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Welcome To Kamchatka: Far Eastern Russia’s Wild, Volcanic Peninsula

Kamchatka Russia Koryaksky Volcano

The Koryaksky Volcano rises through the clouds above the Kamchatka Peninsula in far eastern Russia. Source:

Unless you spent long nights in your college dorm room hovering over plastic armies in the board game Risk, you have probably never heard of Kamchatka. About the size of Italy in terms of land area, this peninsula in far eastern Russia has less people living in it than Florence — but it is attracting more and more tourists every year. They come to see the region’s 160 volcanoes and the populations of brown bears, eagles, foxes, and coastal birds that thrive in this immense wilderness.

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What We Love This Week: Humans And Alligators Living Together

What Syria looked like before Islamic extremism, America’s best road trips, the Civil War in color, when humans and alligators lived together in Los Angeles, wand National Geographic’s most stunning nature photography.

Child Standing Near Alligators

Image Source: Smithsonian

When Humans And Alligators Lived Together In Los Angeles

Once upon a time, humans and alligators co-existed right in the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles. Men, women, infants, and dogs all joined in. Toddlers sat unattended with dozens of young alligators surrounding them. Ladies lunched right in the water with alligators relaxing beside them. Of course, none of this would be possible without the bizarre, fearless efforts of “Alligator Joe” Campbell and Francis Earnest. Their farm featured trained alligators who peacefully co-existed with humans–and even performed them (by going down slides and the like). Visit the farm at Smithsonian.

People Eating Near Alligators

Image Source: Smithsonian

Woman Holding Alligator

Image Source: Smithsonian

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PHOTOS: This Is What Spain’s “Versailles” Looks Like In Fall

After visiting Spain for the commemoration of the nation’s 60-year membership with the United Nations on October 30th, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon took a private tour of the city of Segovia. Located in central Spain, the small, walled city makes for a wonderful trip for history lovers, with its medieval castles and the best-preserved Roman aqueduct in the world. One of its villages, La Granja de San Ildefonso, is home to a fantastic Royal Palace that was used as the king’s summer residence for 200 years. The leaves of the sprawling royal gardens are now changing, and the Secretary General and his wife did not want to miss it. After visiting ourselves, we can see why:

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Fall Granja Palace View

A view of the palace from the entry. King Felipe V developed the grounds toward the beginning of the 18th century, modeling them after Versailles, the French palace which Felipe's great-grandfather, Louis XIV, had built.

Fall Granja Street View

Another of the avenues in the Royal Gardens of La Granja de San Ildefonso. The grounds are only 50 miles from Madrid and not even 7 miles from the city of Segovia.

Fall Granja Fountain Water

In front of the Royal Palace, on top of a marble fountain called The Fall, rests the Fountain of the Three Graces. It is possibly the most photogenic view of the mansion.

Fall Granja Entrance Palace

Right at the entrance of the Royal Palace, one can find the organized beauty of the Royal Gardens, which are modeled after Versailles in Paris.

Fall Granja Statue Deer

A sculpture of a hunter and deer.

Fall Granja Fame Fountain

All 21 fountains in the La Granja gardens tell mythological stories. In this one, called "The Fame" (La Fama), Pegasus is carrying Fame while she plays a trumpet. The winged horse is stepping on four soldiers, which represent envy, pettiness, malice and ignorance. When functioning, the water stream reaches 137 feet.

Fall Granja Closer View

A view of the palace from behind an imitation bronze lion sculpture.

Fall Granja Sea Lake

Visitors can find a fishing pond that provides water to some of the fountains.

Fall Granja Statue Palace

The late days of October and the month of November are perhaps the most beautiful time of the year to visit this old farm. The grounds used to belong to a group of monks, but transferred ownership when Felipe purchased the grounds in 1719.

Fall Granja Statue Cocodrile

Across the 360-acre property visitors can find mythological representations, not only on fountains, but also on the dozens of sculptures scattered throughout the grounds.

Fall Granja Fountain Leaves

Another view of one of the grounds' 21 fountains.

Fall Granja Lookout Mountains

La Granja de San Ildefonso is located at the foot of the mountains that split the region of Madrid and the region of Castilla y León.

Fall Granja Statue Soldier

A statue of a soldier.

Fall Granja Frogs Fountain

This fountain tells the story of Latona, the mother of Roman goddess Diana. Latona was thirsty and asked some farmers to give her water. Because they refused her mother's request, Diana converted them into frogs.

Fall Granja Statue Greek

A view of a Greek statue at La Granja.

Fall Granja Neptune Fountain

The Neptune Fountain is part of a ‘horse ride’ between three of the fountains, whose plumbing system works together for dramatic waterwork displays in the summer.

Fall Granja Neptune Perspective

Another view of the fountains.

Fall Granja Flowers Jar

A large urn in the La Granja grounds.

Fall Granja Detail Statue

Another statue in the La Granja grounds.

Fall Granja Vase Coat

The Royal Gardens of La Granja tell us the history of the country. This vase portrays the ‘Fleur de Lis’ (the French symbol, the Lily Flower) and the Spanish old coat d’arms.

Fall Granja Eight Crossroad

Detail of “The Fountains of the Eight Streets,” a crossroad of eight gardened avenues, with eight different fountains that represent eight different Greek gods. In the center, a statue represents the god Mercury.

Fall Granja Diana Baths

One of the most beautiful fountains is Los Baños de Diana (Diana’s Baths). It is also the biggest fountain and the last to be built. In it, the haunting goddess, Diana, is taking a bath when she is accidentally discovered by a shepherd, Acteon.

In the myth, Acteon becomes a deer by Diana’s wishes and is eaten by his own dogs.

Fall Granja Diana Detail

Detail of Diana’s Baths. The fountains are only turned on during the summer to commemorate national and regional festivities. Image Source: undefined

Fall Granja Dragons Fountain

A detail of one of the fountains, called “Of the Dragons Below.” The fountains in La Granja are made of lead, with a layer of imitation bronze paint.

Fall Granja Fountain Lake

A view of the La Granja pond.

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All images come courtesy of Teresa Cantero. Use by permission. All rights reserved.

America’s Five Best Road Trips

Monument Valley Best Road Trips

Monument Valley, Utah. Image Source: 2 Wheels 1 Cause

There is something poetically American about heading down the open road. With nearly 4 million miles of American road to navigate, you can weave in and out of awe-inspiring natural wonders, pass through small towns and bustling cities, taste different cuisines, and discover rich histories. While you’re at it, you can experience the romance–or, if you’re anything like the family from Vacation, the headaches–of the Great American Road Trip.

However, as most anyone who has spent more than two hours in a car will know, the United States is also home to many miles of highway that feel like purgatory (Ohio). Avoid those soul-sucking routes and give in to profound wanderlust with these five amazing road trips.

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