Most visitors to France go to Paris or the south coast. However, the Bordeaux region is just as attractive for a leisurely holiday. More so for wine lovers since Bordeaux wine hails from this region.
Left largely untouched by the second world war, Bordeaux has buildings which are outstanding architecturally. Due to its proximity to the sea, its relatively mild weather is ideal for wine cultivation. With hundreds and thousands of hectares of vineyards the region produces huge quantities of Bordeaux wine.
There are many cave complexes on the Dordogne Valley prehistoric humans lived in fairly elaborate communities.
On the way back to Paris, you can visit Rouen, where Joan of Arc was martyred. Rouen cathedral spire was the tallest structure in the world till late 19th century.
I am sure now there must be Uber or Lyft cabs in Bordeaux wine country.
For someone whose travels were limited to South Asia and Europe, Japan was different. I cannot describe the difference in words, you have to go and experience it. A mixture of ancient culture seamlessly juxtaposed with modern technology. The hustle of Tokyo and the relatively relaxed way of life in the ancient capital Kyoto.
Tokyo is the largest city in the world and it shows in the crowds and also the efficiency with which the city operates. Shinkansen or the bullet train form the backbone of intercity travel. Mt. Fuji, a mere hour away by train (and a long trek up of course) beckons in the summer months.
Kyoto will mesmerize you with its beautiful temples and awesome food.
Being on the frontier of the Occident and the Orient, Istanbul is one of the architecturally richest cities in the world. Examples of Christian and Islamic architecture abound in the city which will keep you busy for a few days or a lifetime.
Ephesus, an ancient Greek city, near the present day town of Selcuk boasts of magnificent antiquities and a carefully restored library building. Driving east will get you to Pamukkale, a site of amazing beauty with white calcified terraces covering a whole mountain side.
Cappadocia, with it’s Martian relief, is a out-worldly experience. Massive fairy chimneys and hillocks carved into living communities has to be seen to be believed.
Asterix went to Rome only once, and he limited his stay to the great city. But when in Italy, Rome should be only one of the destinations to visit. Rome will keep you busy with its Coliseum, the Roman Forum next door and of course the Vatican. Do not miss the Sistine Chapel. If you are there on a Sunday, the Pope addresses the audience on St. Peter’s Square at noon.
Head south to the commercial city of Naples, which is adjacent to two archeologically magnificent ruins of Pompeii and Heraklion. Most of the tourists head to the larger site Pompeii, but the quality of the antiquities at Heraklion is much better. A drive up to see the crater of Vesuvius with the some coming out is another high point.
A day’s drive north will get you to Pisa, which is famous for a tower. Florence is an hour away and is home to some of the best architecture, paintings and statues from the Renaissance period. While Venice is a big tourist draw, Padua nearby is very beautiful too. And also where Petrucio tamed the shrew.
Greece, the home of Western civilization. The name conjures up images of architecture of great historical significance – or idyllic islands with miles and miles of soft sandy sunny beaches.
Greece is full of archaeological riches and a lifetime is not enough to fully appreciate them. But a few days of historical touring gives you a snapshot of the most important stages in its history.
Athens is the home to the Parthenon which is the biggest draw. Other sites in Athens do not disappoint either. A couple of hours drive will get you to Delphi from where the oracle used to prophesise. Do not miss the ancient site of Olympia. You can also run in the main stadium to relive the experience of the athletes thousands of years ago.
Many tourists may miss the monasteries of Meteora. That would be a mistake. The geological marvel of giant pillar like rocks coming out of the ground and monasteries built on top evoke images of monks living austere lives for thousands of years.
Home to some of the greatest archaeological treasures in the world, Jordan is an important destination in understanding the Roman and early Christian history. Flying into to Amman, you can take a half day tour of the awe inspiring roman ruins of Jerrash followed by Ajloun Castle which is nearby. Another couple of hours from Amman will take you to the Dead Sea, where a dip is the thing to do. You can visit the baptism site of Jesus Christ which is next to the West Bank border with Israel. Expect to see some unsmiling border guards as you touch the waters of the river Jordan.
A drive south from there will take you via the Wadi Mujib which is one of the most spectacular canyons in the world (after of course the big daddy of them all). The drive south will take you to Petra the jewel of all archaeological sites that you may have seen till now. Expect to be astounded.