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The best places to go this autumn (Travel)

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Carthage International Festival Until August 16

With its vibrant mix of Islamic and Mediterranean cultures, its many archaeological treasures and the delightful colonial ambiance of its coastal capital, Tunis, it’s not hard to see why Tunisia has been ranked among this year’s top tourist destinations. One of the country’s gems is the ancient city of Carthage on the outskirts of Tunis. According to legend, it was founded by the Phoenician queen Dido in 814 BC, and later formed the hub of the Roman Empire in Africa.

Visit this historic city before August 16 and you’ll catch Tunisia’s biggest art event, the International Carthage Festival, which attracts artists from all over North Africa, Europe and the Arab world. Now in its 46th year, the festival takes place in Carthage’s magnificent Roman amphitheatre and features a diverse line-up of theatre, music, ballet and circus events. Highlights this year include performances by the Moroccan singer Samira Said, the Italian star Eros Ramazzotti, the Rovesnik Ballet from Russia, the Iranian tenor Shahram Nazeri and Cirque Mena from France. Not to be missed.

Tickets to the Carthage International Festival tickets can be booked atwww.festival-carthage.com.tn. Prices vary.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe August 6 to 30

Every August, Scotland’s capital is rocked by an artistic tidal wave as comedians, theatre groups, performance art troupes and musicians flood the city for the world’s biggest art festival – the Edinburgh Fringe. Everywhere you look there’s a cultural event taking place, whether it’s street performers wowing the crowds along the Royal Mile, comedians raising laughs at innumerable spots around town, or world-class drama unfolding at the Traverse, perhaps the festival’s most reliable venue.

The atmosphere is electric, with thousands of enthusiastic audience members rushing around in search of top-rated shows and undiscovered gems. This year’s must-sees include Penelope by Irish playwright Enda Walsh at the Traverse, last year’s Comedy Award-winner Tim Key at the Pleasance Dome, and Carl Heinrich Graun’s opera Montezuma at the King’s Theatre, which opens the high-brow Edinburgh International Festival (August 13 to September 5). Stay at the new Hotel Missoni, designed by the celebrated fashion label and boasting one of the best Italian restaurants in the country, Cucina. It’s perfectly situated for festival-going, just off the Royal Mile.

Tickets to the Edinburgh Festival are available at www.edfringe.com andwww.eif.co.uk. Double rooms at Hotel Missoni (www.hotelmissoni.com; 00 44 131 2206666) cost from £130 (Dh729), including breakfast and taxes.

Reykjavík Culture Night August 21

Iceland has had its fair share of problems of late, with implosions in its financial sector sending the country into bankruptcy last year – and explosions in its volcanic sector sending a great ash cloud right across European airspace earlier this summer. What it needs right now, clearly, is a really good party to lift its spirits.

On August 21, the capital Reykjavik celebrates its annual Culture Night. Last year, 100,000 people – nearly one-third of the population of this small North Atlantic island – showed up to enjoy a programme of music performances, art exhibitions and food events, topped by a spectacular fireworks display before midnight.

This year promises to be just as good, with the added bonus of a favourable exchange rate making this once-expensive country quite affordable. Splash out on a room at the grand Hotel Borg overlooking the city’s prettiest square and make a reservation for dinner at Fish Market (www.fishmarket.is; 00 354-578-8877), a restaurant that serves the best of Iceland’s distinctive cuisine. Smoked puffin anyone?

Double rooms at Hotel Borg (www.hotelborg.is; 00 354 551 1440) cost from €233 (Dh1,093), including taxes.

Coral Lodge 15.41, Mozambique August

August is one of the best months to visit Mozambique, thanks to perfect tropical weather – clear skies, lots of sun – and excellent opportunities for big-game sighting if you’re in the market for a safari. For those in search of some peace and quiet on the country’s beautiful coastline, seek out the newly opened Coral Lodge 15.41 near Ilha de Mozambique, the former capital.

The location, on a peninsula within the privately owned Varanda nature reserve, is so remote that the Dutch couple who run Coral Lodge were obliged to bring electricity to the area. The hotel is modern and luxurious but it retains an authentic feel, and much attention has been paid to design – the roofs of the 10 villas have been thatched in the local style, and furniture is handmade from coconut wood sourced in Zanzibar.

