil by the volcanic activity. It makes the landscape fascinating, beautiful, peculiar, and dangerous to people unaccustomed to navigating the area.

Very remote Ethiopian ghost town - hottest place on earth (Google Maps)
Very remote Ethiopian ghost town - hottest place on earth

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok has a reputation as a sweltering, crowded, busy city, and it it well-deserved in all regards. Because of its location on the Gulf of Thailand, its proximity to the equator, and other factors, Thailand is hot year-round, and there is never any relief from the weather.

Lumphini Park (Google Maps)
Lumphini Park

The average temperature is 90° F, and combined with the high humidity, the city feels like it never cools off. And that’s before the rains of the summer monsoons! Bangkok has turned the heat to its advantage, with a reputation as a dynamic, vibrant, hot, and unique mega-metropolis.

Fortunately, the city has built water parks and other outdoor amenities to help ward off, or embrace, the constant heat that one must learn to love in Thailand.

Siam Park (Google Maps)
Siam Park

Timbuktu, Mali

Sitting on the edge of the Sahara, Timbuktu is a famous, but dwindling, city. Once one of the most important cities in Africa, Timbuktu is now suffering from the effects of desertification, where sands blown in from the Sahara and cover more and more of the arable and usable land in the region.

Timbuktu is dry, getting less than ten inches of rain per year. It’s also hot; even in the cooler months, the daily high is still above 80°F. During the hotter months, average daily highs are between 95-105°F!

Sankore Mosque (Google Maps)
Sankore Mosque

These are just a few of the crazy hot places around the world. As we endure the last, hottest days of summer, let’s hope that the closest we get to setting any heat records is reading this article today. Stay cool!

 

American Airports

Travel these days is so common that we hardly think about where we are when we’re in the middle of our trip, but airports are fascinating ecosystems, with restaurants, retail shops, entertainment and even hotels within or attached to the buildings.

Here are some of the biggest and most important airports in the United States.

Hartsfied-Jackson International Airport

The world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is located in Atlanta, GA. It handles nearly a million flights a year, with 100 million passengers. However, because the airport is well-designed and constantly updated to handle the growth in travel, passengers passing through don’t often realize just how big and busy the airport is.

The airport caters to its guests by providing streamlined transportation including “plane trains” to help travelers get from one flight to the next quickly, a variety of fast food and sit-down restaurants, including a very-popular Chick-fil-A, a hometown Atlanta fast food favorite and treat for visitors.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) (Google Maps)
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL)

Los Angeles International Airport

The Los Angeles International Airport, or LAX, is the second largest airport in the United States, and one of the busiest in the world. It is also one of the most famous, due to its proximity to Los Angeles and all of the Hollywood celebrities that travel around the world from LAX.

Even if you’re not a celebrity, LAX is a cool airport. There are many upscale restaurants in every terminal, as well as high end shopping and entertainment. There are also several full-service spas and lounges for those who really want to relax between flights. And of course, because you’re in LA, if your layover is long enough, you can hit the beach!

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) (Birds Eye)
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Ronald Reagan National Airport

While not the largest airport, Ronald Reagan National Airport, located just outside Washington, D.C., is one of the most important airports because it shuttles lawmakers, government officials and international leaders to and from Washington, D.C.

Because of its proximity to D.C., the airport has significant regulations relating to the size and type of aircraft that can service the airport, as well as restrictions on noise and times planes and land at the airport. Visitors with a few hours between flights can hop on the Metro and start touring Washington, D.C. within just a few minutes!

Reagan National Airport (DCA) (Google Maps)
Reagan National Airport (DCA)

John F. Kennedy International Airport

While not the busiest airport overall, John F. Kennedy, or JFK, is the busiest international airport in the United States. From JFK, you can travel to anywhere in the inhabited world.

Like LAX on the west coast, JFK is a hotbed of celebrity travel, but even more, musicians have recently performed at a series of concerts hosted by JetBlue. The Tom Hanks movie Terminal was filmed at JFK in 2002.

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) (Google Maps)
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

O’Hare International Airport

Often competing with Atlanta for title of world’s busiest airport, O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, is currently the second busiest airport in the world. While many people love O’Hare because of the amenities and options available at the airport, it is constantly ranked among the worst in the United States for delays and cancellations. This is partly because of its location in Illinois, where it is subjected to harsh weather conditions both in summer, with wind, rain and lightning storms, as well as in winter, with potential for intense snowstorms that can delay even the most prepared airports like O’Hare.

