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Adam Jacot de Boinod
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24 travel destinations

London, United Kingdom Travel January 9 @ 12:55pm

Here are my 24 destinations about which I can write with confidence and affection. I can add descriptive details of accommodation, restaurants and the most enjoyable attractions and excursions along with my personal finds and favourites.

Istanbul
Western fascination with the exoticism of this Ottoman world is whetted by the notion of calligraphy and kilims, eunuchs and seraglios, caravanserai and hammams, belly dancers and dervishes, concubines and harems, sultans and viziers, Turkish delights and smoking hookahs. It’s really the Bosphorus that’s the true founder of Istanbul where big oil tankers and small boats mesmerically share the shipping lanes: some chugging along, others seemingly serene. The Dolmabahçe, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are all delightful but my find is the mosque Sokullu Mehmet Paşa Cami’I where the silence amplifies the décor.

Exmoor and the Peak District
Two of Britain’s best loved and unspoilt National Parks
For decades I have been coming to Exmoor. My revisits never seem a repeat. It’s all about the innocence, the unspoilt landscape and the sense of yesteryear. Out on the moors there’s a sensuory overload. The hills roll, the valleys swoop down and the moss-backed trees and neatly-trimmed hedgerows all boast an ancient history of their own. Exmoor is truly a walker’s and horserider’s paradise especially along the trails beside the streams. Equally special is the Peak District, in the Derbyshire Dales, where the limestone peaks take on such dramatic and contrasting shapes when seen from different angles with its distinctive network of dry stonewalls. The local customs are quaint and driven by superstition. Each feature has a name such as Lover’s Leap and Reynard’s Arch along with biblical references to Jacob’s Ladder, the Twelve Apostles and the Heights of Abraham. It reminds me of Exmoor’s Watersmeet though the valleys are craggier and the water calmer.

Andalucia: Cordoba, Granada and Ronda
Undulating mountain slopes, cork and olive plantations, oaks and fir trees. Whitewashed villages with window grilles and narrow cobbled alleys. This is Andalucia whose very name conjures up an alluring sense of exoticism and adventure. The Islamic artistry, the bull-fighting and the flamenco. And then there’s the Finca La Donaira (www.ladonaira.com) a special haven for those attracted to walking, riding, hiking and wellness.

Fiji and Tahiti
Cruising on the Blue Lagoon in Fiji to the secluded villages of Yasawa and the white sanded Mamanuca Islands before staying on the fertile Taveuni and the luxury island Laucala (www.laucala.com). In French Polynesia the Paul Gauguin vessel visits the Society Islands that include the jagged volcanic mountains and dense greenery of Mo’orea and the deep blues of Bora Bora.

San Diego
A surfing hotspot. A border town. A naval base with the world’s best zoo and a Sea World to savour. Sunny San Diego enjoys the country’s most perfect weather and ‘America’s Finest City’, as the country’s eighth largest calls herself, has all these things and more. Enjoy it as a pit stop on a classic Californian coastal road trip or treat it as a city break with a difference. I have done both time and again across the last thirty years.

The Caribbean: Antigua and St. Lucia
Antigua, ‘home to 365 beaches’ and indeed ever since Admiral Nelson spent three years here, the island has had a strong nautical tradition with yachting luring many to her shores. Not to be missed for its historical and visual feast and seen from the vantage point of Shirley Heights are the classic looping bays of the English Harbour. I hiked up through the neighbouring hills to pick at the medicinal qualities of the differing luscious plants that were fighting for light. From the Pitons to Pigeon Island, St. Lucia effuses beauty and fecundity, small coves, gorgeous sandy strands and steep hillsides. It’s perfect for luxury hotels, beach holidays and boat trips.

Cuba
A unique island alive with the cigars, the rum and the samba and fascinatingly time-warped in the 1950s. The scenic, cinematic capital Havana includes the chrome cars and the Malecon esplanade as well as the Nacional hotel so wonderfully redolent of yesteryear glamour with a wall of fame boasting Frank Sinatra, Walt Disney and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Sri Lanka
It’s so uplifting to be part of this harmonious triangle of mankind, animal and nature. And, of all the tropical islands I have visited, Sri Lanka has the headiest mix of exoticism as I drive through stunning, diverse landscapes. One moment there are hills and jungle, the next paddy fields where strikingly thin and brilliantly white ibis birds peck at worms and appear in blissful harmony on the backs of their neighbours, the buffalo.

