Where to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing

By Mikaela Amundson

"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." - Neil Armstrong

It's been 50 years since the United States put a man on the moon and this month of July will mark some extraordinary events for history and astronomy lovers alike! Five decades after the "Eagle" landed, mankind still looks to the sky in awe like they have for thousands of years. We love any excuse to get outside and bask in the awesomeness of nature, so let's honor this momentous leap that was taken in 1969 and where the space frontier will take us next!

Keep reading to find out where to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Apollo 11 astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, walks on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969,
in a photograph taken by Neil Armstrong.
Photo courtesy of History HD.

U.S. celebrations

Alabama

At the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, otherwise known as “Rocket City," the whole area is celebrating its integral role in developing and building the Saturn launch vehicles for the Apollo Moon mission. There will be a whole week of events, including music performances, moon landing reenactments, and even an attempt to break a Guinness World Record by launching 5,000 model rockets simultaneously.

Photo courtasy of Nasa on Unsplash.

Washington, D.C.

D.C. is home to world-class museums, and the National Air and Space Museum is no exception. Their celebration of Apollo 50 will feature special, hands-on exhibits, an outdoor festival, and a chance to see Neil Armstrong's suit on display for the first time in 13 years.

The celebrations here culminate with a late-night party called, “The Eagle Has Landed," at 10:56 p.m. on July 20 to mark Armstrong’s first step onto the moon. The D.C. celebration focuses a lot on President Kennedy's leadership and promotion of the U.S. Space Program, which makes for a great history element to this event!

Portland

At the OMSI, a.k.a. the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, they're hosting a block party for stargazers. At Rooster Rock State Park and Stub Stewart State Park, starting at 9 p.m. on July 20, you can see some sky highlights—Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, star clusters, and the gorgeous waning gibbous moon. This museum is always great, but it has a lot of extra special fun up its sleeve this week!

Ohio

What better place to celebrate Apollo 50 than in Neil Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta? The Armstrong Air and Space Museum is hosting a week's worth of events, filled with celebrations of their most famous resident that include rocket launches, interactive museum exhibits, music events, a fun run, a gala, and more.

U.S. stargazing

Photo courtesy of Joshua Earle.

If you can't make it to any formal celebrations for Apollo 50, you're still in luck for a star-filled July! There is a fair amount of notable celestial activity expected throughout the month that you can read about here. Below, you'll find the ones we're most excited about!

  • July 13: Close Approach of the Moon & Jupiter
  • July 16: Partial Lunar Eclipse (North and South America can expect to see this eclipse in the dusk and night hours of July 16, while Europe, Asia, Africa, India, and Australia can expect the early morning and before dawn hours of July 17.)
  • July 21: Peak of the α–Cygnid Meteor Shower
  • July 29: Peak of the δ–Aquarid Meteor Shower
  • July 31: Peak of the Piscis Australid Meteor Shower

TV

If you can't get out to any moon events this year, be sure to check out NASA's special TV programming on Friday, July 19, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m EDT for their showing of "NASA’s Giant Leaps: Past and Future" to celebrate. The show will be coming to you live from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with segments in Houston, Huntsville, D.C., Ohio, and Seattle. You'll see Apollo memorabilia, anniversary celebrations, and hear from Apollo astronauts. Find the stream here on NASA's Apollo anniversary events page.

Outside of the U.S.

Europe

If you're not in the U.S. for this momentous, month-long space extravaganza, don't worry! We've got you covered with a few other places around the world that are known for their incredible nighttime views.

La Palma, Canary Islands

The northernmost island of the Canary Islands' seven main islands, La Palma is known for its incredible stargazing and has been named an UNESCO Starlight Reserve, in honor of the amazing celestial views you can catch there.

Hella, Iceland

This small town in South Iceland is known for not only amazing star views, but also the Northern Lights! It's one of the southernmost viewpoints for the Aurora Borealis, making it perfect if you're not quite prepared for the arctic cold.

