When France's Emperor Napoleon III organized a competition for a cost-effective butter substitute in 1869, Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès was the obvious winner: his creation-margarine-was the only submission. His invention is one of 1000 featured at The Big Idea, a $21 million inventor center, claimed to be the world's first, which opened on Scotland's Ayrshire coast in April. Built on the former site of an explosives factory established by Swedish dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel, the center has over 80 interactive exhibits, activated by a key issued to each visitor. The work of 23 Scottish innovators including Sir Alexander Fleming (penicillin) and John Logie Baird (television) is featured along a footbridge linking the center to Irvine's harborside.
Sharing the same womb doesn't guarantee brotherly love: in Alexander Dumas' The Man in the Iron Mask, King Louis XIV kept his twin locked away until "Philippe" was eventually rescued (and installed on the French throne) by the Three Musketeers. But in the U.S. twins can celebrate their similarities at the Twins Days festival, held in the apt venue of Twinsburg, Ohio, on the first weekend of August each year. To mark the event's 25th anniversary, this year's gathering (Aug. 4-6) features "look-alike" contests with categories like "widest combined smile" and "males with the bushiest beard," a "double take" parade, talent contest and wiener roast. See www.twinsdays.org.
Originally gatherings of medicine men who danced to invoke divine aid, celebrate the seasonal renewal of life or, on the Great Plains, commemorate a successful buffalo hunt, powwows are now important social and cultural activities for Native Americans. The weekend-long festivals, held across the continent from June through September, feature traditional and modern events, including the energetic grass dance and the ladies' fancy shawl dance. Visitors are asked to observe powwow etiquette: ask a dancer's permission before taking photographs, take your own chair (available seating is normally reserved for participants) and avoid crossing the dance arena, which is considered sacred ground during the celebration. For details and a list of events and locations, see www. powwows.com/dancing.
It's renowned for its high-rise skyline and fast-paced city life, but almost half of Hong Kong's territory consists of nature reserves. While visitors can stride out alone on dozens of walking routes, including the 100-km Maclehose trail through the highlands of the New Territories, the Hong Kong Tourist Association offers five guided nature hikes from 4 km to 8 km long and rated easy to moderate. The walks cost between $35 and $40, including public transport, and at least one option is available every day. For details and to book, see www. hkta.org/guidedmain.html.