You can’t go to the Mozambique coast without taking a dip in the warm blue-green waters of the Indian Ocean. Diving, snorkelling, fishing and whale-watching can be arranged from the hotel, which also has spa facilities and an infinity pool. Top off your day with a romantic dinner at the hotel’s Reef restaurant on the very tip of the peninsula, with food prepared by the Zimbabwean chef Tessa Bristow.

Villas at Coral Lodge 15.41 (www.corallodge1541.com; 00 258 266 600 030) cost from US$425 (Dh1,561) per person per night, including taxes. This soft opening rate is valid until December 11 and includes all meals, drinks, all non-motorised activities, a guided tour of Ilha de Mozambique and EVAC medical insurance.

Cassa Hotel New York September

In Manhattan, where architectural drama is never in short supply and skyscrapers jostle for attention in a crowded skyline, you need something pretty spectacular to make heads turn. “Spectacular” is the word for the new construction in midtown Manhattan, conceived by TEN Arquitectos in collaboration with CentraRuddy, which houses the just-opened Cassa Hotel and Residences. It’s not just the gleaming white tapering exterior that exudes the wow-factor: it’s also the striking lobby with its black volcanic walls and the suspended catwalk leading to an oasis-like garden beyond.

If you want an indication that the people behind Cassa are serious about their luxury, head straight for the Dean & Deluca snack bar fitted into each of the 166 rooms and suites. The hotel’s Restaurant 1945 will open later this year. For shoppers and theatre-goers, the location, on 45th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues – just a stone’s throw from Times Square and the big shows on Broadway – couldn’t be better. Go in September, when the summer heat is abating.

Double rooms at Cassa Hotel NYC (www.cassahotelny.com; 001 212 302 8700) cost from $303 (Dh1,113), including taxes.

The Oitavos, Cascais From September 1

The once-sleepy fishing village of Cascais, on the Portuguese coast 20 minutes north of Lisbon, has developed over the years into a sporting and gaming paradise. Inland from its spectacular beaches, which draw surfers from far and wide, you’ll find a world-class golf course and Portugal’s Formula 1 circuit. For sightseers, the stunning hilltop village of Sintra is just a few kilometres away.

Soon Cascais can add the five-star Oitavos hotel, opening September 1, to its long list of attractions. Beautifully designed and set between pine forests and windswept sand dunes, the Oitavos is the first hotel built within the Quinta da Marinha Original estate which, on top of all the other sporting options on offer, features an equestrian centre and a Health and Racket Club. Sleepy golfers need walk only a few steps to reach the Oitavos Dunes course, ranked 88th in the world by Golf Magazine.

What else? A spa and treatment rooms, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and, of course, the wonderful local cuisine, with ultra-fresh seafood from Cascais’s atmospheric fish market.

Double rooms at the Oitavos (www.theoitavos.com; 00 351 21 486 0020) cost from €375 (Dh1,757), including taxes.

Venice Film Festival September 1 to 11

Home to the oldest film festival in the world, now in its 67th year, Venice has long been overshadowed by its French neighbour Cannes in terms of importance and star power. But in 2010, a lacklustre year for Cannes, that dynamic looks set to change.

This September, all the excitement centres on the Lido’s grand Palazzo del Cinema, where Quentin Tarantino will lead the international jury. The programme has yet to be announced but the films tipped to premiere here include Sofia Coppola’s Elsewhere, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, and Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter. Expect to see the likes of George Clooney (for Anton Corbijn’s The American) navigating the city’s waterways.

Stay at the newest five-star hotel on the Grand Canal, Centurion Palace, situated in the 19th-century Palazzo Genovese, a former convent. It’s a classic-contemporary hotel, luxurious but without the usual Venetian clichés, and its location in the peaceful Academia quarter, near the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, means you’ll have a quiet refuge when the movie buzz gets too much.

Tickets to the Venice Film Festival are available at www.labiennale.org. Double rooms at Centurion Palace (www.centurionpalacevenezia.com; 00 39 041 34281) cost from €330 (Dh1,555), including taxes.

Seoul Design Fair, Banyan Tree Club & Spa September 17 to October 17

For anyone with an interest in design and architecture, Seoul is the place to go this year. Thanks to its design-conscious mayor Oh Se-Soon, Korea’s capital has been named World Design Capital 2010, which means a flurry of exciting new projects, exhibitions, parties and, from September 17 to October 17, the annual Seoul Design Fair. A rising star to rival expos in London and Milan, this event attracted nearly three million visitors last year. Notable guests will include Daniel Liebeskind, who is building Seoul’s new business district, a massive skyscraper hub. Seek out Zaha Hadid’s spectacular Dongdaemun World Design Plaza, scheduled for completion next year.

