Waddling Winemakers on Parade in Stellenbosch, South Africa

A fun and innovative winery near Stellenbosch, South Africa uses a 1,000-strong duck brigade to help eradicate vineyard pests.

In South Africa’s Cape Winelands, winemakers at the Vergenoegd Wine Estate have all their ducks in a row — literally.

More than 1,000 Indian runner ducks can be found on the estate. These feathered friends have been an integral part of the winery’s pest management program for decades, as they gobble up snails, slugs, and bugs from the vineyard.

Today, daily parades featuring the animals attract visitors — young and old — to the wine farm’s scenic grounds near Stellenbosch.

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Shades of Blue: Capturing the Island of Malta in Azure & Indigo

The Mediterranean island of Malta is awash in color. But its blue details might be the most captivating of them all.

With perpetually-blue skies and a location in the heart of the Mediterranean, Malta naturally seems defined by the color blue.

If you’re a fan of blue, as I am (it’s my favorite hue), you’ll be delighted to find that it’s often Malta’s color of choice for much more, including its classic doorways, wooden balconies, and traditional fishing boats.

We called this southern European country home for twelve months; it’s hard to believe that two years have passed since we left it!

During our year in Malta, there were certainly moments when we were “feeling blue” — whether because of challenging neighbors (who let their children run wild until the wee hours of the morning!), or pollution, or notoriously-bad traffic.

However, in hindsight, it’s the happy memories that we made in Malta that remain at the forefront of my mind, like when we went sailing, or watched locals harvest sparkling sea salt, or took part in festa celebrations, or met a world-famous diving dog named Titti.

In this piece, I’ve focused on Malta’s blue accents, including the island’s sky, sea, architecture, and other details. I hope you enjoy the series!

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Montenegro’s Lake Skadar National Park: A Day Trip and Boat Ride

Magnificent Lake Skadar is the largest lake in Southern Europe. It is also home to a dazzling array of wildlife.

Having emerged from the long mountain tunnel that separates Lake Skadar National Park from Montenegro’s coastline, the landscape was decidedly different. Gone were glimpses of the expansive Adriatic. In its place was Lake Skadar, Southern Europe’s largest lake.

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A Sanctuary for the Lovable and Threatened Donkeys of Split, Croatia

Volunteers in the coastal city of Split, Croatia are dedicated to saving the country’s remaining donkey population.

In a pine-shaded park overlooking the sea in Split, Croatia, a fuzzy donkey emerges among a cluster of joggers, dog-walkers, and families.

The passersby stop and smile, delighted to encounter such a creature in Croatia’s second-largest city. Some people snap photos of the grey donkey with their phones. A father and his young son ask the animal’s handler if they can stroke the animal’s muzzle. Eventually, the donkey wanders off, searching for the ideal patch of greenery to nibble upon. She seems content when she finds a grazing place. It has commanding views of the sparkling Adriatic Sea and neighboring islands.

With a short attention span, the donkey trots off again, stopping next to an abandoned phone booth. Seemingly unrelated at first, the juxtaposition of the two is symbolic in that both animal and booth were once considered essential in daily life. Today, in most parts of the world, they’ve both been rendered obsolete by technology.

Not long ago, donkeys were commonplace in the Mediterranean — beasts of burden that sometimes carried weight greater than their own. They toted water and food and helped to mill grain. But today, because of new forms of transport, the animals’ numbers have shrunk dramatically. By some accounts they are approaching extinction in their native environments.

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Finding Tranquility in Thailand: Exploring Sukhothai Historical Park

One of Thailand’s most popular ancient sites, Sukhothai boasts atmospheric temple ruins and UNESCO World Heritage status.

The thermometer flirted with 40°C (104°F) as we wandered from one marvelous temple to another in Thailand’s Sukhothai Historical Park. The scent of frangipani blooms danced in the air, and powdery dirt coated my skin from my knees to my toes.

All was quiet. It was a refreshing change from the bustling markets and hectic streetscapes of the city.

I tried to imagine what these grounds would have looked like 700 years earlier, when the Sukothai Kingdom was at its apex and this was the capital of the Thai Empire. Back then, Sukhothai had around 80,000 residents.

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Blown Away by Orange, France: An Afternoon Admiring the Roman Theater and Triumphal Arch

The Provençal city of Orange, France plays host to formidable Ancient Roman architecture — and the mighty mistral.

I’d read about Provence’s unforgiving mistral wind, and now I was battling it in the Ancient Roman theater in Orange, France.

The sky was a clear, brilliant blue on this autumn day, but frigid gusts grew stronger the higher I climbed. Struggling to maintain my footing, I tried to channel lessons learned from years of doing balancing poses on a yoga mat. I could taste a grit in my mouth, the dust of limestone ground down over the millennia.

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Around the World in 18 Barbers’ Chairs

From Bulgaria to Vietnam, Shawn visits barber shops around the world.

Sitting in a barber shop in the coastal city of Split, Croatia, I struggled to answer the stylist’s simple question: How long would we be visiting Croatia? I had learned a smattering of Croatian words, but the names of the months had so far escaped me.

Remembering the calendar hanging above my head – albeit adorned with nude calendar girls – I flipped through the weeks and pointed to a date. As I exposed each month’s voluptuous model, the 70-something barber’s moustache-framed mouth curled into a mischievous grin. However awkward the method, I had satisfied his curiosity. Clearly I was in male territory, though.

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A Sunset Safari in South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park

One of South Africa’s largest national parks, Addo was established in the 1930s to protect about 10 elephants. Today, it’s home to more than 600.

As golden-hour rays of sunshine cast shadows upon South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park, we remained cautiously optimistic that we’d spot wildlife. Our open-air safari vehicle rolled through the stunning landscape, characterized by sage-colored foliage and terracotta-hued soil. Water droplets sparkled on the vegetation, the result of an earlier rainfall that had quenched Addo’s parched terrain.
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