As 2014 came to a close I found myself reflecting on the yearlong memories of hiking and exploring every nook and cranny of a steeply dangerous canyon trail, watching from a cold summit at more than 10,000 ft. above sea level the sun rise as it spreads the gossamer glow on the earth and sky, strolling the cobblestone streets of a city to explore its centuries-old architecture and historic sites, or experiencing gastronomic adventure at some memorable foreign restaurants.
For 2015 there is a choice to revisit the classic favourites or to discover somewhere new worthy of your tourist coin. In alphabetical order the following places await you to fulfill your dream vacation.
1. Amsterdam, the capital of The Netherlands and known as the “Venice of the North” because of its 165 canals criss-crossed by over 800 bridges, flourishes in history, charm and beauty. Experience two of the many things aside from clogs and tulips, Anne Frank and Van Gogh Museums that Amsterdam is internationally famous for – windmills and cheese.
2. Cartagena, the “Emerald of the Caribbean” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site historic colonial city of Colombia on the Caribbean coast of South America noted for its pastel-coloured buildings, Fort El Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, the world historc city of Las Murallas, Las Bovedas, and abundant fresh sea food. Colombia is the largest producer of emerald gems in the world.
3.Cuba, the largest island country in the Caribbean with a long history of Spanish colonialism later combined with capitalism and communism, is one of the top destinations for Canadian snowbirds. Now you can explore the Castro country aboard the Louis Cristal Cuba Cruise with stops in Holguin, Cienfuegos/Trinidad, Santiago and Punta Frances on the Isle of Youth, and the capital city of Havana. A trip to Havana is a must and a hop-on hop-off double-decker bus tour with an all-day pass gets you familiar with the city. Explore the historic old town, La Habana Vieja, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or the oldest square, Plaza de Armas, or the gigantic Plaza de la Revolucion where political figures like Fidel Castro have addressed the crowds. Visit the Ernest Hemingway Museum or stroll along the Malecon where the locals fish, chat or just stare out to the sea. You can spend a day at Varadero of white beaches with palm trees just two hours away from Havana.
4.Las Vegas, the American city that has earned the slogan “What Happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, is known for its mega casino-hotels, world-class entertainment and plentiful buffets. Your stay in Vegas will revolve around the Strip of iconic neon lights and famous sights. Check out the Freemont Street Experience’s light show. While in Vegas drive southeast for about 40 miles (48 kms.) toward Boulder City to visit an engineering wonder, the Hoover Dam, that impounds Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S. Plan also a quick road trip to stretch your legs at the Red Rock Canyon.
5.London, a diverse and exciting city with so many must-sees and activities, has been always magnetic. You’ve never seen it all in London so it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been to England’s capital city where there’s always something new. See London from above on the giant Ferris wheel “London Eye”; visit the famous botanic gardens at Kew; enjoy a musical or classic play at the West End; browse/shop at flagship stores on Oxford Street or at Harrods; visit for free the best museums and galleries such as the British Museum, Natural History or Science Museum; tour the Tower of London, the Westminster Abbey or the St. Paul Cathedral; see the changing of the guard at the Buckingham Palace; or mix with the celebrities at Madame Tassauds. The list is endless!
6. Morocco with African, Arabian and European influences and nine (9) UNESCO World Heritage Sites attracts 10 million tourists a year to visit its ancient Roman and Islamic points of interest. No trip to African country is complete without a visit to old city of Marrakesh with the “Jamaa el Fna” as its centre. And don’t miss Casablanca!
7. Paris, the “City of Lights”, is a gorgeous metropolis and immensely cultural. You’ll always love the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysees, the Moulin Rouge, and the Notre Dame! Be sure to visit Chateau of Versailles about 20 kms. southwest of the city.
8. Quebec, the pride of Canada is “So Europe, So Close”. Discover 400 years of history in Old Quebec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you can stroll the only walled city in north America north of Mexico and its cobblestone streets. You’ll love Chateau Frontenac, the world’s most photographed hotel, or enjoy window shopping at Petit-Champlain District or taking a walk along the Dufferin Terrace high atop Cape Diamond overlooking the St. Lawrence River. You’ll also find horse-drawn carriages, street entertainers, singers, and artists.
9. Rome, the “eternal city” of Seven Hills and capital of Italy, has been a center of cultural, political and spiritual power for some 3,000 years. Rome contains more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country in the world. You’ll marvel at the wonders of Rome from the Pantheon to the glory of the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican and the St. Peters Cathedral.
10. Saint Petersburg , the 2nd largest city in Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea, is nothing but “sheer grandeur” in its superlative! You’ll be dazzled by the five-domed Church of Resurrection (Church on the Spilled Blood), by the Hermitage and by the Catherine Palace.
Travel tips: Book flights on Tuesday as it offers travellers the greatest likelihood of finding a good deal.