It’s early morning to the west of Bamiyan in the highlands of central Afghanistan. There is fresh snow on the mountains, and a crowd is huddled together in the cold air. A couple of pickups are mounted with heavy machine guns, and uniformed men hover, clutching their rifles. We are waiting.
A whistle is blown, the pickups set off, and the crowd scatters. We all run.
Sometime around 2003, I received an invitation to visit Afghanistan – I’m still not sure how it reached me, but supposedly it was from the Minister of Tourism. I didn’t go, and over the subsequent years, I assumed it would never happen. Too far, too difficult, too dangerous. Always somewhere else to travel instead. But in late 2015, a few clicks on the internet led me to talk of a ‘Marathon of Afghanistan’ – the first ever attempt to stage such a thing in such a place…
I’m not absolutely certain why we decided to add on a side trip to Panama when we visited Costa Rica, but in many ways it was the highlight, despite the money shots of the sloths and toucans.
The essential ingredients were a vibrant modern city with a historic Spanish quarter and a modern airport and airline making it the best hub for the region, just as much wildlife as its westerly neighbour, and, of course, the Canal. Although we didn’t sample them, there are also beaches and islands to die for.
If you are looking to make a difference while on holiday this summer, Uganda Lodge are looking for volunteers to help with various projects, from working with children at the school to aiding in the new medical facility. Such opportunities can be a great way to make friends, get fit, and become immersed in a new culture while seeing a new part of the world and benefiting local communities.
Opportunities last from a few days – great for combining with gorilla trekking, say – to longer term projects, and profits from staying at the lodge are ploughed back into the community projects. For more information visit ugandalodge.com
From Mardi Gras and exploring the historic French Quarter to cocktail themed tours there is something for everyone in New Orleans, a place where centuries old architecture is the backdrop for all ventures. Here are 10 reasons why visitors should visit in 2017.
1) It is easier than ever to get there…
From 26th March, 2017 British Airways will launch a four times a week service from London Heathrow to New Orleans. The route will be operated by a three-class Boeing 787-8, with return fares starting from £599. This service marks the first direct flights from London to New Orleans since the early 1980s.
2) The city is a culinary adventure
In a city with more than 1,400 restaurants to choose from, New Orleans offers a variety of cuisines. From foodie festivals, street food, cooking schools and restaurants galore, there are endless options available that are sure to take taste buds on a culinary adventure. Local chefs and restaurants are constantly evolving, utilising local and seasonal ingredients that reflect the uniquely diverse culture of New Orleans.
It is said that in New Orleans, music echoes from every corner. The city is the birthplace of jazz and a mecca for gospel, R&B and ultimately, the rock and pop many love today. Musical magic is alive on the streets and in the clubs of New Orleans. Witness an impromptu live performance on Royal Street, experience unbelievable live musical performances from intimate venues on Frenchmen Street to places like the Smoothie King Center.
4) Mardi Gras
For a few weeks in the early part of each year, dozens of brightly festooned, themed Mardi Gras floats carrying krewe royalty, celebrities, and masked members lead marching bands and riders on horseback, flambeaux carriers and others through the streets of New Orleans. They bestow beads, doubloons, and other prized trinkets to millions of revellers witnessing “the greatest show on Earth.”
Carnival season officially begins January 6 every year and continues through Fat Tuesday, which falls on the day before Ash Wednesday. This year’s parades will take place between January 6th and 28th February, 2017. Click here for the 2017 schedule.
5) A lot more reasons to party!
Celebration is at the core of the New Orleans’ experience, and to get a true taste of the city, every visitor should join in one of these unforgettable festivals. Whether it is music, food or the arts one loves (or all of the above), they’ll want to join in as New Orleans lets its hair down and declares, “laissez les bons temps rouler!” (let the good times roll). Visit this page for a calendar of events. Many of these are free – French Quarter Fest, Satchmo SummerFest, Po-Boy Preservation Festival, Wednesdays at the Square and, and of course, Mardi Gras.
