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http://www.flickr.com/photos/alachance/3231163757/in/set-72157612241800357/© 2008, Andy Lachance, all rights reserved

Infinite riches in a little room. Would you like to see more?

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BlueMosque

© Andy Lachance, all rights reserved

If you think this is good, you should really see it in four dimensions.

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“Imperium sine fine”, they termed their empire: “dominion without limit.” Well, the Goths, Huns, Vandals and Moors had something to say about that. But Philip Parker’s new book, The Empire Stops Here, has a most intriguing concept:

to travel the entire length of what the Romans themselves termed the “limes”, the frontier zone of their empire. As The Guardian reviews it, the result was a journey epic enough to satisfy even a Virgil. As Parker sums it up, with justifiable pride, “I have encountered more than five centuries of Roman history, in some 21 modern countries, covering a range of climactic variations from a snowstorm in Switzerland to a sandstorm at 45 Centigrade in Egypt’s Dakhleh Oasis, and have covered more than 20,000 kilometres on the ground.”Yet his book is far from being a conventional travelogue. Once the introduction is done, the first person barely intrudes. Neither a work of history, nor a scholarly gazetteer, nor a guide, but rather a blend of all three, The Empire Stops Here is a book in which weather-beaten masonry serves to crowd out human beings, and in which the people who most truly come alive are those who have been dead for 2,000-odd years.

Read more from The Guardian here.

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stellenboschSouth Africa is coming up in the world. Just a couple of days ago it hosted the UEFA Confederations Cup of soccer, in which Brazil defeated the U.S. (yes, the United States!) 3-2 for the championship; next year the country will host the World Cup.

South Africa is also “the world’s ninth largest producer of wine, an up-and-comer in the global marketplace, and the winner of more than its share of accolades in international competitions.” But a canker grows amid the vineyards of Stellenbosch, and her name is Jane MacQuitty, a wine critic for The Times of London.

According to The New York Times, “In late 2007, she tasted a run of South Africa’s flagship reds and wrote that half were tainted by a “peculiar, savage, burnt rubber” odor. In a later column she called a selection of the country’s best-rated reds “a cruddy, stomach-heaving and palate-crippling disappointment.””

This was, of course, something that Stellenbosch’s luminaries needed to tackle head-on. So, for the past year, “vine-and-wine detectives from the department of viticulture and oenology at Stellenbosch University have been working the case. The “burnt rubber team” includes sensory scientists and analytical chemists. They taste, they sniff, they scratch their heads. They are looking for the golden thread that ties together a single taste that was born in multiple locations. Is the problem with the root stock, the soils, the storage, the bottling, the techniques of fermentation? Gas chromatography is being used to separate wines into their chemical compounds, searching for a culprit among the molecular units.”

The story of this sleuthfulness is completely worth reading in full.

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Chahlstun,” you’d say if you were speaking like a native. We’re heading down to this languorous antique of South Carolina on our cruise of America’s Historic Atlantic Shores, in late September of this year, and in May and October of 2010, and just in the nick of time Forbes.com has a delightful piece on the changes and continuity seen in the city where the Civil War began.

“Come Hell or High Water” – that’s the title of a great book on Charleston my dad (born in Georgetown, halfway up the coast between Charleston and Pawley’s Island) had on his bookshelf; and that’s the way it goes when you live in Hurricane Alley. 1989’s Hurricane Hugo blasted through the town, leaving in its wake “a degree of devastation unprecedented in anybody’s living memory,” according to Charleston’s once and present mayor, Joseph P. Riley, Jr. But, as Forbes reports,

“…what came in Hugo’s aftermath was a surge of investment and prosperity that has washed over Charleston and left it sparkling in the Low Country sun.

The city that once liked to say it was “too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash” has reclaimed its magnificent downtown; inaugurated a nearly year-round slate of tours, exhibitions, and festivals (including the 17-day culture party, the Spoleto Festival); spawned a culinary awakening; and erected a new signature structure, the sail-like Arthur Ravenel, Jr., Bridge. Oh, and ponied up for the paint–lots and lots of paint. Charleston is more fun now than it has been since the predawn fireworks show of April 12, 1861, when P.G.T. Beauregard opened fire on Fort Sumter. You might even say the city has been transformed. Sort of.

