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Provence, France

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provence france

  Close your eyes and breathe in. The scent of lavender is rather  calming, don’t you think? Now listen. Can you hear the thousands of  bees and bumblebees buzzing around the bushes? Welcome to lavender  season in Provence, when the rolling fields of the French countryside are  emblazoned with the purple shades of this scented shrub. 
  The well known local author, Jean Giono, said, ‘Lavender is the soul of Provence,’ and many  agree. Entire menus are composed around it, but it’s best enjoyed when  infused into ice cream or honey. 
  Blooms are best in July when visitors spend  their days roaming the countryside from the Luberon hills to Valensole  (where this photo was taken), visiting monks who lovingly grow the herb,  and exploring the beautiful towns in between. July, of course, is also the month of Bastille Day (celebrated on the 14th), the French national holiday. It  commemorates the storming of the Bastille 230 years ago, more than half a  millennium after monks began planting their lavender fields in Provence.

Miami Art Deco Colony Hotel

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Miami Art Deco Colony Hotel

A glowing example of Miami Art Deco Colony Hotel on Ocean Drive.
  The smooth Modernism of the early 20th century meets pastel colours, sleek curves and neon signs the sunny take on Art Deco that gives Miami Beach its distinctive architectural style is the epitome of tropical Americana. A wander among its historic hotels and apartment buildings evokes the early romance of ocean and train travel, when the world was a place full of possibilities.
  The breezy glitz of Miami Beach was born in the 1910s. Mangroves were cleared to create a waterfront playground for the wealthy, and Art Deco hotelslured celebrities, the monied, and then tourists.
  The Deco movement emerged in the early 20th century, when new  technology and luxury were spliced, and sea journeys were the height of chic hence many Deco buildings have porthole windows.
In Miami, Deco design relies on stepped back facadesthat disrupt the  flat, harsh Florida light.           Cantilevered ‘eyebrows’ jut out over windowsto provide shade, and canopied porches ofer cool places to sit.
  The Cardozo Hotel was first to be rescued by the Miami Beach  Preservation League  when developers loomed in the 1970s. The Art Deco District is now home to some 900 protected buildings.
  The Colony Hotel isthe oldest Deco hotel in Miami Beach, est. 1935, and first to incorporate itssign a neon wonder as part of its design. The lobby is a machineage vision in mint green.

Legends of old Hong Kong

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Legends of old Hong Kong

  This former British territory is synonymous with skyscrapers and light shows, but beneath its steely glint the city is beholden to deities, rituals and urban legends. Alongside myths inherited from  China, Hong Kong ha!s spun its own tales from events in its modern history. Ghostly whispers about Sheung Wan and Western District have origins in the Bubonic Plague that began in 1894. Reports of poltergeists are common at sites where executions took place during WWII. Then there are the stories that no city is immune to, around murder scenes, prisons and cemeteries. But most fascinating are the legends born of the fantasies, obsessions and taboos of ordinary citizens, made wilder through decades of retelling.

1-Yau Ma Tei Theatre  

  Mention Yau Ma Tei Theatre to any Hong Konger and you’ll  get a knowing smile. It’s unfair, but this 1930s relic a mix of classical, Art Deco and Chinese styles of architecture, and the only pre WWII theatre lef in Kowloon is best known for its years as a porno cinema. It began life showing silent filmsto hawkers and  fishermen. Asthe film industry flourished in the 1960s,so did the cinema.The 1980sled to an influx of low budget porn and an ‘all you can watch’  policy, before the business went under in 1998. Despite this, the translations of the film titles legendary in their irreverence and too filthy for words stuck in the city’s memory. The theatre  is now a Cantonese opera training and performance centre.

2- Wholesale  Fruit Market  

  Behind the theatre isthe century old Wholesale Fruit  Market, a labyrinth that once made a popular backdrop for crime thrillers. In the 1980s  and 1990s, Triads exploited its shadowy layout to run drug trafc and gambling dens. Gang fights were frequent. Now peace (and CCTV) reign,  and it’s a safe, indeed charming place in which to lose yourself. The one or two storey stone buildingsin the 1.5 hectare sprawlsport gables and pedimentsin a Dutch Colonialstyle, carved with traders’ names.Trees sprout from parapet walls, and smells of fruit, both fresh and rotting, permeate the arcades.

3 - JL Ceramics  

  Blindman Nanyin is a soulful music that featuressinging and  narration in colloquial Cantonese. Originating in Guangdong during the Qing dynasty, it was performed by blind beggars all over Hong  Kong in the early 20th century,  notably in the opium dens,  brothels and teahouses of the old red light district. The beggarssang of doomed love between courtesans and customers, life on the streets,  suicide by opium swallowing harsh realitiesromanticised by posterity. The craf and antiquesshop JL Ceramics Concept Store holds Nanyin concerts, usually on the third Saturday of every month. You might hear Man Burning Funerary Goods, in which the lover of a debt ridden courtesan who hanged herself  burns paper oferings. Check out the decor 1930s floor tiles and French doors, and original  terrazzo stairwell.

4 - Luk Yu Tea House  

  Arguably Hong Kong’s most beautiful teahouse, 85 yearold Luk Yu was where illustrious painters and writers used to come for dim sum. It wasn’t until burglars made away with 18 paintingsin 1996 that the  rest of Hong Kong realised the exorbitant value of its art collection. Today Luk Yu is known for its old school Cantonese cooking. Some of  the waiters who poured tea for the literati as boys are still here, as are the lovely ceiling fans, folding screens and stained windowsthat together make up the finest example of Asian Art Deco in Hong Kong.

5 - Central Police Station  

  Hong Kong’s oldestsymbol of law and order has been turned into an arts hub called Tai Kwun (‘Big Station’) by a team starring Swiss architect firm Herzog & de Meuron, also behind the Tate Modern  extension in London. The 19th century complex, ten minutesfrom Centralsubway station, comprisesthe old police HQ, a magistrate’s court and Victoria Prison. Fleeing rebels, exiled writers and  prisoners of the Japanese military did time here, and public executionstook place. More than 2,000 spectators attended the first (in 1859), of two Englishmen convicted of murder. The facility isrife with ghoststories. One tells of a workerstruck dumb by the uncanny. The poor man slept in the hall by a connecting bridge between prison block and magistracy. One night he saw dead prisoners floating into his makeshif bedroom, and lost the ability to speak ever afer.

6 - Aberdeen West Typhoon Shelter  

  Vigorous dragonboat action at dusk is one of many ritual rich  sightsin a city whose patron deity is Tin Hau, Goddess of the Sea. ‘On Tin Hau’s birthday we pay our respects at her temples,’says boatman Leung Ka lung. ‘Then we collect the partially burnt incense sticks and stash them away on our boats. If we need protection  during a fishing trip, we light incense. Say we haul in a [human] corpse. Either we find an island to bury it or we light  incense and bury it when we get home. People who throw one overboard are plagued by misfortune.’ If you want to see the harbour via boat ride  yourself,sampan operators mill around the eastern end of  Aberdeen Promenade, a 40 minute busride from Central. In the 1960s, the water was covered by a blanket of boats; now you’llsee fishing  junks next to luxury yachts; temples and shipyardsside by side luxury high rises.

