According to legend, Crete was where Zeus, ruler of the Gods, was hidden as an infant to prevent his father from eating him. It is also the place where King Minos built his famous palace. Although the legacy of its distant past is a powerful drawing card, the real magic of Crete is in its vibrant culture – as is evidenced by a visit to a cherry harvest celebration held in the northwestern region of the island.

"Welcome to Paradise!" A pair of binoculars dangling from his neck, ornithologist Reggie Donatelli stands on the lawn of the Fazenda Rio Negro and invites me to survey the surroundings. Fifty feet away, nestled in a palm tree, is pair of Hyacinth Macaws, their plumage a gorgeous shade of purplish blue. A threatened species, this bird is found primarily in the region known as the Pantanal. Nearby, looking very much like its cousins the ostrich and the emu, a Greater Rhea pecks at the lawn, searching for grubs. Also within sight are a Jabiru stork, a Campos flicker, Buff-necked Ibises, Herons, Egrets and flocks of parrots - just a few of the over 300 species of birds which have been observed here. For bird-lovers, this place might well be paradise.

It's 5 a.m., too early in the morning to think about revelry, and yet here are dozens of people gathering at a ranch just outside of Elton, Louisiana. There's a flotilla of pickup trucks, SUVs, horse trailers, flatbed trailers, and other support vehicles (including a "chuck wagon" and a pickup with a portable sound system), plus at least several dozen horses.