Thanks to a Royalties Dispute, Spain’s Smurf Village Will Soon Be No More

For the past six years, tourists in Spain who were tired of Gaudí could head to the town of Júzcar, a tiny spot nestled high in the Andalusian mountains, for a high dose of lowbrow design. In 2011, the town’s buildings were painted bright blue to promote The Smurfs 3D movie, as part of a publicity scheme orchestrated by Sony Pictures. But now, thanks to a nasty royalties dispute, Atlas Obscura reports that Júzcar can no longer market itself as a Smurf-themed town.

Sony Pictures reportedly chose to give Júzcar a Smurfy makeover because its surrounding hills are filled with mushrooms. (Smurfs loooove mushrooms.) Technically, the cartoonish color scheme—which was achieved by covering homes, churches, and even gravestones with thousands of liters of blue paint—was supposed to be only temporary. But regional unemployment was high, and as the tourists began flooding in, Júzcar’s residents voted to keep the village’s new look instead of whitewashing its buildings back to their original pale hue. They played up the Smurfs theme by erecting sculptures and murals, orchestrating themed events, and even dressing up like Smurfs themselves. Soon, the pastoral town was attracting up to 80,000 sightseers per year, according to The Independent.

However, Júzcar’s tourism gimmick hasn't gone over well with the descendants of Pierre Culliford, the Belgian artist who once worked under the pseudonym Peyo. Culliford created the Smurf comics in 1958, so Júzcar officials had agreed to pay 12 percent on all Smurf-related royalties to his estate. Now the deal appears to have soured: The town’s council recently released an online statement informing potential visitors that Júzcar has now “lost the authorization to market itself as a Smurf town.” (The notice has since been removed from the website.)

It's unclear what precisely went down between Culliford's relatives and the Júzcar town council—but as of August 15, 2017, the town will have no more Smurf statues, Smurf-themed weddings, Smurf impersonators, or mushroom-capped public kiosks. Still, Júzcar will remain blue, according to The Local. This means the town may still serve as a magnet for novelty-loving tourists for years to come—even they can no longer take a selfie with Papa Smurf.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

A Private Island With Ancient Ruins Just Hit the Market in Ireland

32cnamart, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0
32cnamart, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

You don't have to go someplace tropical to buy a luxurious, secluded island. High Island, or Ardoileán in Irish, is located two miles off the west coast of Ireland, and it's currently for sale for $1.4 million, CNN Travel reports.

Eighty acres and 206 feet above sea level, the island is filled with natural beauty. It's home to wild birds like gulls, petrels, and peregrine falcons as well as freshwater lakes. High Island also has a rich human history; around the 7th century, monks built a monastery there, and the ruins still stand today. Some experts think the first human residents arrived much earlier, with pollen evidence indicating the appearance of settlements around 3000 years ago.

The property, which is being sold by a private owner through Spencer Auctioneers, does come with a few caveats. The island's run-down cottage isn't equipped with electricity or running water. There is a 970-square-foot building with a septic tank next to the cottage, but it's owned by the state. The Irish government also owns the monastery ruins on the island, including the church, beehive huts, altar, and graves. Plus, to get to the island, the new buyer will need to take a boat or helicopter.

Even for someone interested in a fixer-upper, renovating High Island will be a challenge. Any renovations or new construction projects there must receive planning permission—but according to Spencer Auctioneers, the fact that the island already has a septic tank means that new buildings will likely get approved.

A $1.4 million price tag is cheap compared to some private islands that have hit the market recently. Last year, a Caribbean island and former James Bond filming location went up for sale for $85 million.

[h/t CNN Travel]

Indiana Just Got Its First National Park

Actor and singer Derek Hough kayaks through Indiana Dunes National Park (formerly National Lakeshore) in September 2017.
Actor and singer Derek Hough kayaks through Indiana Dunes National Park (formerly National Lakeshore) in September 2017.
Daniel Boczarski, Getty Images for National Park Foundation

We have good news for outdoor enthusiasts in Indiana: The state just got its first national park. As Condé Nast Traveler reports, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has long been a favorite vacation destination among swimmers and hikers in the region, but it's getting some extra attention now that it’s part of the National Park Service.

The name change (from National Lakeshore to National Park) was included in a 465-page joint resolution that President Donald Trump approved last week. Throughout history, many of America’s national parks have been created by presidential decree. Theodore Roosevelt famously created five national parks—including Crater Lake and Mesa Verde—and Woodrow Wilson oversaw the establishment of the National Park Service, the Grand Canyon, and Rocky Mountain National Park.

As for Indiana Dunes, it’s now the country’s 61st national park. Situated along the southern tip of Lake Michigan, just a short distance from Chicago, the park is a popular place to swim and surf in the summer or hike and snowshoe in the winter. As the name suggests, the area is best known for its sand dunes, but it’s also home to 15,000 acres of wetlands, woodlands, prairies, black oak savannas, and bogs.

The change in designation doesn’t mean the park will automatically receive more funding or better protections, but park officials are hoping it will encourage visitors to branch out beyond the picturesque sand dunes. “While the beach and sand dunes will always be our primary draw for the public, we want visitors to get a chance to experience more of this great national park,” Bruce Rowe, public information officer for the Indiana Dunes, told Outside magazine.

If you’re looking to check out Indiana Dunes—or any national park, for that matter—you may want to consider traveling between April 20 and April 28. These dates mark National Park Week, when a series of special events and programs are held at parks across the country (and entry is free).

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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