British Virgin Islands

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British Virgin Islands

  Set sail through the British Virgin Islands, following in the wake of  pirates, colonists, slaves and Irma, the greatest storm of all.
  Irma was rough. I felt like I was in a survival movie, man Fish were spinning right on up the street, the sea surged forward and a lot of boats got destroyed. There was no water, no electricity. I had chosen to keep a watch over my family's house, but the windows were gone, there was nothing left in the kitchen the wind had blown it all away.
  Yacht skipper Glenroy Johnson recalls 6 September 2017, when the eye of a cataclysmic storm hit the British Virgin Islands. Irma was the strongest hurricane ever to gather over the Atlantic and smash against the Caribbean, with sustained wind speeds of 185mph and gusts up to 220mph. Nine out of ten homes on Tortola the largest of the British Virgin Islands were damaged or ruined. Afterwards, the islands were dried completely brown,' says Glenroy. 'I wouldn't have wished what happened on my worst enemy.'
  In the months since, greenery has started to return amid the mangled remains of trees on the hillsides. Skippers such as Glenroy are in business again -ironically, as travellers are drawn back here by the wind. Before Irma's impact, steady winds and peaceful waters gave the British Virgin Islands a reputation as one of the world's greatest sailing destinations.
  The history of the British Virgin Islands has been shaped by winds both wild and fair. Trade winds first carried Christopher Columbus here during the late 15th century. A hundred years later, British privateers including Sir Francis Drake used the islands as a base for plundering Spanish colonial shipping. By the early 18th century, the pirate Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach was lurking in far spread coves, and slaves were shipped from Africa in their thousands. The slaves farmed the sugar cane and cotton that helped to build the wealth of the British Empire, and set down roots for many of today's 30,000 residents.
  Aboard a gleaming new catamaran, Star Eyes, Glenroy and I head for the shallows of Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke, named after a Dutch pirate who settled here in the 17th century. The drilling of roofs being reattached is overlaid with the sounds of waves lapping against a jetty, the bleating of a goat and the creaking of a hammock beneath a shade tree. From a beach shack where cats loll in the warmth, the rich chuckle of Philicianno 'Foxy' Callwood can also be heard.
  Foxy's Tamarind Bar is famed for its owner's unfiltered humour, and as a source of Painkillers the locally invented rum/pineapple/coconut/ nutmeg cocktail that, trust me, is a dangerous choice when you're jet lagged. The bar was ferociously damaged by the gusts and storm surge brought by Irma. 'I was damn scared but I count myselflucky,' says Foxy, his bare feet digging in the coral sand. 'I opened my first barin '68, over 50 years ago. It was primitive! My family has been here for seven generations, and I ain't going no place now.' He hands over his phone, to play a video of him singing a calypso song to Sir Richard Branson, the owner of nearby Necker Island. The lyrics cast un PC aspersions against a character named Irma (sample lines: 'How do I know? Cause she liked to blow!').
  Foxy has another well known connection: HRH Princess Anne. Above the spot where he strums his guitar is a faded photo of her presenting him with an MBE, an honour given for a lifetime spent promoting the culture of the British Virgin Islands. 'I'm only 80, and I'm planning for the future,' says Foxy. 'I want to make this island a preserve somewhere the kids will want to live when they pass 21.' He gestures towards an outsized development above the harbour. 'See those big houses over there? Next, there could be condominiums, shopping malls but no cows, no education. I want to build a school, instead.' As Foxy works through his back catalogue of calypso tunes, time meanders on. An interruption finally arrives with a tooting from the beach the catch of the day has landed.
  Joann Frett Turbé checks the haul. "The conch shell is blown to say we're ready,' she says. "We sell the fish mostly to locals some to people on the yachts, too. In this catch we have angelfish, yellowtail, doctor, blue parrot, snapper, grunt. The people here, they like the snapper and the angelfish have them with a little hot sauce.
  The fangs of a barracuda catch my attention, and I wonder if this is the same predator I met that morning while snorkelling under our catamaran.
  For centuries, Manchioneel Bay would have lured mariners seeking shelter. The enclosing flanks of Cooper Island form a barrier against the prevailing winds, their intact foliage showing how landscapes across the islands looked before Irma came. Papaya and banana trees emerge between bushes dense with flowers. Skipper Glenroy slings a rope around a mooring buoy and I swim ashore, my clothes drying fast as I clamber to the ridge that runs the length of the island. In the waters below, hawksbillturtles and stingrays shuttle between beds of seagrass.
  Outside the bar of nearby Cooper Island Beach Club, a chalked sign promises 'the largest selection of rum in the Virgin Islands'. Bar manager Glen Rooney pours drinks for a gregarious mix of yacht crew. 'We have about 300 varieties of rum here,' he says. Glen is from County Louth, the smallest county in Ireland. 'I just wanted to live somewhere with a little sunshine.'
  During four years in the British Virgin Islands, he has become quite a rum specialist. "There are no real rules to making rum,' Glen says. “Typically, molasses is used, but on Tortola, they make it with sugar cane. That gives a grassier flavour.'
  Glen lines up a flight ofrums, their tastes ranging from smoothly sherry infused to a real lip curler.    'This one, Arundel, is from a tiny distillery on Tortola. It's been there for 200 years,' he says. "This is Sebastian's, also local. It's very low grade, but people go crazy for it. It will give you the worst hangover of your life.'
  At sunrise the next day, a favourable breeze allows us to unfurl both of Star Eyes' sails. A course is charted for Virgin Gorda.'We're taking the Sir Francis Drake Channel,' says Glenroy. 'It gives room to manoeuvre and the best winds to sail in. Enjoy the weather. With his help, I take the wheel, learning to respond to shifts in wind direction and the currents beneath us. I admit I have adjusted to island time. ‘You’ve forgottenwhat day itis?’ saysGlenroy. ‘That’s good life, man.’
  On the hills of Virgin Gorda, houses in scattered villages wear new roofs in vivid reds and blues. At a rural dock, Kyle Harrigan is waiting. He is on a brief trip home to Virgin Gorda after three years working for the British Virgin Islands as a business development officer in London. The islands are among 14 British Overseas Territories, under a degree of British governance.'What do we take from the British?'asks Kyle. 'Not so much. We drive on the left and we drink a lot of tea.'
  As he gives me a lift through Virgin Gorda's interior, drivers of other cars cheerfully wave to us. 'I like living in London,' says Kyle. But when I moved there, the hardest thing was when people in the street didn't reply when I said hello to them.!
  We reach The Baths and Devil's Bay national parks, where gigantic granite boulders spill into the Caribbean Sea. Some of these volcanic remnants are 70 million years old and as high as a three-storey building. Life sprouts forth around us, with mangroves shooting new roots over the rocks.   Kyle points to the largest boulder by Devil's Bay. 'I reckon I must have first jumped off here when I was nine, in the times when I was kind of reckless,' he says. "Once school was out in the summer, us kids used to spend all day on the beach. Our parents would let us go.''
  Kyle reaches the summit of the boulder and gives a double-handed wave. 'It's so good to be back here,' he shouts, a grin stretching across his face. Then he sights a pocket of deep water and takes aim, before hurtling forwards in a leap of faith.