If you get stuck at O’Hare, don’t worry; there are many amenities and restaurants to keep you entertained and fed until your flight is ready, and with an announced $8 billion renovation, things will only get better for travelers.

O'Hare International Airport (ORD) (Google Maps)
O'Hare International Airport (ORD)

The next time you’re flying, take a minute to check out the airport. Whether it’s one of these, or one of the hundreds of airports across the county, you will be surprised at just how much the airport has to offer you on your short stay.

 

Perfect Places for a Destination Wedding

June is wedding month, and nothing says love like a destination wedding.

Let’s take a look at some of the most gorgeous, romantic, and awesome places you can tie the knot!

Four Seasons Bora Bora

If you’re going for a high-end, picture-perfect beach wedding that no one will ever forget, you can’t go wrong with the Four Seasons Bora Bora! Considered one of the most beautiful places on earth, the Pacific island is perfect for an intimate wedding and honeymoon, or a grand celebration of love with your friends and family.

The Four Seasons was completed in 2009, and has established a wonderful reputation as a five-star resort where all your needs are catered to and every experience is perfect. But, it does come with a hefty price tag, since even the simplest bungalow at the resort will set you back a few thousand dollars a night. But it’s worth it to get married in paradise, right?

Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora (Google Maps)
Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora

Tunnel of Love, Las Vegas, NV

If Bora Bora’s perfection doesn’t appeal, or isn’t in your budget, you can always head to Las Vegas. With plenty of Elvis impersonators ready to marry you, or just serenade the happy couple, it’s a memorable place to say “I do”.

The Little White Chapel has been marrying people for at least seventy years, and has married the likes of Britney Spears, Frank Sinatra,Judy Garland, Michael Jordan, and about 800,000 other happy couples.

They have even tapped the market of express weddings. If your wedding is just a stop on the way to the destination, you can get hitched at the Tunnel of Love.

Tunnel of Love: Drive-thru Wedding Chapel (Birds Eye)
Tunnel of Love: Drive-thru Wedding Chapel

Hotel Ritz, Paris, France

Paris is known as the world’s most romantic city, so a destination wedding to the City of Lights is perfect. The Hotel Ritz in downtown Paris is known as one of the world’s most luxurious hotels, and has been since it was created in 1898. It was one of the first hotels in Europe to have electricity, indoor, in-suite bathrooms, and in-room telephones.

With marble, gold, and crystal finishings, this hotel is pure elegance. If your heart is set on an unforgettable, chic, and elegant wedding and reception, and you can afford the best Paris has to offer, you should book the Ritz for your destination wedding.

Hôtel Ritz Paris (Google Maps)
Hôtel Ritz Paris

Kinnity Castle, Ireland

Ireland has a long reputation of being a romantic, idyllic country that evokes feelings of love, happiness, and peace. Kinnity Castle in central Ireland was originally built nearly a thousand years ago. It has been destroyed and rebuilt and added onto over the centuries, and is a romantic, magical place for a couple in love.

The four star hotel loves to host weddings and receptions, with a view that will take your breathe away. The wedding photos will be phenomenal with a gothic castle, green hills, and gorgeous blue sky to accent the happy couple. The evening ceremony and reception will be unforgettable with fine china, candles flickering, and gorgeous stone walls to emphasize the momentous day.

If you want to start your union with the luck of the Irish, Kinnity Castle should be your destination.

Kinnity Castle (Google Maps)
Kinnity Castle

Biltmore Estate, North Carolina

If you love the idea of a castle wedding, but want to get married in the United States, you should put the Biltmore Estate on your list. Constructed for American “royalty” George Vanderbilt, it remains the country’s largest private residence.

Couples are able to reserve space in one of the many ballrooms, reception rooms, or outside venues across the estate’s 8,000 acres. Some have an elegant and stated feel, while others highlight the mountain setting while still providing an elegant, full-service event fit for anyone wanting to live like royalty for a day.

Biltmore Estate (StreetView)
Biltmore Estate

Disney World, Florida

If you’re fun-loving, young at heart, and feel like your love story is a fairy tale, what better place to marry your own Prince Charming than at Disney World?

