Offbeat destinations for your next vacation
If you’re tired of visiting those oft-repeated destinations, then here are a few options you could consider that are unusual and yet bring out all that a true holiday represents…
PANORAMIC TRAIN RIDES
Our first sojourn will be to Zermatt in Switzerland. Where a classic train journey awaits you…
Despite its status as a world-class resort Zermatt still remains a quaint Swiss mountain village, with chalets, old half-timbered houses, restaurants and shops all showcasing window boxes spilling over with colourful flowers. The Matterhorn, a sharp, pyramid-like peak that is also one of the most frequently climbed mountains in the world --- stands guard over the tiny hamlet. But the highlight of your holiday must be the trip from Zermatt to St. Moritz --- one of the greatest train journeys in the world --- aboard the Glacier Express. Called the `slowest fast train in the world,’ because it averages around 36 km/h during the seven-and-ahalf hour journey, the Glacier Express runs along 272 kms of narrow-gauge track that is punctuated by 291 bridges and 91 tunnels!
The landscape outside is so rich in nature that even a sceptic would believe in God! Feast your eyes on those peaceful alpine meadows; lush, green mountain forests; clear mountain streams and valleys. With panoramic windows to catch the drama outside, dining cars that come complete with wood panelling and brass fittings and even especially designed wine glasses that prevent spilling during the steeper parts of your journey --- what more could you ask for?
From the magic of the mountains to the mysteries of historic castles. Yes, it’s Scotland that showcases all this and more.
We begin our journey at Aberdeen, Scotland’s thirdlargest city. But our trip is different because we will be on a rather unusual Castle Trail. So if you like history then this will be your cup of tea!
Let’s start our journey with a visit to Drum Castle – a wonderful example of a late 13th century keep with an adjoining Jacobean mansion house and later additions of Victorian lairds. Drum is home to a beautiful rose garden and some lovely woodland trails. Wander around taking in the beauty of the portrait gallery and the Georgian furniture before you head off to Crathes Castle with its intriguing round towers of overhanging turrets.
The next stop on the trail is Craigievar Castle --- fairy-like and incredible. The edifice exemplifies the best of Scottish Baronial architecture. Stop at Kildrummy Castle, which is in ruins today, before you go to Leith Hall. If you like looking at old China, furniture, tapestry and the likes, you’ve place. In addition, the house has some marvellous gardens, stables, ponds, countryside trails et al. Definitely worth a visit.
Onward to Tolquhon Castle, before you come across a home that has a wealth of historic furnishings, paintings, embroidery and other such items of interest. This is Castle Fraser, which is one of the `Castles of Mar’ and goes back to 1575. Its Great Hall is used for concerts and its parkland provides you with the opportunity of taking woodland walks.
Alas, these are just an aperitif of the heritage trails on offer. Aberdeen is also the start of the Whisky trail -----
From Scottish castles and beautiful countryside to nature in its most spectacular form: fauna. Our destination this time is Johannesburg and our visit is to a game park. Yes, a photographic safari is what we are about to undertake.
Make no mistake, a safari is not just getting into some form of transport and buzzing along viewing the animals. It’s much more and no, it does not have to have just the basic amenities like a tent in the open air where you feel insecure with every breath you take!
Our venue is the MalaMala a lodge in the Sabi Sand Reserve. This is the oldest and most historical private game reserve in South Africa and the first to make the photographic safaris. Every aspect of the MalaMala Main Camp is designed to appreciate and enjoy the view of the surrounding wilds. Pathways wind their way along the perimeter of the camp to reveal individual ochre colored units tucked into the greenery which flanks the Sand River. Massive trees and rolling green lawns are filled with birdsong, with the occasional antelope or elephant which seeks the succulence of greenery. The camp is unfenced – an oasis in the middle of the bushveld. where a typical day will include the morning and late afternoon devoted to game drives, walks and meals and the night will belong to more drives to see the wildlife.
End your trip will end with a few days in Cape Town where you can chill out and enjoy the big city lights --could you ask for a more memorable African experience?
THE MOTHER OF THE WORLD
Once known as the ``Mother of the World,’’ Cairo lives comfortably between its glorious past and the modern present. And talking about its past - nothing can ever prepare you for your first sight of the pyramids. Whatever you’ve read, whatever pictures you’ve seen, pale into absolute insignificance once you see the pyramids up close. No trip to Cairo is complete without seeing the Sphinx. Carved out of living rock and is 241 feet long and in parts 65 feet high. And this cat-like creature which is carved out of a single block of stone is so awesome that it almost leaves you in open-mouthed wonderment.
Cairo is like India – exotic, dusty, and as chaotic but also as beautiful.. The Egyptian Museum is a must visit. It showcases some of the most wonderful artefacts and ancient relics that include items from Tutankhamen’s tomb like his death mask made of solid gold.
The city is awake 24x7 --the streets are crowded, the horns blaring, and the merchants selling their wares. Visit Coptic Cairo (Masr al-Qadima). Here you’ll find most of Egypt’s churches. Similarly visit the many mosques like the Mosque of Sayyidna al-Hussein, one of the most sacred Islamic sites in Egypt. Other sights include the Citadel, home to Egypt’s rulers for 700 years, the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan --- the finest piece of Mamluk architecture in Cairo and the Mosque of Qaitbey, whose exquisitely carved dome is a must-see.
And if you come to Egypt how can you not take a trip down the Nile. It will be an experience you will never
Glacier express on it’s voyage from Zermatt to St. Moritz Photographers at the Sabi sand reserve
Night lights of Cape town The Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt
Drum Castle and Craigievar Castle (inset right),