Secrets of sake Japan’s national drink

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Secrets of sake Japan’s national drink

  We head to Tokyo to uncover the secrets of Japan’s national drink, and seek out the very best places to drink it.
  Sake is, essentially, rice and water, with an alcohol content of around 15%. It’s brewed  like beer, rather than distilled like a spirit, and there are five major types, ranging from ‘ginjo’, which is smooth and fruity, to the unpasteurised ‘namazake’, which is fresh and sweet and only available in Japan.
  I set out on my quest to find the perfect sake,everything i knew about the drink could be written onto the sie of a chopstick. at best, the sake selection on a drinks menu in japanese restaurants at home in london provided a brief distraction from the more important business of summoning chicken katsu. i knew it was made with rice,but howwas i meant to drink it? like a shot? ice cold like vodka? at the end of the meal like a digestivo?.
  Clearly let loose on the streets of tokyo, a crass amateur like myself would need some guidance. i enlisted the help f daniela baggio morano. a half japanese , half italian guide with a particular mission to help visitors make sense of the city's sometimes baffling food and drink scene.
  We meet in the district of Shinjuku on a rainy night, when all of Tokyo seems on the move, scurrying through the splashy streets under transparent plastic umbrellas like a sea of giant, misplaced jellyfish. The wet streets reflect the neon signs fixed to every bit of building, flashing advertising slogans or the latest J-pop video. Promoters stand in the doorways of shops, bars and strip clubs, their sales pitches lost on the sodden, preoccupied passersby.
  Resisting their calls, too, Daniela leads me into a modest basement shopping centre and into an equally modest izakaya, or pub: Nihonshu Stand Moto. Eight customers stand at the horseshoe-shaped bar, bags and briefcases neatly stacked into baskets at their feet. We take our places beside them, and conical glasses promptly appears in front us.
  'So,' says Daniela, studying the menu, 'perhaps something fruity and easy to drink for your first sake.' The bartender produces a large brown bottle from the fridge, its label a swirl of elegant calligraphy, and fills my glass to the brim. 'You drink it little by little,' says Daniela, raising her own glass. The sake, a Jikon 2017, has a rich and developing flavour, raisiny to start with but developing into something a little harsher. It is a bit like a dry sherry. Delicate little dishes of mountain vegetables, seaweed and sesame seeds arrive as we sip. 'You must always eat something with your sake,' says Daniela. 'It is like the way they serve tapas in Spain, really.'
  customers shuffling around the horseshoe to make room for new arrivals. All 'salarymen' pulling off their ties, businesswomen putting their phones into bags, old friends and young couples are welcomed with a smile and a greeting as they enter. The merry hubbub soon drowns out the Japanese vocalist crooning on the stereo. When Daniela shares news of my quest, everyone leaps in with an opinion where we should head next. 'People in this bar know about their sake,' says Daniela. "They want to compare drinks and talk about them. In a big city, you need to find little pearls like this.'
Maybe it's the sake, maybe it's the cheerful atmosphere, but I feel a warm glow spread through my stoma chand out into my limbs, and Imomentarily forget the rain falling relentlessly on the streets above.
  Amore formal education is A needed, though I could quite happily return to Nihonshu Stand Moto every night to continue my sake appreciation. I make an appointment at the Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center, an association representing Japan's 1,700 sake breweries. My teacher is Shuso Imada, the general manager. 'Sake has a history going back 2,000 years,' he says as we take our seats in a bright, modern room lined with shelves of old sake bottles, cups and grains. 'It was traditionally used to connect people to god, so it is a holy drink in a way. It is still important in Shinto ceremonies. Even today, a Shinto priest will come and purify the  ground with sake before anyone  builds in Tokyo.’
  As he talks me through the process, MrImada pours samples,  ranging from a light unpasteurised version that tastes of very little, to a creamy, mature sake with a good whack. ‘Sake is a drink to have  with a meal or with cheese,’ he says. ‘You enjoy it as you would enjoy  wine.It is more egalitarian, though; it doesn’t have the element  of snobbery that wine has.’
  Consumption of sake in Japan had been declining since the 1970s, but has recently been seeing something of a revival. ‘Many  breweries were destroyed by the 2011 tsunami in northeast Japan,’  says MrImada.‘People found out that drinking sake from that area would help the people there. It started out as sympathy, but then they discovered that sake is far betterthan they thought. Before, it was only forthe grandfather. Afterthe earthquake, young people enjoyit, too.It has been a generational change.’ To see how  the sake revolution has taken hold with Tokyo’s younger residents, I head to Ebisu, a district packed with bars and izakayas, and home to buri, a definitive stop on a ny self respecting sake hunter’s pub crawl. Buri is something of an east west hybrid, with dried ray's fin and leek yakitori on the menu, along with serrano ham and home made  potato crisps. Its love of fusion is not the most striking thing about it,  though that honour belongs to the glass sake jars that fill  cubbyholes on one wall of the tiny bar. There are hundreds, collected from all over Japan, each with a distinctive label bright orange koi carp, Mount Fuji  and cartoon monsters among them.
  ‘This is how young people drink sake,’ says barman Mr Tanaka, taking a couple of jars from the freezer, their sides dripping condensation. ‘On weekend nights, there are 50 people  squashed around the bar until 4am.’
  The vessels are Buri’s unique calling card there are no bottles or  cups here. I choose one with a cat on the label, pull off its metal lid and drink straight from the jar. It has a slightly sharp taste, and the chill is welcome on a clammy day. Mr Tanaka tells me to take the empty glass away with me, as all customers do, and I think this is my favourite thing about the experience. The little jar with its graphic label will jog memories of the  bar, and of Tokyo, long afterthe taste  of sake has left my mouth.
  My final planned stop takes me from downtown Tokyo,where locals bar crawl until dawn, to the 40th floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel and the rarefied environment of Kozue. The restaurant is regularly named as one of Tokyo's best, with diners flocking to experience the seasonal tasting menus created by chef Kenichiro Oe.
  From my table by one of the floorto ceiling windows, the colossal size of the city overwhelms. Tokyo is massive. A forest of skyscrapers stretches for unfathomable distances in each direction, Mount Fuji a faint outline on the horizon. Far below. artificial football pitches seem the size of my fingernail, and multi lane roads no wider than a shoelace.
  My slack-jawed gawping is  interrupted by the soft jingle of  ceramic bowl on wooden tray,  announcing the beginning of the sake ceremony. Sake sommelier  Hitoshi Tanabe, dapperin an  immaculate suit, has three for me  to try, selected from a list of 55. His  colleague, Ms Kataymia Ayumi,  wearing a grey and white kimono,  decants the clearliquid into a wide  bowl to aerate it, and from there into  small cups. ‘With sake,’ says Mr  Tanabe, ‘it is an art form: the cups  you use, the bowls you use, how you arrange them. what i find fun is how it tastes different, depending how you serve it.’
  To demonstrate,  each sake is poured  into a differently  shaped, chilled  glass,ranging from  squat and bulbous to  tall and thin. My favourite is Juyondai, made in a province famous forits rice. It is creamy, with hints of mango, and draws out both the saltiness of  the crab and the sweetness of the fig in the dish brought to the table. The experience is one of delight in precision and tradition. ‘Sake has such a long history in Japan,’ says Mr Tanabe. ‘It plays a culturalrole in our country it is more than just a drink.’
  On my way out, I ask him where he  drinks sake when he’s not at Kozue. ‘Ah,’ he says with a smile. ‘To Izakaya Genkaya in Shibuya. Very traditional,  very casual, no gaijin [foreigners].’
  My last night in Tokyo, and i can't resist trying to find the pub that Mr Tanabe visits on his night off. I set off through the streets of Shibuya on anotherrainy night, the address of Genkaya written down in Japanese in my notebook. On a backstreet notfarfrom the city’s  famous Shibuya Crossing, I spot a small sign with letters that vaguely match those on my paper. I venture up a set of stairs, and, unconvinced  this is the right place, stand hesitant outside a closed door on the fourth floor.i cautiously open it and per in a waiteris instantly upon me, taking my umbrella and pointing to  an empty table. Before me is a grill  and a menu with photos of cuts of  meat on it. Japanese rock and bad covers of Sister Sledge and Chris Isaak songs play on the stereo. A waitress lights the charcoal in my grill and I point to the menu at bits of meat that I hope are beef. Around me, young couples and groups of friends sit at  benches, faces slowly turning pink in the heat of the flames.all is smoke and sizzle, chatter and laughter.
  I cook my beef, dip it in chilli oil and try it with a light sake served in  a tall bamboo cup. The verdict? Cold sake and beef sohotit burns themouth I believe I’ve found perfection.