Mauritius
Mark Twain wrote “Mauritius was made first, and then heaven and that heaven was copied after Mauritius”. The island is often talked about in the same breath as the Seychelles and the Maldives. However Mauritius is the one they call the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”. Staying across the four corners of the island I record the joys of a beach and boat holiday with luxury accommodation offering fresh fish and fruit. With many excursions and temples, waterfalls and markets, it’s just such a beautiful island.

Costa Rica
‘Pura vida’ is the local expression of their life force. The landscape of Costa Rica and her biodiversity is simply magical: thick lush rainforests, with their dense foliage, uncrowded pristine beaches, steep mountains and majestic volcanoes and waterfalls, the perfect backdrop for the sheer wonder of the colourful birds and animals from the fishy, to the furry and the feathered. I felt immersed in the natural wonder of the many birds and animals.

Japan (Tokyo + Kyoto)
These two cities best illustrate respectively Japan’s modernity and ancestry. In Tokyo there’s the technology of Akihabara, Mori Art Gallery, Team Lab, the cuteness of Takeshita Street’s schoolgirls, the Shibuya Sky Observatory, the Bullet Train and Mount Fuji. In Kyoto it’s all about the Maiko and Geisha in their kimonos and the tea ceremonies, the Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, the Golden Pavilion, Nijo-Jo Castle and the Imperial Palace and for a breather from the city centre the classic walks along the Philosopher’s Walk and Arashiyama’s bamboo forest.

Japan (Kumano region of Wakayama)
Named “Japan’s No. 1 travel destination for 2020”, the Kumano region is home to three of Japan’s most sacred ‘grand’ shrines and linked by a network of five different ancient pilgrimage routes. The walking itineraries vary in length from several hours to several days. It’s one huge dense forest of giant cedar trees stumbling down to the Pacific Ocean. Tourism has now surpassed her timber industry and while it’s in another world from, it’s accessible to, both Osaka and Kyoto.

Rome
Catholicism is only one of the four elements of the heady mix that Rome so surely boasts; the others being the Ancient Roman Empire, the High Renaissance and Baroque buildings and fine art and the era from the mopeds and ice cream of the Dolce Vita to modern day Rome. Many wonderful attractions compete across these seven hills. Not to mention watching the resident Romans: exuberant, bold and egoistic, be they immaculately-dressed policemen delivering instructions or shopkeepers with their arms raised high in exaggerated gesticulation.

Paris
Returning to Paris always adds something new to my soul, my visual appreciation, my taste buds and my understanding of what it means to be French. As soon as I arrive I always pop straight out for a short walk beside the riverbanks of the Seineas it’s such a fun city to experience by foot. I tend to visit the lesser known museums: Delacroix's house, the Jacquemart-Andre and the Marmottan along with the favourites of the bateaux mooches that effortlessly pass the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame.

The Italian, Swiss+ Austrian Alps
In Italy’s Dolomites, Switzerland’s Nendaz and Austria’s Fuschlsee, the hills and lakes are alive with the sound of silence. Not only is it the same sun that shines on the Mediterranean beaches but, instead of trash, crowds, traffic and hazzle, there is the refreshing contrast of space and relaxation of Europe’s highest mountains. I know which of the two holidays I find the more restorative.

The Italian Lakes: Como, Garda and Maggiore
Where better to listen to the sound of bobbing boats and rippling shores, watch the watercraft and witness what the Italians do best: ‘dolce far niente’, take pleasure in relaxing. With their imagination and eye the Italians really know how to make the most of often small, steep terrain. The lakeside towns have a pleasing similarity with long waterfront boulevards dotted with cafes, bars, churches, coloured houses and little marinas. Lake Garda is calm one day, choppy the next. It’s 200 feet above sea level and the steep, rugged cliffs are in the north while the softer hills are southwards. There’s picturesque Salò, the ever-popular Sirmione peninsular and the mesmeric Isola di Garda. As for Lake Como it’s where the Duke of Windsor holidayed with Mrs. Simpson, Verdi wrote La Traviata and George Clooney has his villa at Laglio as hosts of celebrities are drawn like moths to this visual and sensual delight.