6) Free things to do
New Orleans offers a plethora of free activities to choose from. Walk among the centuries-old oaks of City Park, picnic in the picturesque Audubon Park or enjoy views of the Mississippi River at Woldenberg Park. Stroll along Bourbon Street, Frenchmen Street and Fulton, where jazz pours out onto the street, or duck into a club for the full experience. Many clubs don’t even charge a cover. Explore New Orleans neighbourhoods and their connection to jazz with six self-guided Jazz History Walking Tours. Click here for a list of free things to do in New Orleans.
7) New Orleans will host NBA All-Star 2017
New Orleans has been selected to host NBA All-Star 2017. The 66th NBA All-Star Game will be played on Sunday 19th February, at Smoothie King Center – home of the New Orleans Pelicans. This will mark the third time New Orleans has been the site of the league’s annual midseason celebration, having previously hosted the event in 2008 and 2014.
8) Visit the River Road’s plantation homes
The River Road is an easy jaunt from New Orleans. This is where visitors will find several majestic plantations including Oak Alley, San Francisco, Laura, Destrehan, Houmas House and more. These homes will sweep visitors back in time with period furnishings, folk art and craft demonstrations, lush gardens, landscapes and more.
9) Cocktails and brews
In New Orleans, a great drink is just as important as a great meal. New Orleans’ signature drinks are almost as famous as the nightlife bars and hot spots that make them, check out this list for a list of New Orleans cocktails and where to enjoy a Sazerac, Hurricane or French 75. There are cocktail walking tours which tell you the history of the city whilst you taste some of these classics and you can even bring your drink from one bar to the next in a “cup to go”.
Beer enthusiasts should not miss the 8th annual NOLA on Tap Beer Fest. The one-day event, taking place in New Orleans City Park in September is the largest event of its kind in the region and allows beer aficionados to sample more than 400 local, regional and nationally homebrewed and microbrewery beers.
For a comprehensive list of museums please visit this page.
11) Lagniappe (A little something extra)
New Orleans is the perfect gateway to the rest of Louisiana and the Deep South, where visitors can enjoy beautiful state parks, a plethora of historic sites, take airboats tours in the bayous, and get a closer taste of the Cajun culture, and so much more.
Visit this page for a 3 days itinerary of New Orleans.
Aged about 10 years old, I was lying on a sofa that had been moved into the middle of my parents’ living room so a major spring clean could take place. I was exempt from working as I was recovering from measles. The radio was on and the subject being discussed was kibbutzim in Israel. I announced that is where I was going to go when I grew up. I was perplexed that everyone thought that funny and ridiculous. 12 years later, a four year contract I was in came to an end. I was in my early 20’s and this was the mid 1970’s. None of my friends were interested in travelling but I had not forgotten my 10 year old vision.
Morocco has so many hidden gems and it has been a popular location for the filming of many movies because of its vast and interesting terrain. It is located in Northern Africa bordering the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean and it is also known as the Kingdom of Morocco. With a subtropical climate and extreme heat in Summer it might be a good idea to travel during Spring to avoid the heat waves.
There are so many hidden gems in the country and a variety of things to do including mountains, deserts and beaches which is why we have made a detailed 7,000-word insider’s guide to the 100 best things to do in Morocco, a country of many hidden gems. From the Erg Chebbi dunes to the snake charmers in Marrakech, Morocco has something to offer everyone.
Nothing spoils a vacation or foreign trip quicker than that sinking feeling or realization that something is wrong and you have left yourself exposed to a personal dilemma while you are a long way from home.
It might be easier to travel the globe than ever before but amidst all the excitement of planning for a new adventure on foreign soil, you also need to pay attention to how to stay safe while travelling.
This guide looks at how to prepare for your travel and how to reduce the odds of facing a worst-case scenario that could not only threaten to ruin your vacation but leave your personal safety at risk.