Best destinations in europe 2019

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Best destinations in Europe 2019

It’s that time when we reveal our  top ten destinations in Europe.The countdown starts right here.

10 Istria Croatia

  There’s something regal about Istria’s heart-shaped peninsula, with its limestone riviera, grand  monuments and abundant fine produce. Perhaps that’s why the Romans,Venetians and Austro Hungarians tussled over this beautiful, fertile land for centuries. Today, you can fly direct from all over the uk. begin with the history pula's roman amphitheate and porecs unesco listed mosa ics. then laze, with dozens of beautiful beaches to idle on, from Mulini, with its relaxed atmosphere and beach bar, to secluded  Felsen Strand. Diversify with a gourmet cycle tour during spring, music festivals in summer, and truffle hunting excursions come autumn.

9 Vevey Switzerland

  Vevey will be popping even more corks than usual when the Fête des Vignerons kicks off in July. Held once every  generation every 20 years or so this  three week festival is one of the biggest  and oldest of its kind, an all singing, all dancing ode to bountiful harvests, wine growing culture and grand cru grapes. Expect costumed shows, cowbell clanging  parades, alphorn concerts and, above all, the chance to sample local pinot and chasselas at pop up stalls  and open door cellars. It’s not just its wine pedigree that makes this Swiss town so appealing. On the edge of Lake Geneva, the tiny Old Town is crammed with places to eat, serving everything from 20 course tasting menus to cheap and cheerful  fondue. You can work off lunch with a swim in the  lake or a walk along the edge of the vineyards.

8 Liechtenstein

  Fancy walking around an entire country in a weekend? That’s the prospect on offerin little, lovely Liechtenstein. As part of celebrations to mark 300 years of sovereign nationhood, the country will open the Liechtenstein Trail, a scenic 47 mile hiking path that twists over peak and pasture on a route that takes in all eleven of its municipalities. Even if you leave the hiking boots at home, Liechtenstein is a fascinating place to  visit: a rural yetrich state ruled by a prince from  a hilltop castle above the petite capital of Vaduz. The anniversary is an added incentive  to go, with special exhibitions (such as highlights of the Princely Collections at the Museum of Fine Arts) and parties, the biggest bash falling on the  country’s National Day, 15 August.

7 Lyon France

  Industrious Lyon may not have Paris’s heart throb reputation or major crowds but it does share some of its winning traits. It’s beautiful, with two hills (Croix-Rousse and Fourvière) and two riverfronts (Rhône and Saône), and food obsessed,  with its scores of legendary bistros and bouchons. It’s  also highly cultured, with a miscellany of museums  ranging from the new science and ethnology hub at confluence to the pretty garden and puppets of Musée Gadagne. Thanks to the remodelling of the confluence district virtually from scratch, and bold architecture projects galore,this is a city transformed.  Go now, before it wins the international darling  status it deserves.

6 Shetland Islands Scotland

  To get truly away in the UK this year, head to its northernmost  point, the Shetland Islands, some 105 miles off the tip of mainland Scotland. This windbeaten archipelago, poised between the Atlantic and the North Sea, is heaven for lovers of puffins, craggy coastal trails and excellent fish and chip shops. you have to earn a visit to Shetland, with the overnight ferry from Aberdeen an adventure in itself. Once you’re here, spot otters and orcas from remote headlands, see Iron Age brochs and Viking longboats, and wind down with a dram in one of Lerwick’s locals.

5 Bari Italy

  Don’t call it a comeback, but the port town of Bari, always a jumping  off point fortourists headed to Puglia’s big hitters further south, is enjoying a renaissance that’s been a decade in the making. A reinvigorated Old Town sets the tone, boarded up shop fronts replaced by traditional trattorias in pretty piazzas. And change here is more than cosmetic cultural spaces are reopening, from the ornate Teatro Piccinni to once condemned heritage hotels such as the Oriente, and not forgetting the Teatro Margherita, an Art Nouveau playhouse repurposed as an art space on stilts overthe sea. With the nightlife offering refreshed ( cocktails in a former ticket office,anyone? ), streets safer and beaches cleaner, Bari is bouncing once again.

4 Hercegovina Bosnia and Hercegovina

  Think of Hercegovina the historical region on which Bosnia geographically piggybacks and Mostar’s magnificent stone Stari Most bridge may spring to mind. What you won’t picture are the crowds who arrive each summer, smartphones aloft,fidding with filters, widen your focus in 2019 to hercegovina's other highlights with a trip along the ciro cycle trail, which threads through the countryside from Mostar to Dubrovnik, tying together some of the region’s top sights. Accommodation in atmospheric old train  stations offers the chance to lock up the bikes and  explore further. Potter around the streets of medieval pocitelj, explore the vjetrenica karst wind tunnels or hike to Lukomir, a traditional mountain  village, to gain a new perspective on the region.

