Thursday, April 30, 2009

MLK's Last Days

On April 3, 1968, at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee (top left), renowned civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous "I have been to the mountain top" speech, in which he seemed to prophesy his own death. The next day, less than a mile away, he was assassinated by James Earl Ray while standing on the balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel (top right). The Lorraine is now part of the National Civil Rights Museum, which includes a view of King's room and an underground walkway to the rooming house from which the fatal shot was fired. For a complete list of spots related to Martin Luther King, Jr., click here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Shakespeare Was An April Baby

On April 26, 1564, the newborn William Shakespeare was baptized at Holy Trinity Church (left) in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. On April 25, 1616, the literary legend was buried in the chancel of the same church, which is now open for public viewing. Other Shakespeare spots in Stratford include his birthplace, his wife Anne Hathaway's childhood cottage, and the former site of his last home. Click here for a complete list of Shakespearean travel spots.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Serious Side of St. Patrick's Day

In America, St. Patrick's Day is all about parades and green beer, but in Ireland it is still viewed primarily as a religious holiday. March 17, AD 461 is believed to be the date St. Patrick drew his last breath. The site of his death is believed to be Saul Church in Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland, which is where St. Patrick had founded the first Christian church around 432. The patron saint of Ireland is traditionally believed to be buried two miles away, where Down Cathedral (above) has since been erected in his honor. According to legend, a team of oxen pulling a cart carrying his body came to rest here, signifying that God had chosen this very spot for St. Patrick's burial.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Origin of Captain Fantastic

That impish leprechaun on the left is music legend Elton John, who celebrates his 62nd birthday on Wednesday, March 25. The self-styled "Captain Fantastic" was born Reginald Dwight in his grandparents' home at 55 Pinner Hill Road in Pinner, a suburb of London. (Click on the link and you'll discover that something happened on this very spot that laid the groundwork for Elton's wild costumes and stage performances.) Right around the corner is Frome Court, where Elton and lyricist Bernie Taupin wrote early hits like "Your Song." For more spots related to Elton John, click here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Orlando's Oddities

Orlando, Florida is home to two spots of interest for fans of the unusual. Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium features an array of wacky displays, such as a petrified man, the world's smallest and tallest men, a shrunken head, and a Rolls Royce made of one million match sticks. Wonder Works (above) is an interactive science museum with more than 100 hands-on exhibits housed in one of the most unusual structures imaginable--a building that appears to be turned upside down. Visitors can experience a 5.3 earthquake, lie on a bed of 3,500 nails, or step inside a life-size replica of an astronaut space suit and a Mercury capsule.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ronald Reagan's Road to Washington

Ronald Reagan, our 40th president, was born on February 6, 1911. A former movie actor, he is the only president with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Other travel spots of interest include the Hilton Washington (left), where Reagan was shot by John Hinkley, Jr. in 1981, and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, which includes Reagan's gravesite. For a complete list of spots related to Ronald Reagan, click here.

William Henry Harrison's Home

Ninth president William Henry "Tippecanoe" Harrison was born at Berkeley Plantation House in Charles City, Virginia on February 9, 1773. The estate was also the birthplace of his father, Benjamin Harrison V, a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Berkeley House Plantation is also the birthplace of several historic "firsts." The first Bourbon Whiskey was distilled at the plantation from 1621 to 1622, and the first Thanksgiving was celebrated here, two years before the Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving at Plymouth Colony. As if that weren't enough, the song "Taps" was composed here by two Civil War soldiers encamped on the grounds. To see our page on Berkeley Plantation House, click here.

Abraham Lincoln's Locales

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was born on February 2, 1809 on his father's farm in Hodgenville, Kentucky, which is now a National Historic Site. He grew up 10 miles away on Knob Creek Farm (left). Other travel spots include Gettysburg National Military Park, where he delivered the Gettysburg Address, and Ford's Theatre, where he was assassinated in 1865. For a complete list of travel spots related to Abraham Lincoln, click here.

George Washington Slept Here

Our first president was born on February 22, 1732 on his father's Virginia plantation, which you can visit today. Other interesting travel spots include Washington's boyhood home (sorry, no cherry tree stumps), the former site of America's first "White House" (near Independence Hall in Philadelphia), America's oldest existing presidential residence, and, of course, Mt. Vernon (left), where George and Martha lived, died, and were buried. We also show you the very spot on New York's Wall Street where Washington took the first oath of office (and where the Bill of Rights was adopted). For a complete list of travel spots related to George Washington, click here.

"Australia" Natural Backdrops

Many of the beautiful, sweeping scenes in the 2008 film Australia, which stars native Aussies Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, were filmed at Drysdale River National Park (left). With no nearby roads or landing strips, this park contains some of the least accessible portions of Australia's National Park system. Moore Park (right) in Sydney also served as a set for the film. For more info on these two spots, click here.

"Animal House" Haunts

2008 marked the 30-year-anniversary of the cult comedy classic Animal House, which starred the late John Belushi. Fenton Hall (bottom) at the University of Oregon in Eugene is the very spot where the movie's hilarious courtroom scene was filmed. Not far from the campus, the legendary Delta fraternity house once stood at 751 East 11th Avenue (top). At the time of filming, the house was, appropriately enough, a halfway house for recent prison releases. The structure was torn down in the 1980s, but a small plaque commemorates the location's role in the movie. For these and other spots related to Animal House, click here.

Magical "Harry Potter" Spots

Several spots in England are now known for their role in the Harry Potter films. The address of Harry's cruel aunt and uncle is given in the movie as 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, but the exterior scenes were actually filmed at 12 Picket Post Close in Martins Heron, Bracknell, Berkshire. Harry departs for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from London's real-life Kings Cross Station (right), where the city has playfully marked the location of the fictional Platform 9 3/4. Harry's arrival at Hogwarts is filmed at Goathland Station, North Yorkshire, while Alnwick Castle (left) in Northumberland is used to create the exterior shots of Hogwarts. For more info on these spots, including the locations where author J. K. Rowling and star Daniel Radcliffe grew up, click here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"Britcom" Filming Spots

Two English spots, Holmfirth and Cricket House, have served as backdrops for a pair of popular "Britcoms," or British sitcoms. From 1979 to 1981, Cricket House doubled as "Grantleigh Manor" on the BBC show To The Manor Born (top). Both exterior and interior scenes were filmed in the manor house, which was converted to a resort hotel in 1999. Meanwhile, the village of Holmfirth is where scenes for the BBC sitcom Last of the Summer Wine (bottom) are shot. Last of the Summer Wine happens to be the longest-running comedy program on the BBC, and the longest-running sitcom in television history.

From Pinewood Studios With Love

The prestigious Pinewood Studios has been the favorite filming locale for many big-ticket movies, particularly James Bond flicks. 007 movies like Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View To A Kill, The Living Daylights, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, Casino Royale, and Quantum of Solace were all shot here. Other movies filmed here include 2008 blockbusters The Dark Knight and Mamma Mia!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Anniversary of the Dreyfus Affair

Today marks 114 years since the legendary Dreyfus Affair took place on Devil's Island in French Guiana. On January 5, 1895, Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish French army captain who had been wrongfully convicted of treason, was sent to the infamous penal colony, creating a great scandal. For more info on Devil's Island, click here.

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