An aerial view of Daxing International Airport in Beijing (© Xinhua/Alamy)
Wheels up in Beijing
Last Wednesday, September 25, China officially opened the world's largest airplane terminal, Beijing Daxing International Airport. Constructed to alleviate pressure on the city's existing airport, Beijing Capital International, the bright orange starfish look-alike took more than four years to construct. And travelers, hold on to your hats, because Daxing International will connect to China's capital city—about 30 miles away—with a high-speed train that travels at top speeds of more than 200 mph.
Sitting on 18 square miles of land, the massive terminal was designed by legendary architect Zaha Hadid, who also masterminded China's Guangzhou Opera House. In a nod to traditional Chinese architecture, the building consists of a central hub with six curved spokes—bringing organization to the interconnected spaces around a central courtyard and minimizing the building's environmental footprint. Inside, passengers will feel like they're in anything but an airport with dark, polished-stone floors and white ceilings that open intermittently to big, beautiful skylights.
Falling for Rioja
While today's image of beautiful fall colors in Rioja is serene and peaceful, the people of this area are hard at work harvesting grapes at 14,800 different vineyards across the region. And soon the 600 wineries in this smallest Spanish province will begin the lengthy process to turn this year's grape harvest into its world-famous Rioja wines. (To get an idea of how tiny the Rioja province is, it makes up just 1 percent of Spain's land area and only about 0.67 percent of Spain's population lives here.) While winemaking techniques have evolved and improved over the thousands of years that wine has been made here, each year around this time locals and visitors gather in the region's capital of Logroño to celebrate the wine harvest and see a traditional example of the first, uh, step of this process—crushing newly harvested grapes by stomping them with bare feet.
In Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio for National Public Lands Day (© Sara Winter/Getty Images Plus)
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Here's a nice spot to enjoy National Public Lands Day. Hocking Hills State Park, a 2356-acre park in southern Ohio, offers over 25 miles of hiking trails that pass by unusual rock formations, recess caves, and stunning waterfalls. This is Upper Falls, at one of the park's most popular hiking destinations, Old Man's Cave. This huge recess cave, as the legend goes, was named for a hermit who lived here in the 1800s. Then there's Devil's Bathtub, Conkle's Hollow, and Rock House—sites worthy of a visit for their names alone, though the scenery won't disappoint.
Held annually on the fourth Saturday of September, National Public Lands Day aims to encourage people to enjoy our public parks as well as volunteer for one of the many projects going on today, like helping with trail maintenance or tree planting. At national parks, monuments, and other participating federal sites, admission is free today. At Hocking Hills, you can join a free naturalist-led walk leaving from the Whispering Cave trailhead. Be sure to grab a free litter bag to help pack out what others have left behind.
The Nankoweap Granaries of the Grand Canyon in Arizona (© Jack Dykinga/Minden Pictures)
Ancient storage in the Grand Canyon
Around 1100 CE—a good 400 years before Spanish conquistadors would glimpse the Grand Canyon—the Ancestral Puebloans tended terrace farms along the banks of the Colorado River. In order to store their crops during the rainy season, when floods might destroy food stores, and to keep animals from eating the harvest, they created the Nankoweap Granaries high up in the canyon walls.
The fourth Friday in September is Native American Day, a state holiday in California and Nevada. Yes, our photo was taken in Arizona, but in the spirit of the holiday, we wanted to shed light on how thoroughly Native American cultures shaped North America.
Chilling out in the Arctic
Surfers from Norway and around the world gather each September in Unstad, a tiny village in Norway's Lofoten Islands, to compete in the Lofoten Masters, which bills itself as 'the world's northern most surfing competition.' Described by some as the best surf break in Norway, the island village, where sheep easily outnumber villagers, boasts two surf shops to help both novices and experts prepare for the extreme conditions. And surfing isn't just a summer sport at this famous, and frequently photographed, beach located inside the Arctic Circle--during winter months, surfers come here for the unique experience of surfing under the Aurora Borealis.
Stepping into autumn
Look closely and you'll see a snake slithering down the steps of the Temple of Kukulcan (aka El Castillo or The Castle), in Chichen Itza, Mexico. Not a real snake, it's an image created by natural light and shadows only during the spring and fall equinoxes. The equinox (which means equal night in Latin) is either of the two times each year—like today, the first day of fall—when the Earth's orbit and position cause the Sun to pass directly over the equator, creating equal amounts of daylight and darkness. According to Mayan legend, on both equinoxes this pyramid is visited by Kukulcan, the feathered serpent god. Thousands of spectators gather to watch and celebrate as seven triangles of light slide down the pyramid, illustrating Kukulcan's descent.
Fireworks during La Merce Festival in Barcelona, Spain (© Lucas Vallecillos/age fotostock)
Barcelona bids farewell to summer
Every year, for four days in September, locals and tourists flock to one of Barcelona’s biggest events, La Mercè Festival. It got its beginnings in 1687 when Barcelona was suffering from a plague of locusts. In desperation, city officials voted to ask for the assistance of the Virgin of Grace (Mare de Déu de la Mercè). Delivered from the pestilence, the officials named her patroness of Barcelona, and an annual festival has been celebrated in her honor in the city ever since.
These days, the multiday celebration is considered a farewell bid to the warmer days of summer. Attracting nearly 2 million people, the event is known for its street theatre, castells (human towers), dancing, musical performances, light projection show, and daily street parades with mythical characters and traditional drumming. At the end of the festival, attendees come out in droves for the pièce de résistance—a musical fireworks display known as ‘piromusical.’