Tuscany, Italy

The birthplace of the telescope is another spot well known for its stargazing. See the same stars Galileo did when he first looked to the heavens, and enjoy a dazzling display out in the Tuscan countryside.

You can find more details about these places, as well as some more European stargazing locations here.

Photo courtesy of NASA.

Australia

There are some great spots for viewing the stars in Australia—its low light pollution and unique southern hemisphere placement make it a premier spot for star enthusiasts.

Parkes Telescope

At the Parkes Observatory in New South Wales, you'll find the telescope that was watching when Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon in 1969. This spot offers great views, interesting exhibits, and activities for the whole family to explore the stars.

Gingin Observatory

In Western Australia, visit the Gravity Discovery Centre to find this observatory, which houses the world's largest radio telescope ever built. The dark skies, guidance from expert astronomers, and accessible telescopes make this a top-notch spot.

Sydney Observatory

Back in NSW, just outside the capital city of Sydney, this observatory can be found on a hill overlooking the harbor. The Sydney Observatory houses the oldest working telescope in Australia, which was originally built to view the Transit of Venus in 1874.

For more details about Australia stargazing, check out these resources here.

Photo courtesy of NASA.

Check out more properties on Glamping Hub to find the perfect stargazing escape today!

Your guide to Greece in the summertime

By Eric Wright

As far back as 480 B.C, the rivaling city-states of Ancient Greece faced fierce power struggles from within, as well as the threat of slavery and death by distant tyrants with armies so massive they shook the ground. Throughout the passing centuries, the war-torn region experienced periods of conquest by the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires, who left footprints that would echo throughout eternity. From these complex political movements and often brutal confrontations, the influx of new technologies, engineering techniques, and precious materials allowed Greece to prosper into the multi-faceted culture we see today.

On March 25, 1821, Greece declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire and was officially recognized as a country in its own right, ushering in an age of freedom. Nowadays, the spellbinding history surrounding the aptly named cradle of Western civilization sees over 30 million visitors flock to its lands each year to soak up the rich historical legacy, as well as enjoy world-class beaches and a continental climate.

We've compiled the ultimate summertime guide to Greece, the legendary home of the gods of Greek mythology.

Before you go and good to know

Getting there and around

The busiest airport in Greece is in the capital of Athens. This international hub receives direct flights from most European cities; however, the airports in Santorini and Crete also run several flights throughout Europe.

As a country with thousands of hidden islands, the ideal way to travel to them once in Greece is by ferry, while taking in the epic coastlines along the way. One of the best sites to book ferries is Ferryhopper, which offers daily trips to the major ports scattered across the peninsula. Although tickets don't generally sell out, it is a good idea to book at least a few weeks in advance to give yourself some peace of mind while vacationing.

In terms of traversing the islands, there are several options. Renting a car from Athens and taking it on the ferry can be a handy way to avoid wasting time once the ferry arrives; however, all of the islands have affordable rental companies that offer scooters, buggies, ATVs, and bikes at a reasonable price, too.

Culture

Widely considered to be the birthplace of democracy and Western civilization, Greece's evolution has transformed the country into one that enjoys a captivating mix of both history and myth. With a tale that traverses the Bronze age and the classical, Roman, and Ottoman periods, the secluded islands and vast mainland of Greece offer a compelling insight into human history.

Start your own Herculean adventure by visiting the birthplace of civilization at the Acropolis in Athens and the throne of Zeus at Mount Olympus on the mainland, all before journeying across the horizon to the Minoan palaces of Knossos on the island of Crete.

Events

Photo courtesy of Why Athens.

A great way to discover the roots of the time of legend is by attending one of the diverse and vivacious events around the country every year. The Athens Epidaurus Festival takes place from June to August and showcases ancient drama, plays, ballets, operas, art exhibitions, and classical music concerts around several theaters in Athens.

Other popular summer festivals include Megaro Gyzi Festival in Santorini every August, with its traditional music and eclectic art exhibitions; Naxos Festival in the Cyclades, showcasing theater performances and art workshops between July and August; and Sani Festival in Halkidiki, which offers dance performances and painting exhibitions from July to September.

