The CD-Traveller team share their favourite 2012 travel experiences and look at the top spots for 2013
2012 highlight: LA
Admittedly LA with its bright lights, big hotels, freeways, smog and super sized shopping malls isn’t for everyone. Me? As Randy Newman once sang: I love L.A!
The City of Angels boasts brilliant beaches and fabulous theme parks, plus outstanding museums, a slew of trendy bars, live music venues, and fine restaurants – all patronised by a perma tanned clientele. What’s more it is – despite what the detractors say – surprisingly easy to explore without a car: the new Metro seven day pass, valid on all buses and trains, has helped ease the gridlock and made it a doddle to reach iconic sights such as the famous Hollywood sign and Walk of Fame.
LA has long loomed large in my imagination: now – having been fortunate enough to visit twice in 2012 – it fills a piece of my heart…
2013 tip: Montreal
Compared to cities such as New York and Paris, Montreal often gets overlooked – like a middle child overshadowed by its siblings. But in my mind, cosmopolitan, cultural, characterful Montreal is one of the world’s greatest cities.
As a city break destination, Montreal has everything: an amazing eating out scene (Montreal has more restaurants per capita than any other city in North America), a scenic waterfront, stunning stone buildings, magnificent cathedrals, cobblestone streets, one off shops and cafes selling flaky almond crossiants and coffee (Montreal does French better than France, in every possible way).
It’s also a destination that knows how to let its hair down: this is a place of parades, festivals and year round raucous concerts. And with Montreal set to explode onto the world stage next summer with the release of Steven Spielberg’s Montreal shot sci-fi thriller Robopocalypse, it won’t be long before the secret is out.
2012 highlight: The Pembrokeshire coastline path
The Pembrokeshire coastline path opened this year. I was lucky enough to be down there as seal pups were being born in some of the rocky inlets. It’s easy to forget some of our attractions and be drawn to ones abroad but how can you not be awed by travelling over the Brecon Beacons to Merthyr on the A470 when the rain of the previous day is cascading down the hillsides? Or the sights out of the window of the train, as you travel the last stretch of the line to Kyle of Lochalsh from Achnasheen?
2013 tip: Georgia and Croatia
I continue to tip Georgia on the Black Sea, as one of the great holiday experiences. It is fast-changing and has a self-satisfied confidence that says it will become one of the leading tourist destinations in the world. Croatia also has to be a hot tip for 2013. Not just Dubrovnik but Zadar, the mountains and the quieter coastline – especially as the country joins the EU next July. Myanmar (Burma) could be the surprise destination of the year. As international acceptance has increased this year, the offerings from tour operators grow. CD-Traveller will be there in February exploring the region.
PATRICIA CLEVELAND PECK
2012 highlight: Grenada
Who could resist a small island surrounded by turquoise sea with miles of sandy beaches and an all-year-round warm temperature? Add to this an area of mountainous rain forests, a bustling capital described as the prettiest town in the Caribbean and the friendliest people you could hope to meet and you have the prefect holiday destination.
It is indeed an ideal place to chill out on the beach, rum punch in hand but there are plenty of activities on offer: sailing, scuba diving, snorkelling, hiking and the thrilling ‘river tubbing.’ As a spice island the food is excellent and the flora magnificent. It has also suffered devastating hurricanes so desperately needs tourist – so go and enjoy with a clear conscience.
The View from the Shard will undoubtedly be the London visitor attraction when it opens on the 1st February 2013. Situated in the top two storeys of the Renzo Piano’s glass building which, at 310m is the highest in Western Europe, it offers an unrivalled in-the-round view of London extending over 40 miles. I enjoyed spotting buildings such as Southwark Cathedral and the Monument which must have been so iconic in their day now tucked in amongst London’s big modern edifices.
£25.00 per adult and £19.00 per child is quite a lot to pay for a visit but you can stay as long as you like and there is a ground floor exhibition planned – so for something as unique it is worth it. It is cheaper to book in advance but don’t – if the weather is poor you’ll see nothing.
ANNA MARIA ESPSÄTER
2012 highlight: Värmland, Sweden
Despite traveling to many places near and far, the return to the county and country of my birth, proved the travel highlight for me in 2012 – after 23 years away it was time to take a fresh look at it. This quiet backwater in western Sweden, two hours from Oslo, has always attracted artists and writers to its deep forests and scenic lakeshores and there’s still a thriving arts and crafts’ scene. More international visitors are finding their way here to enjoy the great outdoors in summer and some enterprising individuals have set up elk and beaver safaris. Then there are canoe trips on the numerous lakes or hiking in the nature reserve of Glaskogen. It’s still rustic, but far prettier than I remembered.
2013 tip: South Korea
South Korea has a lot going for it at the moment – World Expo 2012 at Yeosu, Jeju Island voted one of the ‘New7Wonders of Nature’ in 2011 and, not least, playing host to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Then there’s the 5,000-year history , no less than 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a cuisine so mouth-watering it’s worth crossing mountains and oceans to sample. I hope to make my third visit to South Korea in 2013 to eat my way around the country from capital Seoul up north, to second city Pusan, on the south coast.
Anna Maria Espsäter