Travelogue: Celebrate Smithsonian’s birthday in D.C.

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

American Tourist: Smithsonian Institution

What is it: The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government and by funds from its endowment, contributions and profits from its shops and its magazine. Most of its facilities are located in Washington, D.C., but its 19 museums, zoo and nine research centers include sites in New York City, Virginia, Panama and elsewhere. It has more than 142 million items in its collections.

Beginnings: The Smithsonian Institution was founded for the "increase and diffusion" of knowledge by a bequest to the U.S. by British scientist James Smithson (1765–1829). Congress signed into law an act establishing the Smithsonian Institution as a public/private center on Aug. 10, 1846, by James Polk.

Architecture: The crenellated architecture of the Smithsonian Institution Building on the National Mall has made it known informally as "The Castle." It was built by architect James Renwick Jr. and completed in 1855. Many of the Institution's other buildings are historical and architectural landmarks. Detroit philanthropist Charles Lang Freer's donation of his private collection for Freer Gallery, and funds to build the museum, was among the Smithsonian's first major donations from a private individual.

Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C.:

- Anacostia Community Museum

- Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

- Arts and Industries Building

- Freer Gallery of Art (mall museum)

- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

- National Air and Space Museum (Mall Museum)

- National Museum of African American History and Culture (not yet built)

- National Museum of African Art

- National Museum of American History (Mall Museum)

- National Museum of the American Indian (Mall Museum)

- National Museum of Natural History (Mall Museum)

- National Portrait Gallery

- National Postal Museum

- S. Dillon Ripley Center

- Smithsonian American Art Museum

- Smithsonian Institution Building

- Smithsonian National Zoological Park (National Zoo)

Hours: Most museums are open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Fees: Admission is free for all Smithsonian museums and the.     

Sources/more information:;; 202-633-1000

The List

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently named eight new World Heritage Sites. The sites are either natural or cultural and are "of outstanding value to humanity." The new wonders:

- Joggins Fossil Cliffs (Canada)

- Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems (France)

- Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (Mexico)

- Mount Sanqingshan National Park (China)

- Saryarka - Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan (Kazakhstan)

- Socotra Archipelago (Yemen)

- Surtsey (Iceland)

- Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona (Switzerland)

More accessible

The National Park Service recently announced it has launched a Web site for people with disabilities. The site will help visitors with special needs find trails, programs and activities geared toward them. Check out the site at

Good to Know

The first regular direct cross-strait in six decades have started flying between eight cities in mainland China and five in Taiwan. Initially, operations are restricted to 36 flights a week on weekends (Friday to Monday) only.

Fun Facts

- How about a burger and fries with a side of fabric softener? Brainwash, in San Francisco's SoMa district, is a combination restaurant and Laundromat. (

- With a time zone of UTC+5:45, Nepal is 15 minutes ahead of India. (

Travel Tip: How to book a holiday villa

Holiday villas are an alternative to traditional hotels or hostel accommodation and are popular in Europe. The primary difference between a holiday villa and a hotel is that a holiday villa contains a kitchen (or kitchenette) and other living space. Holiday villas are also referred to as short-term rental apartments and self-catering apartments.

Many homeowners publish ads in national newspapers or on the Internet to advertise the villas. Many holiday property owners have built their own Web sites advertising accommodation and sometimes offering availability calendars and price lists. “Self-catering accommodation" is a good term to Google for finding holiday rentals.

There are also some worldwide holiday villas operators that offer villas in major cities from most of the countries. Many of them offer online availability calendars, descriptions and pictures, online inquiry forms, visitor's reviews and price calculators. Some countries have their own centralized holiday rental Web sites. A good web site for France is Gites de France. Home Holidays has extensive listings of short-term rental apartments all over Europe. Although some villa rental and self-catering apartment sites have automatic booking, you will frequently have to contact the owner by e-mail or phone. (

Talk Like a Local: Swedish

Excuse me (getting attention)

- Ursäkta (Oor-sehk-ta)

Excuse me (begging pardon)

- Förlåt (Fur lowt)

I'm sorry.

- Jag är ledsen (Yaag ay lessen)

GateHouse News Service