To avoid design overload, stay 10 minutes from downtown at the brand-new Banyan Tree Club & Spa, located over 21 floors in the former Tower Hotel building (designed by Kim Swoo Geun, the architect of Seoul’s Olympic Stadium). The spa comes equipped with numerous pools, saunas, therapy rooms and fitness centres – a haven of peace amid the capital’s bustle.

Tickets to the Seoul Design Fair are available at sdf.seoul.go.kr. Double rooms at the Banyan Tree Club & Spa (www.banyantree.com; 00 65 6849 5888) cost from 439,820 South Korean won (Dh1,356), including taxes.

Royal Mansour, Marrakech September to October

Not long ago, King Mohammed VI of Morocco signalled his intentions to transform the 11th-century Berber town of Marrakech from a hippie hangout into a millionaire’s playground. Now, with the opening of his palatial new hotel within the fortified walls of the ancient medina, he is making good on those intentions.

Royal Mansour is just one of a fleet of luxury hotels opening in Marrakech, alongside offerings from Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons, but it is by far the most breathtakingly grand. The king has spared no expense on his pet project – as the prices make evident. The hotel’s three-metre-high walls encircle 55 imperial riads (traditional open-courtyard residences), each attended by a butler and a small army of staff. The 2,000-square-metre Riad d’Honneur is yours for just $42,920 (Dh157,640) per night. Up above, roof terraces boast private pools and views of the nearby Atlas Mountains. In addition to the 232-square-metre spa surrounded by a moat, and the library whose hand-carved cedar roof retracts to create an astral observatory, there are three restaurants overseen by the Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alléno, formerly of Paris’s Le Meurice. This is a hotel fit for a king.

Double rooms at Royal Mansour (www.royalmansour.ma; 00 212 529 80 8080) cost from 17,050 Moroccan dirhams (Dh7,216), including taxes.

Vermont Late September to early October

Where on earth would you find an annual festival dedicated to foliage, and visitors who travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to engage in what the locals refer to as “leaf peeping”?

The answer is Vermont, the rural north-eastern US state that manifests the picture-postcard image of American autumns. Densely forested, the state becomes spectacularly colourful in September and October, with canopies of blazing orange, canary-yellow, purple and deep crimson leaves as far as the eye can see.

The best way to appreciate the colours is to hire a car and ramble around, taking in Green Mountain National Forest, Lake Champlain and, for ice-cream lovers, the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury. Drop by the Northeast Kingdom Foliage Festival, hosted in some of the state’s prettiest villages, from September 27 to October 2.

For a taste of real Vermont hospitality, book into the Essex Culinary Resort & Spa in Burlington, which recently transformed itself into a luxury retreat, complete with treatment rooms, saunas and a giant outdoor hot tub. Be sure to book ahead, as you won’t be the only one coming to peep at the leaves.

Double rooms at the Essex Culinary Resort & Spa (www.vtculinaryresort.com; 00 18 02 878 1100) cost from $184 (Dh675), including taxes.

India’s Golden Triangle by private plane October

The “Golden Triangle” of India, linking the cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, is one of the world’s greatest sightseeing itineraries.

Among Delhi’s many treasures are the colossal Red Fort, the Jama Masjid mosque and the atmospheric Chandni Chowk. Agra boasts the Taj Mahal, while Jaipur is overlooked by its magnificent Amber Fort. The downside of taking this tour are the long, dusty road journeys from city to city. Greaves, the UK-based tour company, has found an elegant solution to the problem: it has chartered a private Beechcraft Super King Air B200 plane to whisk travellers between destinations.

A seven-day itinerary contains all sorts of extra treats, such as a cycle rickshaw ride around Old Delhi, a horse-carriage ride to the Taj Mahal, and a cooking demonstration and gem therapy in Jaipur. All accommodation is provided by the Oberoi group of hotels. Go at the end of the monsoon in October, when everything is beautiful and green and tourists are thin on the ground.

Soaring the Golden Triangle with Greaves (www.greavesindia.com; 00 44 207 487 9111) costs from $5,100 (Dh1,8734) per person (based on four to eight people travelling together) and includes taxes.

Source: http://www.thenational.ae

1 comments:

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