“That’s true!” she answered. “But, well…not true. For instance, I can look at the bird’s-eye map of Charleston from 1850 on my office wall and still recognize every street. I could use it today to get around town.”

That’s Charleston for you: The place, to put it mildly, is not afflicted with the amnesia effects of American Progress. Around here, the new must always accommodate itself to the stubborn tenacity of what came before. It was Charleston where Oscar Wilde claimed he had complimented the moonrise over the harbor only to be told, “You should have seen it before the war!”

This is a city famously marinating in self-regard. The old wheeze about Charleston being located “where the Ashley and Cooper rivers join up to form the Atlantic Ocean”–you will not leave town without hearing it–is meant to be taken as self-deprecating: See, we can joke about thinking we are the center of the universe. The subtext: Actually, that is exactly what we think.

Here are a few of the American “firsts” claimed by Charlestonians during my visit: first historic district, municipal college, country club, golf course, water buffalo, fireproof building. Charlestonians have convinced themselves that they invented the cocktail party, too. Perhaps it’s just that parties elsewhere didn’t count.

Read more of this really entertaining article that definitely captures the spirit of Charleston, SC.

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It sounds like a prehistoric epic, made into a Hollywood movie. Nearly 10,000 years ago, the bottom of Lake Huron was dry land. Stone-Age hunters stalked herds of caribou here.

How do we know this? NewScientist.com tells us:

Scientists sonar-imaged the floor of Lake Huron and found snaking human-built structures. John O’Shea and Guy Meadows of the University of Michigan say that when the huge Laurentide ice sheet melted and flooded the basin, it potentially preserved intact Native American sites – which are rare in the Great Lakes region.

The sonar images reveal a rocky topography with cliffs and dead-ends that would have been ideal for posting lookouts and ambushing migrating caribou.

The scans also show some structures which the two scientists believe are human-made. A line of large rocks, sometimes arranged one upon the other, form a long parapet. At the end of the parapet are boulders, seemingly pushed together into several piles.

Now, these rock arrangements – they look remarkably similar to the hunting drives and blinds that Inuits currently use – and have used – in the Canadian Arctic for hundreds of years. The parapet, or “drive”, helps guide the animals towards archers hiding behind the groups of boulders, or “hunting blinds”. It’s an amazing find of native North American cultural continuity. There’s more here.

This is the sort of discovery we at Travel Dynamics International really like. That’s why we’ve invited Scott Demel, a Great Lakes archaeologist with Chicago’s Field Museum, to join us on our Great Lakes cruise from July 18-25. He’s extensively researched the Archaic prehistory of the Great Lakes region (9,000-2,500 years ago), a really fascinating epoch: the Laurentide ice sheet melted about 8,000 years ago, creating the Great Lakes.

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Now at Travel Dynamics International, for remarkably discounted rates, you can:

Voyage into the classical world with antiquities experts from Antiques Roadshow. Enjoy an epic cruise down the entire Pacific coast of South America, from the Panama Canal to Ushuaia. Explore the lives of famous women of antiquity. Take a once-in-a-lifetime repositioning cruise from Morocco to Patagonia, following the route of Magellan. Continue in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton with Peter Hillary, son of the first man to ascend Everest. Cruise the Falklands and South Georgia in the far southern Atlantic en route to Cape Town, South Africa. Discover South America from the Amazon to Uruguay. Take an astounding voyage along the entire Atlantic coast of Africa. Sail from coastal Brazil into the depths of the Peruvian Amazon. Or perhaps the Orinoco and Amazon, with the beaches of Trinidad? Delve into the rich cultures of the Western Mediterranean from Seville to Venice. Circumnavigate Newfoundland. Or cruise up the entire Atlantic coast of North America, from Palm Beach to the Canadian maritimes? Listen to exquisite music, and enjoy top-chef Mediterranean cuisine, from Seville to Naples.

The epic journeys you’ve been waiting for, available now for less.

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