3 Arctic Coast Way Iceland  

  Riding high on bucket lists for some time, Iceland has  yet another ace to play. Of the millions of people who visit each year, most focus on Reykjavík and the famous Golden Circle. Some trailblazers set course for the west and far flung east, but few have headed north until now. Running 500 miles from Hvammstangi in the west to Bakkafjorour in the east, the newly founded Arctic Coast Way winds  between 21 villages and four islands along Iceland’s  elemental north coast. Come to see the natural wonders for which Iceland is rightly famed thunderous waterfalls, colossal glaciers, steaming fumaroles and to exploit opportunities for snow sports, wildlife watching and wilderness adventures. It’s the best of Iceland, minus the crowds. 

2 Madrid Spain

  Madrid has managed to style out a stumble during the economic downturn, springing back into step with renewed vigour. The city’s nightlife, always among Europe’s most exciting, just keeps getting better: Calle de Ponzano, a strip of standing-only tapas and cocktail joints, now has its own trending hashtag. But it’s not just night  owls who’ll clock the changes. Sustainability projects have opened up greater pedestrian access and new green spaces, such as Madrid Río Park and its urban beach. Even the historic Museo del  Prado has a fresh face, thanks to a Sir Norman Foster designed extension marking the national art museum’s bicentenary in 2019.

1 High Tatras Slovakia

 There’s a mythical feel to the landscape of Slovakia’s High Tatras, a lofty realm of crooked peaks and plunging waterfalls, where elusive beasts prowl the forests. Eradicated from most parts of Europe,  brown bears thrive in this wild, rugged region, and  a growing number of tour agencies lead adventurers out on foot to spy them, walking through woods where lynx, wolves and the endemic Tatra chamois  also roam. As well as spotting bears, you could hike to the summit of Slovakia’s highest peak, 2655m Gerlach (also known as Gerlachovsk˝ atít), take out a boat on the glacial lake of atrbské Pleso, and enjoy  traditional hospitality in high altitude chaty.

Canada Adventures

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Canada Adventures

  If there was ever a country made for experiencing the great outdoors, it’s Canada. Begin relatively gently on the Atlantic coast, proceed west to the Pacific and then head towards the Arctic for a complete spectrum of activities.
  Canada’s eastern provinces show faces both sofly rural and properly rugged ideal to calibrate the level of adventure that suits you.
  The granite shores of Atlantic Canada are the first sight of the americas for travellers arriving  from europe. while the highest points of these four easternmost provinces don’t measure up to the  summits of the Rockies, you’ll  ?find some superlatives here too the tides in the Bay of Fundy show the largest range in the world,  believed in Mi’kmaq legend to be caused by the thrashing of a giant whale. The next step west from here is Québec. Its vast forests threaded with rivers and lakes were once the starting point for fur traders fanning out across the interior of the North American continent, canoe paddle in hand.
  Coastal walking trails trace as best they can the overwrought ocean countours of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Except in  truly remote places, you can pick  manageable sections for shorter  hikes. Offshore attractions include whale-watching tours, with humpbacks one of the biggest possible sightings. Sea cruises can feel pretty active too, whether you’re helping to haul  in lobster pots, or riding out the spray aboard a Zodiac. The shores of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick are less exposed to  the ocean’s moods, but ideal for  not-too-strenous cycling  possibilities. Here too, and even more so in Québec, river trips by canoe or kayak don’t have to involve white water, or paddling  furiously against a current.
  For urban add-ons, spend time in Québec City (the only walled city in the Americas north of Mexico)  and in cosmopolitan Montréal, which knows how to do joie de vivre even in deepest winter.
  You can’t avoid craning your neck here: mountain heights bring new active possibilites in the Rockies and the lands beyond.
  Between the last glimpses of the atlantic and the first stirrings of the Rocky Mountains, you must cross more than 2,000 miles of forest and horizon-spanning prairie lands..southeastern alberta is very much a region of ranches and rodeos,but drive an hour west from the hub city of calgary on the trans canada highway and fortress-like peaks start to rear up to either side at kicking horse pass, you'll not only cross the boundary between alberta and british columbia,but the continental divide of the americas.from here on west,rivers have a new outlet and the land a new outlook the pacific. 
  This is the part of canada where it's most acceptable sometimes,almost compulsory to wear a stetson.horse rides are not just a way to connect with the local ranching culture,but can be an excellent way to reach spots that are not just far from roads, but perhaps a challenge to reach on foot. if you'll have plenty of excuses to take them out.
  National park trails open up  freash prospects of the famous  valleys and lakes of the Rockies,  far from the tour bus frequented viewpoints.just remembre to take sensible precautions while you're in grizzly bear country.
  Mountain biking is as good as it gets,with several ski resorts switching the focus to two wheeled adventurers once the snow has melted. winter in the rockies and in british columbia's coastal mountains heralds any number of variations on skiing,including cross country trails and helicopter accessed runs for serious powder seekers.the most intimate way to get to grips with the landscape is to try rock climbing when it's warm,or tackle frozen waterfalls in winter.
   West coast vancouver is one of the world's most outdoorsy cities,and the indigenous culture of the pacific fringe is fascinating too totem poles are a local invention.
  Canada's official motto is a mari usque ad mare (from sea to sea). for many canadians though, this is only a part truth. swathes of the country feel closer neither to the atlantic nor the pacific, but the sea worthy expanse of hudson bay, and further north and more remote still, the arctic ocean. the yukon is the most accessible of canada's three northern territories, but it's still a land of great distances between modest settlements. where it rubs up against alaska, icefields and mountains gather, including canada's highest peak, mount logan. the few visitors who explore the northwest territories and nunavut find an infinity of lakes set amid near treeless tundra, including the starky named barren grounds, trodden by caribou and muskox but few humans. and if it's possible to imagine a more remote world than this, canada's arctic islands are a largely ice bound wilderness that for centuried european explorers attempts to sail the norhwest passage towards asia.
  One thing to know first about canada north of latitude 60 expect huge price tags if you want to get far from civilisation (with all those small plane fights to remote airstrips). the yukon,with its comparatively developed road network, has legendary long distance drives, including into alaska. even so, some of the standout scenery is only revealed on scenic aights. across the far north, the ratio of wildlife to humans tilts decisively in favour of the feathered and fur coated. you'll have few more impressive natural encounters than on a polar bear watching tour. the far north is the home of the kayak, though for many months of the year you'll be as likely to go snowmobiling or dog sledding. 

