Location Of Next National Park: The Moon?

Buzz Aldrin stands next to the American flag at Tranquility Base
NASA

Despite the fact that no human has set foot on the moon in over 40 years, Congress is worried that the sanctity of the Apollo landing sites is on the cusp of being compromised. So on Monday, worried legislators Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Rep. Eddie Bernice (D-TX) introduced the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act. The bill calls for the establishment of the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historic Park, which will be a unit of the National Parks System.

According to the bill, the national park would comprise all locations where Apollo missions touched the surface of the moon between 1969 and 1972. This includes the site where part of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission’s rocket impacted the lunar surface.

The bill outlines the current threats to the historic landing sites, which include increased extraterrestrial activity by commercial enterprises and foreign nations. The sites’ preservation will fall under the mandate of the Secretary of the Interior, who will coordinate with spacefaring entities to manage access to the site.

Finally, the bill also calls for appropriate bodies to submit the landing sites to UNESCO for designation as a World Heritage Site.

Bruges: 7 Reasons The ‘Venice Of Belgium’ Is Worth Visiting

Anna Brones

The only memory I had of the Belgian city Bruges was thanks to the black comedy film “In Bruges,” where the city is more or less equated to some form of purgatory. The only image I had retained was a grey, misty and dismal city with not much going for it.

Not the case.

An easy day trip from Brussels, Bruges is worth your time, and not just if your obsessed with waffles. If you’re lucky, the sun will be out and you’ll find out exactly why this picturesque European town is called the “Venice of Belgium.”

Anna Brones

1. It’s a bicycle heaven, reminiscent of other bike capitals like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, only smaller and much more manageable. There are several bike rental operations in town as well as bike tours.

2. You can eat your weight in waffles. However, although waffles are easy to find, not all are created equal. Make sure you buy yours from a place that makes their own batter and makes the waffles right in front of you instead of heating them up.

3. Nothing is more classic than the rooftops of Bruges, and the city is perfect for anyone interested in architecture.

%Slideshow-752%

4. Bruges is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Thanks to its Gothic center, there’s plenty to explore from the Belfry, dating back to the 1200s, and the Burgh square in front of town hall.

5. You can dive into the world of Belgian beer on pretty much any corner. If you’re a beer connoisseur you better get ready; the options are endless and it’s good to choose carefully. Here’s a good roundup of a few of the best.

6. It’s quainter than Brussels. Yeah, I said it, and although most of Bruges looks like it could be the subject of a postcard collection, you never get the feel that it’s overly touristy. There are just as many Belgians out for a day trip on weekends as foreigners.

7. You can tour the city by boat. There are few cities that are lucky enough to be built around canals (hello, Venice) and snagging a boat tour is a perfect way to explore all the ins and out that Bruges has to offer. So when you’ve had enough of walking or riding, track down a canal tour.

Mount Fuji And More Designated As UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Midori, Wikimedia Commons

On Saturday, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee announced this year’s newly inscribed locations to their list of World Heritage Sites from their 37th session in Cambodia. Each year, the UN agency evaluates the most culturally and naturally significant sites that have been proposed to them from countries around the world. Then, they elect the most outstanding to be put on their renowned list.

This year sees Japan‘s iconic Mount Fuji added to the list after previous nomination attempts were rejected due to garbage disposal problems on the summit as well as a perceived lack of uniqueness of the mountain. Japan successfully lobbied for the stratovolcano to be included this year due to the incredibly prominent role it has played in Japanese history, religion and art. One of the most famous Japanese works of art, “The Great Wave,” features the beautifully shaped mountain in the background. The woodblock print even comes from a series named “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.” Today, Fuji-san has come to represent Japan as a whole.Also added to the World Heritage List this year was China‘s gorgeous Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, which have been continuously cultivated for over 1,300 years. Located in Southern Yunnan, the rice terraces cover more than 64 square miles of farmland, where many of the locals still live a very traditional life, living in thatched huts and small villages.

The nations of Qatar and Fiji received their first ever World Heritage Site inscriptions this year. Al Zubarah, a walled fort town in Qatar, was a successful trade post before it was abandoned at the turn of the 20th century. In the years since, much of the site has been covered in sand blown in from the desert, helping to preserve it. Fiji’s Levuka Historical Port Town has been inscribed after more than 25 years of lobbying by their government. The port town was Fiji’s first colonial capital and received strong architectural influences from both it’s British colonial rulers as well as from its own indigenous culture.

In total this year, 19 sites were added to the World Heritage List, from countries in almost every corner of the globe, with the possibility of even more to be announced before the session ends on June 27. Sites that have been given designation by UNESCO receive increased protection under international law, funds for further preservation as well as greater public awareness and tourism. There are presently 962 World Heritage Sites in 157 countries. Other sites include Yellowstone National Park, the Pyramids of Giza, Uluru in Australia and the Darjeeling Railway in India.

Exploring Normandy, France: The Harbor Town Of Saint-Vaast-La-Hougue

The land of Calvados, Pont l’Evêque cheese and World War II history, Normandy, France, is one of those places that manages to pack almost everything into one region. Coastline, farmland, history, culture, food – in a trip to Normandy you can get it all.