Disney has a reputation for catering to your every fantasy, and getting married at the Magic Kingdom is no exception! Whether it’s an intimate ceremony or a large celebration, Disney will not disappoint.

One of the highlights of  a Disney wedding is that you can be Cinderella in your own ornate carriage, with footmen to make sure you feel like the princess on your special day. Often, weddings are marked by a private fireworks display; how cool is that!

If you choose to host a destination wedding at Disney World, or any of their resorts, it will be a perfect way to start your “happily ever after”.

Disney World's Cinderella Castle (Birds Eye)
Disney World's Cinderella Castle

These are just a few places that are famous for making saying “I do” feel special, but anywhere there are two people who love each other and are willing to pledge their loves to one another is as magical as any castle, as special as any five star resort, and as memorable as any big reception. After all, love is all you need.

 

Let’s Kick Off Summer

It’s Memorial Day weekend in the United States. The holiday is set aside to remember fallen service members, and families across the country take time to visit grave sites and honor the deceased men and women of the US armed forces.

It’s also the kickoff to summer, and people begin months of family vacations across the US. As the world is beginning to open up after so many months of lockdown, let’s take a look at some cool places we could visit this summer, in person or online.

Santa Monica Pier, California

Nothing says summer quite like a boardwalk, and the Santa Monica pier is one of the best. With a boardwalk, amusement park, and places to fish and hang out, it has something for everyone.

The amusement park has a Ferris wheel that is actually solar powered! It also has a wooden roller coaster, a 100-year old carousel, and a fun house.

Santa Monica Pier (Birds Eye)
Santa Monica Pier

Nearby is Muscle Beach, a landmark beach where men and women worked out, and crowds gathered to watch. It fueled the craze of outdoor and beach workouts that are popular across southern California.

Muscle Beach (Birds Eye)
Muscle Beach

Venice Beach, California

Just down the road is Venice Beach, a 2.5 mile promenade that is known for its alternative culture. Body builders, street performers, vendors, and other dynamic individuals draw tourists and visitors to the fun stretch of beach.

Millions of people gather here each year to people watch, work out. and play sports such as handball and volleyball, and fish for fun. It’s a perfect place to spend a summer day, with clear skies and perfect temperatures all summer long!

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Atlantic City Boardwalk, New Jersey

Atlantic City’s boardwalk is nothing less than an American icon. It was the first oceanfront boardwalk in the US when it was built in 1870. The boardwalk in Atlantic City is full of casino hotels, entertainment like movie theaters and museums, and other fun attractions.

The boardwalk has been reinvented several times over the years, including after Hurricane Sandy hit the area in 2012. Part of the boardwalk was destroyed, but most of the commercial area was spared the worst of the damage.

Atlantic City Boardwalk (Google Maps)
Atlantic City Boardwalk

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio has a well-deserved reputation for being a fun place to take a summer vacation. The city has so many great places to visit!

The River Walk

The River Walk is a special pedestrian city park in the center of the city. It’s a great place to stroll, eat, and shop. Hotels, restaurants, and other downtown buildings have direct access to the River Walk, as well as many access points along the promenade itself.

Riverwalk-Main Plaza Pedestrian Bridge (StreetView)
Riverwalk-Main Plaza Pedestrian Bridge

The Alamo

Just down the street is the Alamo, the famous fort where the Battle of the Alamo took place. In 1836, Mexican General Santa Ana led a drawn out siege from February 23 to March 5. On March 6, the Mexican forces attacked the Alamo, killing nearly everyone inside.

The Alamo became famous as the survivors returned to their towns and villages, reporting the terrible events that occurred. The residents responded by coming together to defeat Mexico under the rallying cry of “Remember the Alamo!”

The fort is a great tourist destination, and one of the most popular places in all of Texas.

Alamo, The (Birds Eye)
Alamo, The

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park is a park that features great canyons, mesas, buttes, and breathtaking arches. The landforms are ancient, dating back about 150 million years. The  park has amazing hiking, where people can climb through slot canyons, onto great plateaus, and up mountains. Zion is a breathtaking, unique place that feels like it could be another planet.