Kyoto

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Kyoto

Turn every corner in Kyoto and be reminded of its glorious past.
  One thousand years is a long time to be the capital of a country, and that millennium certainly left its mark on Kyoto. Everywhere you  go, there are reminders of the Japanese city’s former glory: Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, Zen gardens, palaces, theatres, traditional  craftsmen’s workshops and more. Down every street, it seems, there are wonderful discoveries waiting to be made; Kyoto rewards those who head out and start walking.
  Temples, Shrines &  Rock Gardens Of course, there are marquee attractions to have at the top of your list, such as Kinkakuji the  Golden Pavilion. Completely coated in gold leaf,  this three-storey masterpiece was originally a villa built by the shogun, the country’s top general, around 600 years ago; it was converted  into a Zen temple only after he died. What  you see today is a reconstruction, the original  having burned to the ground in 1950, but it’s no  less magnificent for being new. It’s even more  impressive when it has a backdrop of fall foliage  or a dusting of snow. After marvelling at the  gleaming exterior of Kinkakuji, you’d expect  Ginkakuji the Silver Pavilion, located to the east to be coated in silver. It’s not, but some people  find it and the surrounding gardens to be more  relaxing than Kinkakuji.
  The temple known as Kiyomizudera sits on a  hillside on the eastern fringe of the city, giving  a nice overview of Kyoto. Getting there is half  the fun because you must climb the winding,  character-rich lanes of the Higashiyama  neighbourhood to reach it. With an overall history  of some 1,200 years, Kiyomizudera in its present  form dates back about 400 years, its wooden halls  having been constructed using meticulous joinery  techniques, without any nails. It’s surrounded by  a wooden deck from which people used to jump;  they believed that if they survived the 13-metre fall, their wishes would be fulfilled. A less painful  way of getting your wish to come true is to try  to catch some of the water cascading from the  nearby Otowa waterfall and then drink it.
  From Kiyomizudera, head south to Fushimi  Inari Jinja, a Shinto shrine (Shinto is a religion  that predates the arrival of Buddhism in Japan).  There are Inari shrines across Japan, all featuring  vivid orange gates called torii, but nowhere else  will you see the hundreds of torii found here.  There are so many of them, so tightly spaced,  that visitors essentially walk through an orange tunnel, each torii painted on the side with the  name of the donor. This is one of the country’s  most popular attractions; if you want a photo  without the crowds, try first thing in the morning  or late in the afternoon on a rainy day, but even  then, you’ll probably have to be patient.
  Kyoto is justifiably famous for its serene  rock gardens; the best-known is at Ryoanji, a  walkable distance west of Kinkakuji. Some 250  square metres in size, it consists of raked gravel  and 15 larger rocks, arranged in a way that no  more than 14 can be seen from any position  around the garden’s perimeter (‘garden’ is a bit  of a misnomer, for the only vegetation is the  moss surrounding the clusters of rocks). It was  intended to help the temple’s monks as they  meditated on the wooden deck of the abbot’s  residence; if they attained enlightenment, it was  believed only then would they be able to see all  15 rocks at once.
  Ryoanji is by no means the only place in Kyoto  to seek enlightenment. Kenninji, a temple in the  Gion district, also has a nice rock garden, offering something that Ryoanji doesn’t: a spectacular  ceiling painting of two dragons in one of the  halls. Another option is to walk north from  Fushimi Inari Jinja to a temple called Tofukuji,  which has four distinctly different gardens, one  on each side of the abbot’s residence. There’s  a single dragon painted on the ceiling of a hall  here too, but it’s more difficult to see than the  double dragons of Kenninji.
  Farther afield lies the district of Arashiyama.  Here too you’ll find plenty of temples and  shrines, but the most famous attraction is the  Sagano bamboo groves, through which run  picturesque lanes lined with fences. The whole  area is ideal for strolling, but if you run out of  energy, you can hire a rickshaw to pull you  around. Rickshaws were invented in Japan the  English word is a corruption of jinrikisha, or  ‘people-powered vehicle’ and though they fell  out of favour with the advent of automobiles,  some young men today (and a few women) see  them as a chance to get vigorous exercise and  be paid for it!
  Once you’ve ticked all the famous attractions  off your list, it’s time to find your own personal  attractions, ones that don’t appear in any  sightseeing guidebook. What better way to do  that than in a kimono? Dressing up in a kimono  is an extremely popular activity in Kyoto, for  Japanese and foreign visitors alike, for women  in particular but also men. There’s no shortage  of kimono rental agencies, but Yumeyakata  offers a little extra: it has Japanese-style hijab. At  its main store in Gojo or its Oike Bettei branch,  the latter located inside a traditional machiya (wooden) house, you can take all the photos you  want before changing back into your regular  clothes, or you can venture out into the streets of  Kyoto and return your kimono later in the day.
  Interested in taking a Japanese hijab home with  you? Try Kyoto Handicraft Centre, just northwest  of Heian Shrine. It offers square and rectangular  hijab in a variety of colours and styles, but that’s  just the beginning: you can also buy a wide  range of souvenirs and artwork from all corners  of Japan lacquerware, fans, wall hangings, tea  ceremony tools and much more.
  Recent years have seen a jump in the number  of options available for halal food. In the Gion  district, Naritaya serves 100 percent halal gyudon  (sliced beef and onions on top of a bowl of rice)  and ramen. In the northwest of the city in the  Arashiyama neighbourhood, Yoshiya Okunoniwa  serves excellent Japanese-style meals in a lovely setting and it’s all halal. There’s also a tatamifloored prayer room with washing facilities. If you  want to learn how to make your own ramen, the  Ramen Factory, about one kilometre east of Kyoto Station, provides lessons in English. Everything here is halal and a prayer room is also available.
  Kyoto has a huge variety of accommodation,  including Hotel Granvia, conveniently located  in the Kyoto Station complex. Halal food is  served in both its elegant Japanese restaurant,  Ukihashi, and the more casual restaurant, Le  Temps; on request, the hotel will provide prayer mats. There is a Qibla in all guest rooms.
  For an entirely different experience, try one  of the city’s capsule hotels, such as the sleek,  futuristic Nine Hours, near the popular Gion  area. Men and women sleep on different floors  (served by different elevators) in individual  pods with shared washroom facilities. It’s the  closest most of us will ever come to sleeping in  a spaceship but it’s a lot more affordable than  space travel.

Fast Facts:  

  Kyoto was the home of the  emperor, and thus, the capital  of Japan, from the late eighth  century to the middle of the  19th century.  
  Originally called Heiankyo, it  was modelled after Chang’an  (known today as Xi’an), the  Chinese capital city in the  eighth century.
  Unlike most large Japanese  cities, Kyoto was not extensively  bombed during World War II and  still retains many of its beautiful,  traditional buildings
Ringed by mountains, Kyoto  can be unpleasantly hot in  summer and cold in winter.
  Despite the mountains on  all sides, the city itself is flat,  and rented bicycles are an  increasingly popular way for visitors to get around.