Well known for some of its larger cities and the World War II beaches like Utah and Omaha, an often forgotten gem of Normandy is Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, a small fishing village just east of Cherbourg. A tiny village in the off-season, during the warmer months it explodes with French and Brits descending upon their vacation homes. Which makes late spring or early fall the perfect time to explore: the weather is nice and the streets are quiet.The first harbor to be freed by the Allied Forces in 1944, the village is also home to the La Hougue Fort and Tatihou, part of 12 groups of fortified buildings across France that have UNESCO World Heritage classification. Built by King Louis XIV’s famed engineer Sebastian le Prestre de Vauban, the Vauban fortifications include citadels, urban bastion walls and bastion towers. In Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue you’ll find one just east of town and the other on the island of Tatihou, both built after naval Battle of La Hougue saw twelve French ships sunk in the surrounding waters. Go to La Hougue Fort early in the morning and have the place to yourself, the waves crashing on the rock wall that surrounds the fort and, if you’re up for it, an excellent promenade.

In town you’ll find the infamous Maison Gosselin, a family-owned store that’s been in operation since 1889. It’s still set up like a classic store – you take your produce to be weighed before you pay for it – and it’s complete with regional products like Sel Guerande sea salt and plenty of options for Calvados. In fact the wine cellar almost seems bigger than the store itself. Foodie heaven.

From here you are a short drive to the WWII beaches, Utah Beach and the Utah Beach Museum being the closest. Omaha Beach, which houses the Normandy American Cemetery is just a little further east.

%Slideshow-698%

When in Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue:

Eat:

Le Pub le Creperie – Owned by an ex-Parisian named Philippe, this is the place to go for good crepes. You can also get the traditional serving of moules frites (mussels and fries). Be sure to accompany with the rose. 36 rue de Verrue.

Oysters – One out of four oysters in France come from Normandy, and Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue is a hub of oyster production. You can visit a local oyster production complete with a tasting at Ets Lejeune.

Shop:

Snag a classic striped mariniere French sailor shirt. Check out local boutique Cap Saint Vaast Marine (12 rue de Verrue) for the classic brand St. James. While you’re at it, stick to the maritime theme and pick up a few jars of flavored sea salts at Maison Gosselin.

Do:

Get up early and check out the La Hougue Fort; you’ll have it to yourself and the fortified walls are beautiful in the early morning light.

Go to Ile Tatihou. The island is limited to 500 people per day so make sure to book a time on the local ferry that shuttles visitors to the island.

Get outside. In the summer Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue is a hub of activity, from cycling to sailing.

UNESCO Considering Adding Great Barrier Reef To List Of Endangered Sites

The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia
Richard Ling via WikiMedia

This past Sunday, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) kicked off its annual conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Over the next ten days, the 1300 delegates in attendance will discuss which new locations from around the globe deserve possible inclusion on its exclusive list of World Heritage Sites. Some of the candidates include Japan’s Mt. Fuji, the Namib Desert in southern Africa and a series of wooden Orthodox churches located in the Carpathian mountains of Poland and the Ukraine.

Attendees at the conference will also consider adding the Great Barrier Reef, located off the coast of Australia, to its list of endangered places. The organization routinely reviews the World Heritage Sites and will sometimes call attention to those that it sees as being under threat. This is done in an effort to raise awareness of the possible issues facing those place in the hopes that something will be done to preserve the site before it suffer irreparable damage. Studies have shown that tropical storms, climate change and increased shipping traffic have all had an impact on the health of the reef, bring its future into question. UNESCO is hoping that their discussion of those threats will send a message to Australians that they need to take action to preserve this amazing place.Having visited the GBR myself a few years back, I can tell you that it lives up to is reputation as a spectacular ocean setting. It is amongst the most beautiful places that I have ever seen and the snorkeling and scuba diving there are second to none. During my time there, it was clear that Australians understood that it is a very special place and that they are taking steps to ensure that it stays protected, healthy and vibrant for future generations to enjoy as well. That was something that was underscored in the recent “Reef Live” event, which took place in celebration of World Oceans Day. During that event, thousands of people from around the globe were able to catch a glimpse of the reef through a live tour that was broadcast over the Internet.

Immediately following “Reef Live,” Qantas Airlines announced discounted airfares to Queensland, making it more affordable than ever to head Down Under. Additionally, About Australia is offering some excellent discounted adventure travel package for those looking to visit Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef region. For instance, they are currently offering a seven-day/five-night package that includes airfare from Lost Angles and accommodations at the Pacific International Hotel for just $2145/person. Amongst the included activities are a cruise on the GBR, snorkeling tours, a visit to the nearby rainforest and much more. They even have some great opportunities for scuba divers too. These discounted tours are available for travel in November of this year and February of next. Booking must be made by June 24 to take advantage of these savings.

This is an opportunity to visit one of the most spectacular places on the planet at an unbelievable savings. The Great Barrier Reef is a destination that all travelers should have on their list with the understanding that travel there is handled safely and sustainably so as to protect this fragile, yet incredibly beautiful ecosystem.