The park is a great place to visit in the summer, but always be sure to bring a jacket because, even though the temperature during the day can reach 100 degrees, it often falls to the low 60s at night.

Zion National Park (Google Maps)
Zion National Park

These are just a few places that you can visit to kick off summer, celebrating warm water, vacations, and a chance to see fun places all across the United States. So, whether you’re traveling big, or checking things out online, best wishes for a fun-filled summer. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

 

 

Five Awesome Historical Sites in Virginia

Every state in the Union has something that makes it unique and attracts visitors; Virginia’s central role in American development make it a perfect place to visit for anyone who loves history, battles, politics and intrigue.

Check out five great places to visit next time you’re in the area.

Arlington National Cemetery

Just outside Washington, D.C. is some of the most hallowed ground in the United States. Arlington National Cemetery is currently the final resting place for nearly 400,000 veterans of American wars and their immediate children. Soldiers from the Civil War to current engagements are buried here, as are President John F. Kennedy and his wife, and Senator Ted Kennedy.

Arlington National Cemetery (Google Maps)
Arlington National Cemetery

One of the most important features of the cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where unidentified remains from several world conflicts are interred in honor of all those soldiers who served but never returned home to their families.

Tomb of the Unknowns (Google Maps)
Tomb of the Unknowns

Monticello

Thomas Jefferson was one of our Founding Fathers, who wrote the American Declaration of Independence, worked for independence from Great Britain, and was the third President of the United States. He was also an influential politician and civic leader in Virginia. His home and plantation, Monticello, is in southern Virginia, and is a wonderful place to learn about the man, and the times in which he lived.

Monticello (Birds Eye)
Monticello

Monticello has a large main house which he designed. Many of Jefferson’s personal possessions and inventions are still housed and on view to tours, including his extensive library collection, which at one point rivaled the collection of the Library of Congress.

Monticello (StreetView)
Monticello

Jefferson was buried on the site of Monticello, with an obelisk gravestone recognizing his achievements at the writer of the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, and the founder of the University of Virginia.

Monticello Cemetery, burial place of Thomas Jefferson (Birds Eye)
Monticello Cemetery, burial place of Thomas Jefferson
Gravesite of President Thomas Jefferson (StreetView)
Gravesite of President Thomas Jefferson

Colonial Williamsburg

Williamsburg was the colonial capitol of Virginia, and a portion of the city has since been preserved as a living museum of life during the early settlement and colonial eras of Virginia. Several city blocks are restored to historical periods, complete with government buildings, taverns, and homes set in the colonial era.

The Governor's Palace at Colonial Williamsburg (Birds Eye)
The Governor's Palace at Colonial Williamsburg

Staff in character dress and act as workers and townspeople, performing trades and reenacting historical events for visitors. The goal of the community is “That the future may learn from the past” and it is accomplished by providing an entertaining, accurate and interactive way to learn about American history and life in colonial times.

Staff or Docents in Historical, Period Costumes at Colonial Williamsburg (StreetView)
Staff or Docents in Historical, Period Costumes at Colonial Williamsburg

Appomattox Court House

Appomattox Court House is not a court house, but a small city and county seat in central Virginia. It was also the site of the last major battle of the Civil War, and the surrender of General Lee to General Grant, effectively ending the war.

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (Google Maps)
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

Grant and Lee met at the McLean House to complete the official terms of the surrender on April 9, 1865. Wilmer McLean had been a wealthy grocer on whose property the early Battle of Bull Run had been fought. After the battle, he moved away from the area in order to avoid further skirmishes. Ironically, in his efforts to avoid conflict, he ended up being a part of the start and end of the war.

McLean House - Civil War surrender site (StreetView)
McLean House - Civil War surrender site

Mt. Vernon

Mt. Vernon is George Washington’s plantation and house located just outside Washington, D.C. The land was owned by the Washington family for a few generations before George and Martha built the mansion currently on the property. The grounds include fruit and vegetable gardens from the period George Washington ran the plantation, as well as a distillery for whiskey authentic to the colonial time period.

George Washington's Mount Vernon Plantation (Birds Eye)
George Washington's Mount Vernon Plantation

These are just a few interesting and educational places to visit in Virginia, and Virginia is just one of 50 awesome states to visit, but if you’re considering a visit to the East Coast, these places should really be on your itinerary!