Food and drink

The Greek's intense pride in their history means that many of the dishes found in the charming restaurants nowadays very closely resemble those eaten decades, even centuries, ago. One such ancient dish is the absolutely delicious, sun-dried octopus. Found in most fish taverns across the remote islands, the octopus is first hung out in the sun for up to 24 hours before being charcoal grilled, seasoned with fresh lemon, and washed down with a generous glass of some local ouzo. Truly a meal fit for Zeus himself!

Other tastebud-tingling dishes not to be missed in the land of the setting sun include creamy feta cheese salads; fried fish and calamari fresh from the Mediterranean or Aegean Sea; gyros filled with spit-roasted meat and Tzatziki sauce; the iconic, oven-baked Moussaka; and, of course, olives with lashings of that famous olive oil that has been perfected by the Greeks over thousands of years.

Places to visit

1. Athens

As the capital of Greece and one of the world's oldest cities, with a recorded history dating back over 3,000 years, Athens is an ideal way to start your Greek adventure. There are few sites as iconic as the 2,500-year-old Acropolis, which rests majestically on a rocky outcrop right in the heart of the city. Some of the monuments found at this fabled site are generally considered the greatest architectural achievements of Ancient Greece, such as the towering Parthenon. The city flourishes with history around every corner; however, those looking to delve deeper into how advanced the ancient Greeks were shouldn't miss the chance to visit The National Archaeological Museum—widely regarded as one of the best in the world.

In terms of soaking up the local culture, the Monastiraki Flea Market offers a veritable feast for the senses. It's one of the liveliest squares in the city, where locals come from far and wide to sell their wares. The crisscrossed streets of the neighborhood itself are also a great spot to take a much-needed break by sipping on a cocktail at one of the rooftop bars while gazing upon the monumental views of the magnificent Parthenon. After a busy day exploring, there's no better end to the day than watching the sunset over the Acropolis from Mount Lycabettus.

2. Mykonos

The whitewashed oasis of Mykonos is just a scenic, two-hour ferry ride from Athens, with tickets generally costing between 20 and 40 euros. Located in the center of the Cyclades, the picturesque paradise offers a fantastic mix of glamorous nightlife and old-world simplicity. The winding streets of the capital, Hora, or Mykonos Town, create a wonderful, labyrinth-like setting, with colorful wooden doors, charming local houses, and tiny Greek churches at every turn, while Little Venice boasts jaw-dropping vistas come sunset.

Other must-see corners of this island gem include the iconic Mykonos windmills, standing high on a hill near Mykonos Town; the Church of Panagia Paraportiani, with its four, unique chapels, each built at a different point in history; and the mythical birthplace of Apollo, Delos island, which showcases the ancient ruins of temples, villas, and theaters. If dancing until the sun comes up is what you're looking for, Cavo Paradiso is the place to be. The international DJ lineup at this beach club offers an unforgettable night of clubbing, meeting fellow partygoers, and watching an indescribable sunrise across the vast Aegean Sea.

3. Milos

As one of the lesser known islands, compared to tourist hubs, such as Santorini, the enchanting island of Milos truly is a hidden gem not to be missed during a Greek adventure. Generally cheaper and less crowded than its more popular counterparts, the undisturbed coves and caves of Milos make a welcome respite away from the crowds.

The beaches of Sarakiniko and Kleftiko will leave you breathless with the sheer beauty of their white cliffs and rich geology. Kleftiko, an old pirate hideaway, is only reachable by boat, meaning that taking a trip around the island from one of the many tour companies is an absolute must. At Sarakiniko, you'll find a moonscape, alien-like environment, where you can explore the hidden coves, bathe in the calm, shallow inlet, and even try some exhilarating cliff jumping.

There are so many remote beaches on the island that you'll need at least a few days and a rental car to truly get the most out of Milos, including Firiplaka Beach, Paliochori Beach, Firopotamos Beach, the ancient village of Klima, and the fishing village of Mantrakia, which has some of the best seafood found anywhere in Greece at the superb Medusa Restaurant.

