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CHAMPAIGN – Anyone taking a trip to Japan, Spain, France or Germany this year should check out the Mango Languages database at Champaign Public Library. In simple steps, this program teaches language needed to travel in a foreign country – how to greet one another, ask for directions, and even where the nearest public restroom is.
Mango Languages is a language learning database accessed through the library's Web site (www.champaign.org) under the "Find Answers and Facts" category on the home page. Champaign Public Library cardholders can access this database at home for free by entering their 10-digit library number. Language lessons are delivered right to a home computer. Non-cardholders can still use this database but on a computer at the library. The program is free, but personal headphones are required.
I lived in Urbana until age 13 and recently moved back at age 69. One of my favorite trips was one my wife, daughter and I made last year from Hong Kong to Beijing by train.
U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Hong Kong. Hong Kong is what the Chinese call a special administrative region. The Chinese say of Hong Kong, "one country, two systems," and consider it part of China.
Vacations aren't exactly my specialty. I take a day or two a year and attend a convention or workshop somewhere in the United States or Mexico. I'm good at attending and participating in travel plans other people make.
Planning my own trips tends to be a little more frantic. Real vacations with no meetings to attend or workshops to facilitate are few and far between.
Since I'm an archaeologist with a special interest in mummies, Egypt has always been on my bucket list. Recently my husband, Charlie, and I took a reasonably priced Globus tour (Cairo plus a standard four-night Nile cruise) that met all my expectations.
You have to go there, because no video can do justice to the sheer size of the monuments or the overwhelming impression that the distant past lives cheek by jowl with the 21st century.
The small barrier island of Tybee (from the Indian word "duh-bee" for salt) offers a great beach vacation on the Atlantic Ocean. It's easy to zip the 18 miles west to Savannah, find parking and visit the sights. But Tybee Island, Ga., offers welcome relaxation after a long day. You can wander the wide 3-mile-long beach, search for seashells, watch dolphins or the sunset, swim or simply watch boats slip by.
Two of Tybee's attractions include a lighthouse, built in 1773, and Fort Screven, which until 1947 was an active military post for coastal defense. Fort Pulaski National Monument (a few miles west of the town) nestles among salt marshes and supports 11 protected species, including the loggerhead sea turtle, peregrine falcon, manatee, bald eagle and wood stork. A moat, inhabited by alligators, turtles and other marine life, surrounds the fort.
The killer enchiladas in Santa Fe caught us off guard. Whole-leaf spinach laced with crumbled Monterey Jack, cumin and garlic, rolled in blue corn tortillas, baked in a deep red sauce, nestled beside savory rice and beans ....
My husband and I flew to New Mexico in mid-September on the trail of Georgia O'Keeffe and quaking aspens. We timed our trip to miss the end of summer heat at lower elevations, hoping to catch the aspens changing from green to gold in the mountains.
On May 17, we worshipped at St. Mary's Church in Redenhall, Norfolk, England, where John's 10th great-grandfather, Edward Fuller, was baptized on Sept. 4, 1595. This experience was one of the highlights of our tour of 15 cities in England and Holland from which the Mayflower Pilgrims came before they traveled to North America in 1620.
One of the discoveries of our genealogical research has been that John is the descendant of Edward Fuller, who, along with his wife and their 12-old-son, Samuel, was one of the 103 Pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower. Edward, one of the 41 signers of the Mayflower Compact, is not well-known because he and his wife, along with nearly half of the Pilgrims, died the first winter in Plymouth, Mass.
EAST PEORIA — Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, part of the original East Peoria Festival of Lights, are making a comeback for the festival's 25th anniversary, Dec. 4 through Dec. 31 in East Peoria.
The original Frosty and Rudolph floats were crowd favorites when the festival debuted in 1985. They'll be back this year as the festival kicks off on the Saturday after Thanksgiving with the Parade of Lights. It starts at 5:45 p.m. Nov. 28. The parade features 30 lighted floats traveling along a three-mile route on Washington Street.
My wife, Jean, and I share a love of seeing the country using two-lane roads as much as possible. This past summer we embarked on a monthlong, 7,700-mile road trip that took us through 16 states.
The mode of transportation was our 1994 Alfa Romeo Spider. The Alfa Spider was the last in a breed of affordable rear-drive roadsters of the 20th century. Other than the requisite oil change, the Spider performed flawlessly.
I fell in love with Krakow (not to mention its wonderful cabbage dishes) last year. A fall trip to Poland gave my husband and me the opportunity to enjoy fabulous weather and few crowds, along with great food at low prices.
An arranged ride from the airport brought us to Cracowdays B&B after 30 minutes for about 70 zloty ($25). You can't beat its location in the heart of Krakow, its cost of about $112 a night, and proximity to a large grocery store (only two blocks away). Public transportation or walking are the best ways to see the city. Use the kiosks near the bus and trolley stops to obtain tickets.