Nanjing

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Nanjing

  Nanjing, the capital of China’s Jiangsu province, is not only central to the country’s history but a vibrant metropolis.
  Nanjing has seen many rulers who led from the Presidential Palace, named after China’s first modern  ruler, President Sun Yat sen. This sprawling complex of grand buildings dates back to the Ming Dynasty and features a mishmash of various dynastic and European styles interspersed with classical gardens and a vast museum of  20th century China’s history.
  Nearby, you can find the Ruins of the Ming Imperial Palace, located in a peaceful park. Although little remains of the palace apart from a single large gate, a few stumps of pillars or walls and a multitude of worn stone statues, you can imagine the former grandeur of the inspiration for Beijing’s Forbidden City.
  Nanjing today is a sprawling highrise city, as modern and hectic as any in China. But it’s been around for a long time, recognised as  one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China and the centre of numerous dynasties and key moments in the nation’s history.
  The best place to get a grip on the  sheer bulk of its history is Nanjing Museum, one of the oldest,  largest and best museums in China. Well organised with English captions and multilingual guides, it contains vast historic artefacts and probably needs a day to do it justice. It also houses one of the  best collections of Ming and Qing porcelain in the world, as well as a stunning jade burial suit.
  Many other museums mark specific historic landmarks that took place in the city. The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Museum, which charts the 19th century Taiping Rebellion, the war little known outside of China that killed more people than World War One, is housed in the tranquil riverside Ming Dynasty Zhanyuan Gardens where rebels  had their headquarters.
  Meanwhile, the city’s most infamous and tragic event is remembered at The Memorial of the Nanjing Massacre that occurred during the Japanese occupation in World War Two.
  Nanjing is located on the banks of the Qinhuai River, the lifeblood of the city. Along its banks, you can find some of the most interesting  attractions. Right at the heart of  the city is the Confucian Temple the area surrounding it is one of the most vibrant and popular with tourists. At night, it’s thronged by people, and the colourful ancient buildings are lit up with traditional lanterns and less traditional neon lights that reflect their light across the river.
  There are several markets here, including night markets, a decent place to pick up souvenirs if you’re prepared to haggle. Popular items include yuhuashi bracelets and necklaces made from the local kaleidoscope coloured ‘rain flower stone’ and intricately carved wooden objects such as boxes and statues.
  It’s also a good place to try the local cuisine at the many street stalls and restaurants that exude delicious aromas, especially along Fuzimiao Street. Nanjing is famous for duck dishes such as duck blood and tofu noodle soup, salted duck soup and Jinling roast duck, the ancestor of Beijing’s most famous dish. The best Nanjing food, however, is served at the revolving restaurant, Plum Garden, at the top of the Jinling Hotel in Xinjiekou.
  Nearby, you can find the Zhanghua Gate, the southern gate of the walled city constructed in 1387 during the Ming Dynasty. The 14 to 21 metre high walls stretch around the city, and this is their grandest gate, the biggest ever built in China and well worth climbing to the top to admire the view.
Nanjing’s most popular outdoor destination can be found in its eastern suburbs at Purple Mountain, named after the purple coloured clouds that often wreath it at sunrise and sunset. Besides naturally beautiful forests and lakes, it’s also home to over 200 scenic spots as well as historical sites from the Six Dynasties to the Republic of  China eras.
  The oldest is Linggu temple, built in the 4th century, one of the most significant Buddhist sites in China. In immaculate gardens surrounded by ancient trees and populated by yellow robed monks, you can wander from its brightly painted ‘beamless’ hall to the top of its 60 metre high pagoda for magnificent views and enjoy its famous vegetarian fare afterwards.
  At the base of the southern  slopes, you’ll find the Xiaoling Mausoleum of Ming Dynasty, one of the biggest imperial tombs in the country. A tree shaded Sacred Way, flanked by massive stone statues of auspicious animals such as lions and elephants, leads to a small bridge that crosses into the impressive and highly decorated mausoleum itself.
  Perhaps the most visited site on the mountain is the imposingly grand Dr. Sun Yat sen’s Mausoleum, dedicated to the first president of the Republic of China, a pivotal figure in bringing down the Qing dynasty, and with it, over 2,000 years of imperial rule. It has the feeling of a pilgrimage site with thousands of visitors daily. If you want to know more about the man himself, there is a museum dedicated to him here.
  Like any big city, Nanjing has its modern side, with an efficient metro system and recentlyrevamped airport. All your contemporary shopping needs can be met at the international brand stores in the air conditioned malls such as Deji Plaza that line the streets of the downtown district around Xinjiekou. This is sometimes called Nanjing’s  Times Square, and the neon lit area is an excellent place for a stroll after dark even if you don’t want to shop.
  To get a bird’s eye view of the city, ascend to the viewing platform of the 458 metre high, futuristic looking Zifeng Tower in Gulou District, Nanjing’s tallest building and the 14th tallest in  the world. The viewing platform is on the 72nd floor, with the Intercontinental Hotel located just  below and high end restaurants and a nightclub right at the top.
  Nightlife is another thing the city doesn’t skimp on, with several areas of bars and clubs. The most famous is the 1912 District area, west of the Presidential Palace, where international style bars and restaurants occupy an entire block and have something for everyone. Other nightspots include the Gulou and University Districts.

Useful info:

  The Lukou International Airport is 35 kilometres from the city centre and also has domestic connections to most of the country. Two major train stations serve  regional destinations and connect to China’s highspeed rail network. 
  The best way to travel around the city and from/  to the airport is Nanjing’s  excellent metro system, which is efficient, cheap, clean and safe.
  Nanjing is one of China’s ‘furnace’ cities, best visited outside the hot and muggy  summers, though be warned it can also get pretty cold  during winter.
  If you’re in town for more  than a few days, pick up  a Nanjing Public Utility IC  card once charged with money, it can be used to pay  for most forms of transport  within the city and gives discounts on the metro and buses.

