If traveling the world in on your agenda, here is a little guide of a few of the many magical sites of Europe I have traveled to, some recently, some less so, but stones and landscapes of that stature seldom change their visual beauty; they have been there for centuries, sometimes millennium, and won't go anywhere anytime soon. The pace there is glacial. Less traveled than more obvious landmarks of these countries, they merit discovery.
Italy, southeast Sicily -- The Necropolis of Pantalica holds between 4,000 and 5,000 tombs carved in the rock face of cliffs, dating back to the 13th to 7th centuries B.C. The unusual burial chambers contained one to seven individuals of all ages and of both sexes. Many were evidently re-opened to allow more burials. The average human life span at this time was likely about 30 years of age.
UK, Northern Ireland -- Giant's Causeway, formed of 40,000 interlocking, hexagonal basalt columns jetting out into the ocean and lining the shore, the incredible natural result of intense volcanic activity millions of years ago.
France, Arcachon Bay -- La Grande dune du Pilat is a seven-hour drive time from Paris, on the southwest coast of France, Atlantic side. The massive sand dune is more than just a dune, it's a mountain of sand, slowly moving inland, while swallowing the forest behind. Its dimension is 550 yards wide, almost 400 feet high above sea level, by 1.7 mile in length.
UK, Northern England -- Hadrian's wall, built as a defensive fortification and control post by the Romans during the reign of emperor Hadrian, the wall divided the country from East to West. At about 75 miles long, it still stands today, a testament to the fabulous building engineering skills of the sophisticated Romans.
Hungary/Slovakia border -- Aggtelek's caves are cathedral grottos of soft gypsum material, known as Karst, a particular arrangement on Earth's surface created by the separation of one or more layers of dissolved bedrock. This is where the tallest stalactite in the world holds its hanging spot at 83 feet tall.
UK, Northern Scotland -- Orkney Islands, an archipelago of about 70 islands situated 10 miles off the coast. The unspoiled enchanted islands with cliffs and deserted beaches are also a known prime spot to see the Northern Lights displays, as the low pollution and scarce population allow for a perfect view of the intense sky light shows, without the frostbites.
Italy, Pompeii -- Vast archaeological site displaying the villas and city buildings that were destroyed and buried under 13 to 20 ft of volcanic ash and lava after the brutal and sudden eruption in 79 A.D. of towering Mount Vesuvius. This is the place where I decide (as an 8 years old) that I would become an archaeologist. The traumatic vision of frozen faces of women and their children stuck in time and in movement was a heartbreaking moment for me as a child, and started a lifelong passion for ancient societies and vanished civilizations.
UK, Rock of Gibraltar -- Even though you are now visiting a region south of Spain, smack in the Mediterranean Sea, you are in the United Kingdom. The 1,400-foot high limestone promontory is a British overseas territory and includes a Moorish castle. The rock clearly looks like a break-off piece of the Spanish coast, and its ownership has been a constant controversial subject matter between the two countries since 1713 when Spain ceded the territory to Britain at the peace Treaty of Utrecht.
Happy voyage! Like J.R.R. Tolkien would say: "Not all those who wander are lost."