Travel Into the Past

Vacations can be journeys of discovery — a discovery of ourselves, away from the flow of e-mail, ringing phones and constant commitments. What if during your vacation this year you didn't just discover yourself, but also learned more about your heritage or a subject or a period of time that fascinates you? Or, if you're ex-military, you might consider returning to a place you once lived in or fought in so you can share the experiences with your family.

Intrav puts a lot of resources into its tours focused on exposing the history of certain regions and their cultures. In this sense, just about every Intrav tour could be considered one focused on history and heritage, but one stands out for those particularly interested in military history: "The Philippine Islands."

On a cruise of the Philippines, you'll visit Palawan, where black limestone contrasts with forest-lined beaches. Onshore, the tour stops at Plaza Cuarteló former Japanese garrison that is now a World War II memorial park. At the Tacloban a few days later, you'll land at the Leyte Landing memorial at Palois Red Beach, where General Douglas MacArthur came ashore with the Philippines' then-president to deliver his famed "I Have Returned" speech.

Exploring U.S. History

But you don't have to travel to the Philippines to experience military history. It's here, in Norfolk, VA. This year is the celebration of the town's 400th anniversary and Norfolk is celebrating the historical events that took place there, such as the Civil War, with tours and excursions. Take the self-guided "Cannonball Trail" and stop by several of Norfolk's most popular attractions, such as the Willoughby-Baylor House, the Freemason Street Baptist Church, the Confederate Monument and the MacArthur Memorial.

Meanwhile, the Victory Rover will be making its own exclusive voyage in homage to Norfolk's birthday. Norfolk's military heritage is quite extensive, as it is home to the world's largest naval base. Norfolk's state-of-the-art science center, Nauticus, is offering short, educational cruises onboard the Victory Rover. From its deck, visitors will see historic aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and guided missile cruisers that sit along the city's harbor. Both tours are offered by Phillips Tours.

Also in Virginia, May marks the 400th anniversary of Jamestown—the first English colony in America, established in 1607. Queen Elizabeth will be present, and festivities include entertainment, lectures and historical presentations.

Of particular interest to African Americans are tours offered by the National Black Tourism Network. Their most popular tour so far this year is "Forgotten Missouri: What the Books Don't Tell." After stops at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the McCormick Distilling Company and the National Frontier Trails Center, you'll head to Rocheport, where you'll visit a stop on the Underground Railroad. In Lexington, sites relating to the Civil War, the Pony Express and the Santa Fe Trail, plus thousands of antebellum houses, bring history to life.

Also, many of our country's historic cities have African-American heritage sites. For example, in addition to Boston's Freedom Trail, the city also has a Black Heritage Trail that includes the African Meeting House, the oldest (1806) Black church building still standing in the U.S. In addition, Atlanta and Memphis have sites pertaining to Martin Luther King Jr., Detroit has the National Museum of the Tuskegee Airmen, there's New York's Harlem, Washington D.C.'s Frederick Douglass National Historic Site and the African-American Civil War Memorial, or you can explore the Gullah culture in South Carolina—just a brief sampling of African-American historical sites in this country.

And don't forget historical recreation like Colonial Williamsburg and Sturbridge Village, which are especially good ways for children to learn about this country's history.

If you're looking to trace your heritage, try a genealogical trip, such as the one offered by Czech and Slovak Heritage Tours. The company hires family research services in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia so that you can explore your family's history.

Are You A Beatles Fan?

What if it's a tour of more recent history you're looking for? Check out Globus' new "Rock 'n' Roll Tour England," on which you'll have the opportunity to experience the music of The Beatles' in their home country on the 43rd anniversary of their breakout performance on the "Ed Sullivan Show." The tour explores the personal sites that shaped The Beatles' music and also provides insight into the English haunts of other music royalty, such as Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley.

In Liverpool, stop at The Beatles Story, the world's only Beatles-themed visitor attraction; visit St. Peter's Woolton, Penny Lane and the Liverpool Institute; and see a Beatles tribute band at the famous Cavern Club, the site of nearly 300 Beatles' performances. You will also have dinner at the Hard Rock Café, the world's original rock-themed eatery, and see the smash hit We Will Rock You, featuring 31 of Queen's greatest songs.

Today's lesson? Your yearning for learning—whether it's about you, your family or your favorite rock band—can be quenched through travel. Your travel agent is just waiting to teach you how.


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