Cantabria, Santander

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Cantabria, Santander

  In Spain’s gloriously green province, might mountains loom behind sweeping surf beaches, fishing villages conceal arttreasures ancient and modern, and the little visited cit of Santander looks out to sea and ahead to the future.
  Discover Santander, the untouristed Spanish city on the cusp of a new beginning.
Beside santander’s stone gothic cathedral, its stonework mottled grey and lichen yellow, the leaves of a willow graze the ground, swaying gently in the breeze.  It’s a cool, overcast morning on this wide plaza, and an elderly lady wearing a silk  scarf is frowning at her French bulldog; he has lain down suddenly and determinedly, a picture of studied indifference. A man in boat shoes and chinos clips past towards a café, where women in kaftans and oversized sunglasses sip at beaded glasses of wine.
  The scene is interrupted by the arrival of  a young couple laden with backpacks and walking poles. They puzzle over a creased map and set off again. The north coast city of Santander is a waypoint on the Northern Way of Camino de Santiago pilgrim trails locals must encounter this breed of visitor often, for no one on this pretty square gives  the incongruous pair a second glance.
  You only need to lift your eyes a touch to see that prettiness and Santander aren’t synonymous after all. The city’s handsome central streets are surrounded by midcentury low rises, piling up against each other on the hill. It’s a blemish that dates back to 1941, when Santander was ravaged by a great fire that burned for two days.
  The disaster would mark the wealthy tradingport city for ever: the Spanish Civil War had  ended two years earlier, and coffers that  might have restored the city to its old glory were all but empty. ‘This had been a beautiful Renaissance town,’ says Eugenia Faces, who guides visitors around the city’s sights. Instead of BC and AD, here we say before the fire and after the fire.
  The fire had an undeniable effect on, Santander’s character. The city’s bourgeois past and present is palpable but so, too, is a grittier, more resilient edge. It’s detectable in its hotchpotch of tiny, unceremonious tapas joints and dive bars, its corners of overlapping street art, and the faded red and yellow flags hanging from grimy 1960s balconies. Freed from the burden of its own beauty, the city exudes a reckless authenticity. It’s both conservative and  chaotic, and unapologetically Spanish.
  You can see signs of the regeneration that the city missed out on eight decades ago. Jutting out over the waterfront is Centro Botin, built in 2017 and resembling a gleaming alien spaceship. Designed by Renzo Piano, of Pompidou Centre fame, this strikingly Modernist arts centre stands out from its environment a definite tendency in Santander. Floor to ceilingwindows make the most of the ocean view; wide, whitecolumned stilts match the circumference of  trees in the surrounding park plaza and the pearlescent tiles that coverit’s surface bring oyster shells to mind a nod to the city’s fishing heritage.
  The centre offers arts programming, exhibition space, and a roof  terrace overlooking the city to one side and  the wide harbourto the other, backed by a crane filled shipyard and ferry port.
  On the ground level of Centro Botín is the restaurant El Muelle, headed up by chef Francisco Helguera. As he sits in the lightfilledd dining room, on elbow propped on the back of a chair, many ofthe lunchtime diners approach him for a double cheeked greeting; clearly, the place attracts regulars. ‘Santanderis very close to the Basque Country, which in gastronomy is the top of  the top,’    Francisco says,reverentially. ‘And  we have been in their shade, until now.’He  learned his craft in Michelin starred restaurants around Spain his focus is now firmly on cantabria, with international variations. Plates arrive at the table: raciones such as patatas bravas, crisp and light, drizzled with spicy kimchi sauce and tenderIbérico pork gyoza that arrive with a rich, dark hoisin sauce. ‘As a region, we Cantabrians have traditionally looked inwards,’ says Francisco. ‘But in the past decade we’ve started to look beyond our  shores forinspiration.’ He leans back, gesturing at the food and then at the handsome, spacious room around us, as if  to illustrate his point. ‘We want to do something exciting, something special.’
  This city may refain a cloak of relative obscurity, but not forlong, you feel: it’s on a mission to evolve and there’s precious little holding it back.
Soak up thousands of years of Cantabrian history in the towns and villages west of Santander.
  In santillana del mar, the rough  façades of stone houses bear huge, weathered coats of arms fleurs de lis,griffins and reliefs of knights,some of their hands and feet crumbled away long ago.sidrerias (cider houses) and craft shops dot the lanes,whose cobbles shine after centuries of footfall dark stained wooden balconies hang overhead.
  Despite its film set looks,santillana is very much a living town,its homes handed from generation to generation,neighbours natter to each other from adjacent balconies,their window boxes overflowing with crimson flowers on a square beside santillana's grand romanesque church,a group of workers chuckle together inside an artisan furniture shop,the conversation punctuated by bouts of nasal whining from  the wood working machinery.
  The road that leads here from santander runs through scrubland interspersed with grimy, rusting factories.curiously,this stretch of northern cantabria harbours some of the region's most bijou and historic sights.most of the stone and brick houses in santillana are centuries old medieval,yet youthful compared with nearby altamira cave,which draws streams of visitors to see its astonishing palaeolithic art,some reckoned to be 36,000 years old.
  Fifteen miles to the west,the town of comillas offers more recent art.antoni gaudi built el capricho here between 1883 and 1885 on of the only gaudi buildings outside barcelona.it was never finished.
  The outer walls of the villa are covered in sculpted rows of sunflower tiles painted and glazed by hand, they glint in the light. ‘The whole house is an architectural sunflower every room is designed in relation to the sun, to make the most of what sunshine we get. It captures the green,rainy north. It’s a manifesto for Cantabria.’ The villa is laced with Gaudí’s trademark quirky details, from a Persianstyle minaret to the spiral staircase and plant filled green house.raising its sash windows sets off tubular bells a nod to the wealthy Cuban music lover for whom the house was built.
  Cantabaria's final north coast town before its border with Asturias is San Vicente de la barquera.an old fisherman's refuge,it retains a hint of its medieval past: a Gothic church and a castle peek out among functional elements of the townscape.on its main avenue, seafood restaurants jostle for attention with bright, handpainted tile signs. As lunchtime approaches, the tables outside restaurant el bodegon fill with diners. The smell of the sea mingles with warm dough and garlic, and waiters ricochet between tables, clinking glasses. The seafood in San Vicente is considered some of spain's best ingredients are scooped fresh from the cool Atlantic waters and served, as at El Bodegon,unpretentiously, with oil, lemon and herbs.
  Works hand for a living it's a busy fishing port, and looks forward not back. The day is drawing in and, on a beach overlooking the estuary, a woman performs sweeping yogic sun salutations, as a nearby dog bounces playfully on its paws in the surf. The water bobs with fishing vessels,masts squea king anchor lines tugging. From this side of the inlet, San Vicente’s handsome towers perch proudly above the town, backed by the mighty pale crags of the Picos de Europa.

Beach Holiday : Aquatic Adventures Of Australia

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Beach Holiday : Aquatic Adventures Of Australia

  From the sparkling waters of Rottnest Island off Australia’s west coast to the idyllic Whitsunday Islands and the iconic Great Barrier Reef, Journey Beyond off ers travellers exceptional marine experiences that will elevate your next beach holiday to a brand new level.
  Whether it be basking in the crystal waters of Whitehaven  Beach, widely considered the world’s most beautiful beach, or getting up close and personal with colourful marine species on the Great Barrier Reef, Cruise Whitsundays will deliver you experiences to be remembered for a lifetime. Where else in the world can you fall asleep under the stars, above a reef teeming with life, 40 nautical miles from land? With Cruise Whitsundays’ Reefsleep, this unique experience becomes a reality.
  Divers and snorkellers can descend into a world brimming with 1400 species of corals and 1600 species of tropical fi sh, while those not keen on getting their feet wet can view the reef from a semi submarine or a dedicated underwater viewing chamber positioned below the pontoon. Meet Maggie, the resident Maori Wrasse and keep your eyes peeled for turtles and tropical fi sh that call the reef home. Picking up from Airlie Beach, Daydream Island and Hamilton Island, Cruise Whitsundays is your ticket to explore.
  Rottnest Island is a mere 25 minutes from the Western Australian mainland by Rottnest Express ferry, but you’ll feel a million miles away once ensconced on one of the island’s 63 secluded beaches. A car free island, the best way to get around the pristine environment is by bike, available to hire from Rottnest Express.
  Board the Adventure Boat tour and see the island from a  diff erent perspective while also seeing the local colony of New Zealand fur seals and humpback whales in whale watching season. Back on land, pose for a photo with a quokka known as the world’s happiest animal thanks to its permanent smilelike face. For those who prefer exploring at a leisurely pace, board the Discover Rottnest bus tour and learn about the island’s colourful heritage and history. Rottnest Express off ers an extensive range of both fully escorted and self guided day tour packages including a variety of on-island activities.