4. Santorini

The quintessential image of the Greek islands for many is the blue domed churches of Santorini. This rugged, volcanic island affords some spectacular sunsets, and the whitewashed towns that dot the jagged slopes are sure to captivate visitors.

That world-renowned image of the dreamy, blue domes can be found in the quaint village of Oia, located on the northern point of the island. Although this may be one of the most picture-perfect spots on the planet, it's important to take note that the town gets incredibly busy in the afternoon—often with hour-long queues just to get that perfect snap. Try getting the early bus to arrive by around 9 a.m. so you can take in all the beauty away from the impending mobs.

Another unique spot in Santorini is Red Beach, found on the south side of the island, which is a curious red sand cove that is towered by dramatic, Mars-like cliffs. There are other black and gray sand beaches nearby that are worth a visit, including Perivolos, Perissa, and Kamari, while the towns of Akrotiri, Caldera, and Fira offer a generous combination of old-world charm and Instagram-worthy photo ops.

5. Crete

The ferry route from Santorini to Crete runs several times a day and takes just a few hours—making the historical center of Europe's earliest advanced civilization an essential stop while island-hopping. As the biggest island in Greece, it's advisable to prolong a stay at the birthplace of Zeus to take in all the godly sights on offer. Regularly spoken of as Europe's oldest city, the Palace of Knossos is an ancient architecture lover's dream, while the Sacred Monastery of Arkadi and the Koules Fortress both offer a glimpse into the more recent history of Crete.

Heavenly beaches are also scattered across the island, one of the most beautiful and notable being Balos Lagoon. Wedged between the capes of Gramvousa and Tigani, the shallow turquoise waters are simply divine. Another essential day trip while in Crete is Elafonisi Beach, made famous by the movie, "Captain Corelli's Mandolin." In this dreamlike nature reserve, the angelic pink sand and clear turquoise water offer a genuine celestial slice of paradise.

Local culture brims on the island, too, with Chania's Venetian Harbour, Lake Voulismeni, and Rethymnon Old Town containing a gorgeous blend of sweet cobblestoned streets, intriguing Renaissance architecture, and a plethora of lively bars and delectable local restaurants that serve fresh local produce.


For more exciting travel guides, jam-packed with helpful information for your upcoming trips, check out our Travel Guide series on the blog!

Maple syrup season in Canada: History and present day

By Fred Jéquier

With spring well underway and Lent now over, this can only mean one thing to many Canadians—maple syrup season is upon us! Many of us indulge in lashings of this amber nectar on our pancakes in the morning, or perhaps to jazz up vanilla ice cream, but the history and traditions of collecting and making this delicious treat stem way back to before Canada was even Canada.

Find out how maple syrup harvesting techniques and uses have changed, from its origin to present day.

First Nations traditions and uses

Maple water has been extracted from trees since long before the first settlers arrived. The First Nations—a predominant indigenous group who were of the first inhabitants in present-day Canada—would extract the water from trees with diagonal cuts made at the base of the tree, which was the original method of tapping. The sap would then be collected in pots, often made from birch bark.

Sap from maple trees is 97% water and only 3% sugar, so the next job was, and still is, to evaporate off as much water as possible. The First Nations people would heat rocks up in a fire, and once they were white hot, the rocks would be placed in the sap to evaporate the water. There is evidence to suggest that heating rocks in fires was a fairly common method for cooking, as well as heating up water or sap, for the First Nations people.

Photo from Walking by the Way .

They had a very holistic view on life, meaning they would use what nature provided them for their day-to-day needs. This was no different when it came to their uses for maple water. Since hot rocks can't maintain their heat indefinitely, it meant that maple water wouldn't evaporate down to what we all now know as maple syrup.

