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Canada's Rocky mountains are jaw-dropping beautiful. They rise straight upwards from the glacier-fed lakes of brilliant blue, or on either side of the Icefields Parkway, the 300km highway that links Jasper and Banff National Parks. September makes for a great time to explore here, as you get autumn leaves - plus the chance of some early snow. Truly magic !
Like the Eiffel tower or the Leaning tower of Pisa, the shapes of these iconic formations feature so strongly from repeated viewing, they are one of those "I can't believe I'm actually here" experiences. Director John Ford filmed many of his westerns amongst these dramatic sandstone buttes in the 1940's & 50's including Fort Apache, Stagecoach, Rio Grande, & The Searchers. Since then they have featured in so many films - 2001, Easy Rider, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, National Lampoon's Vacation, Back to the Future III, Forrest Gump, Mission Impossible II, & The Lone Ranger (to name but a few) that they represent the definitive mental image of the American West. Located on Navajo land on the Arizona/Utah border, they can be accessed on US route 163.
Germany's Romantic Road is one of Europe's most wonderful drives - a destination in itself ! One of its highlights is Rothenburg ob der Tauber, considered by many to be the most perfect medieval walled city in Europe. It's the ideal setting for every fairy tale the Brothers Grimm ever wrote & has been used as a film location for films from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows. Many German towns have a small section of original medieval buildings, but Rothernburg ODT remains entirely as if transplanted from the middle ages, complete with its fortified walls and many watch towers. In the Middle Ages, when Berlin & Munich were just wide spots in the road, Rothenburg was Germany’s second-largest city, with a whopping population of 6,000. That Rothenburg is so well preserved owes much to the centuries of depression that followed the devastating combination of the 30-years war and the Black Death which left the town poor and nearly empty, Without any money or power, Rothenburg stopped growing, preserving its 17th-century state.
By the way, there are several “Rothenburgs” in Germany. Make sure you are going to Rothenburg ob der Tauber (on the Tauber River); people often drive or ride the train to other, nondescript Rothenburgs in error
For my 50th Birthday I ran away to Norway ! Partly to escape, but mostly I wanted to do something truly memorable & put another tick on the old Bucket List ! Experiencing the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) was something I had dreamed of doing for many years. So as January is one of the best months to witness this phenomenon I packed my warmest clothing and set off on a 12 night "Hurtigruten" coastal voyage of Norway. Whilst the Northern lights was the reason for the trip, I soon discovered that the winter scenery was also spectacular & well worth the trip on its own. When the lights did show themselves - it was the cherry on the top. I'd never been to Europe in winter, so was unsure how I would cope with the temperatures. However I found with the right advice & right clothing it was no problem at all, and I look forward to further Northern winters and the different travel opportunities that they can offer
Route 66 stretches from Chicago Illinois to Santa Monica California, over 4000 kms thru 8 US states & 3 timezones. To do it justice you'd need to allow approx 4 weeks, which is a bigger commitment than most people can afford to make.
For a more manageable taste of the Mother Road I recommend the Arizona section of 66 which runs for over 400 miles, and includes the longest uninterrupted section of old highway on the entire route.
A Must-stop along the way is the Wigwam motel in Holbrook Arizona
A real blast from the past ! How many times in your life are you going to have the opportunity to sleep in a motel room shaped like a wigwam !
Plenty of great towns attractions and scenery line Arizona 66 itself, including Seligman, Hackberry general store, Winslow & a 50,000 yr old Meteor crater, but with some major “must-sees” such as the Grand Canyon only a short distance from the Mother Road, you’ll need to allow plenty of time for diversions!
The 1970's BBC Television series Colditz, was the first adult show I was allowed to stay up to watch in my youth. The good guys didn't always win. They might work for months on an escape plan only to be caught 10 kms from the castle & be thrown into solitary (after a good beating). Later I read the books by Colditz escape officer P.R. Reid During the Cold war, Colditz castle sat on the wrong side of the Iron curtain and fell into serious disrepair. When I discovered a few years ago that it had been restored I was keen to see it for myself. On discovering that not only could you visit but you could have a guide show you many of the tunnel entrances and retell stories of the escapes right where they occured - well I was beside myself to say the least ! This 1000 year old fortress was in the heart of Hitler's domain, 650 kms from any frontier not under Nazi control. Its outer walls were 2 metres thick & the cliff on which it was built had a sheer drop of 75 meters to the river below. Considered impossible to escape from, Colditz castle became the new home for "incorrigible" Allied officers who had repeatedly escaped from other camps. However, rather than discouraging those sent to Colditz , it transpired that confining so many officers together that had been bold enough to make previous escapes, meant Colditz became a breeding ground for some of the most inventive escapes of the war. Tunnels were dug, fake uniforms were constructed, even a glider was made in the attic ! By the end of the war over 30 men had made succesful "home-run" escapes plus over 150 unsuccesful attempts Leipzig is the closest main town. Whilst Colditz can be reached via train to Leipzig then catching a local bus, I would recommend hring a car as its a 1 hr drive from Dresden rather than 3-4 hhrs by train/bus
Prague is often called the "Paris of the East" or the "City of a thousand spires" It's Old town is largely pedestrianised & is picture-postcard pretty everywhere you look. Walking is the best way to see the Old town, and as it is flat & compact the walking is easy.
One of Prague's most scenic spots is the Charles Bridge lines with the statues of saints. During the day the bridge heaves with tourists, hawkers, buskers & artists painting caricatures. It’s hard to feel the atmosphere of the place due the crowds, so best time to visit is either early morning or (my preference) dusk, as the towers & Prague castle are illuminated with night lights.