Venice
I defy anyone who enters, be it by train, bus or boat not to be transfixed by the sudden cinematic entry into a foregone world on arrival. No cars, just boats, water and imposingly beautiful buildings. I am passionate about Venice having been there at least twenty times and want to tell tourists how to avoid their own kind and enjoy the city away from the ‘yellow line’ from the station via the Rialto to St. Marco). It’s a city with many of my favourite churches, hotels, attractions, walks, hidden treasures, boat trips and the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. Watch the Venetians go about their daily lives, seafaring, garrulous and gesticular.

London
I have lived here for 40 years and record changes in that time especially in my neighbourhood Notting Hill since the collapse of the Berlin wall and the success of the eponymous film. In reassuring contrast is the permanency of London’s many layers as a city. My themes include the luxury goods shops of St James’s London (Berry Bros, Fortnums, Turnbull and Asser and Lock and Co.) / Lords Cricket ground; where to stay, where to eat, the major attractions and my personal finds and favourites.

Lisbon
Undoubtedly the European city of the future for tourists, a hidden gem to be enjoyed before the money takes over. Themes include the city's history, the vegan revolution, the gorgeous Lapa hotel, the boat trips, the ceramics museum, the trams and tuk tuks, the monastery, where to stay, where to eat, where to have coffee and eat those custard tarts.

Madeira
For all Europeans seeking ‘a short haul’ sunny respite from the six months of climatic gloom, Madeira is by far the best bet over the Canaries and Cyprus. My themes include the island’s history and geography; Ronaldo and the fortified wine; Funchal the capital with her glorious Market; Monte the pinnacle village and the delights of Belmond the grand hotel whose guests include Churchill and Thatcher.

French Riviera
This area has more museums devoted to individual artists than anywhere in the world. These include the studios, houses and museums of Bonnard, Picasso and Renoir and Matisse’s masterpiece chapel. It also more than holds its gastronomic own with the luxury restaurants including La Colle sur Loup Alain Llorca in Vence; L’Amandier and Les Rosées in Mougins; La Closerie and Le Figuier de Saint-Esprit in Antibes.

Verona and Parma
Verona, the setting for no less than two of Shakespeare’s plays is mercifully unspoilt with its rosy marbled Roman arena, striking, striped Duomo and picturesque, quiet neighbourhoods with colourful houses and laundry-drying balconies. Parma is the centre of the ‘Food Valley’ a perfect cradle of nourishment extending between the Apennine mountains and Italy’s largest river, the Po. It has recently been titled ‘City of Gastronomy’ being the cradle of the distinctive produce Parmigiano Reggiano, Parma Ham and Culatello di Zibello, along with its own range of wines and balsamic vinegar. This year it will enjoy its role as Italy's Capital of Culture in which it will host a multitude of concerts and exhibitions from July to December.

Puglia
The paradise of providence. That’s how I feel about Puglia in Spring. So fertile for its dry, hot climate. So uplifting with its masseria, the whitewashed farmhouses with their singular but solid shapes and spacious courtyards. Puglia has many local attractions and historic towns of Ostuni, Alberobello, Locorotundo, the latter two dotted with the vernacular ‘trulli’. My favourite is Polignano a Mare where the sunshine draws the Italians out to play and boats luxuriously lap the azure waters.

Tuscany
To escape fully I need to change climate, language, culture and critically the centuries. The centre to the city of Florence and the banks of the river Arno are mercifully free from any modern architecture and the silhouette of the Duomo is hearteningly offset by a complete backdrop of unimpeded skyline. Siena has her dipping ‘campo’, the famous piazza where the two annual ‘palio’ are staged, surrounded by dramatic steep cobbled streets and harmonious ‘Siena’ brown buildings. San Gimignano has her medieval towers in full prominence and where tower once meant power amongst the rival households vying for status. But the real glory of Tuscany in in her countryside: her light green vineyards, sunburnt wheat fields and long rows of trees comprising of upright cypresses, tall poplars and parasol pines.
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