In fact, historian Pierre Rheaume, a researcher on the history of maple, suggests that what the First Nations people were actually producing was a more concentrated maple water, not a syrup. This maple concentrate had different uses to ours, as well. It was used as a tonic, and surprisingly, an eyewash, as their houses were often filled with smoke that dried out their eyes, and maple water was used as a remedy.

The first settlers

When the French first arrived in the eastern part of the country—in what would become Quebec, where 80% of the world's maple syrup is still produced, and Nova Scotia—the First Nations people were already well-versed in harvesting maple water.

In the mid-16th century, the French explorer Jacques Cartier was the first European to map the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the shores of the Saint Lawrence River, which he named "The Country of Canadas." He saw the First Nations people extracting maple water and became intrigued. On trying it for the first time, Cartier and his men described the sap as similar to a fine wine (which may not be the best indictment of the vintage they had on their voyage to the New World).

Photo from The Canadiana Project.

The early economy of the first settlers in Canada was primarily based on the fur trade. The French would send envoys to boost trade by learning about the customs and languages of the First Nations people. Similarly, the First Nations people were equally inquisitive about the settlers' equipment, including iron cauldrons. This led to maple water being evaporated off until only a red sugar was left.

This was initially a problem for the French traders, as they had been hoping for white sugar. Since white was primarily associated with purity, the traders believed that white sugar would taste better. This red sugar, however, which became known as "country sugar," gained popularity in France and made its way onto the market—and into European kitchens.

Tapping the trees

By the early 19th century, new and more effective ways to harvest sap were being explored. This led to producers drilling a hole into the tree and adding an actual tap, which would allow sap to pour directly into buckets without doing irreparable damage to the trees—a risk of the old method. The buckets would then be carried down to cauldrons for the evaporating process. This new method, however, meant an increase in the quantity of sap, which meant a need for a more industrious operation to create sugar.

By the 1850s, sugar shacks were an established part of the harvesting process. Numerous cauldrons would be fired up, and they could hold up to 60 liters of sap. The process would take up to 24 hours, and every 60 liters of sap produced 1.5 liters of maple syrup.

During this period, it was still hard to effectively store and preserve the syrup so it was not available unless you worked in the sugar shacks. Producers were still very much in the business of making and selling maple sugar. Any leftover syrup would be kept in barrels and left in the sun to create vinegar, as it was hard to come by in Canada during this period.

The modern era

The 20th century obviously saw a rapid change in many areas of production and technology, and maple syrup wasn't left behind! Improvements were made in how it was harvested, produced, and stored. Just before the turn of the century, in 1889, the aptly-named evaporator was invented. This new method of evaporating off the water in the sap cut the process down to just four hours, allowing for even more syrup and sugar to be produced.

Sugar remained the preferred product until the 1920s, when barrels and containers became more effective at preserving the syrup. Even then, it was still only available by the gallon. By the 1950s, syrup became available in cans, which made it quickly become a commodity that could be sold in grocery stores, as well as facilitated exportation—making it even more lucrative for producers.

Photo from Seasons in the Valley .

With the increase in sales of maple syrup came the increase of demand. Producers now needed a more effective way of harvesting the sap. While the built-in taps were effective at extracting the sap, workers still had to carry buckets of it down to the shacks. In the 1970s, producers began to attach a network of tubes to the trees to siphon off the sap directly to the shacks and their evaporators. This method of tapping is still used today.

Health benefits of maple syrup

As we saw earlier, the First Nations people would use the early form of maple syrup as a healthy tonic. This trend didn't end with them. At the time, French physicians also believed that something in maple sap had health benefits, and it was used specifically for lung problems and to alleviate pain for people with chest problems.

Between 2005 and 2010, scientists found specific chemicals in maple sap that suggest that these early uses may have had merit. Numerous chemical compounds that have links to health and wellbeing have been found in maple syrup and sap, including polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals. Additionally, a 2010 discovery established the process-derived chemical named Quebecol, named after the home of maple syrup. Like agave and honey, maple syrup may well have a touch of Mother Nature's healing qualities, so make the most of it the next time you have a plate of pancakes and blueberries for breakfast!


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