Springfield, Oregon was recently confirmed to be the real life small town inspiration for the Simpsons. You won't find any bright yellow people here but you will find Springfield museum where you can find out about the social history of the town. This includes mention of the rivalry that existed with near neighbour Eugene - better known to Simpson's fans as Shelbyville. You can also pick up a guide to the main street of the town which points out some gems including the archetypal railroad station and a lovely art deco Buic dealership.
Google map: bit.ly/WGpShR
The little town of Volcano, sits in a bowl-shaped valley, in the heart of California's Gold Country, at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In the mid-1800's, when the town was established, gold miners thought it was the remnant of a volcanic crater. It wasn't, but the colourful name stuck.
Volcano is registered as a California Historical Landmark, with a population of around 115 people. One of the town's most popular attractions is the four acre farm of Daffodil Hill. Every spring 300 varieties of daffodils carpet the farm's rolling hills. People come from miles around to picnic and stroll through hundreds-of-thousands of golden blooms. Though privately owned by the McLaughlin family, there is no charge to visitors.
This part of the world is popular with outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs and wine lovers.
Jerome is a small town some 20 miles out of Sedona between Prescott and Flagstaff, and a real hidden gem. The town is what is left of the 4th largest city in Arizona, now there are only about 450 people living here, many of them artists and musicians. It is known as "Americas Most Vertical City" as well as "the largest ghost town in America". We didn't happen to see any ghosts but can vouch for the fact that there are some steep hills. We ate the best burger we had ever had at a place called the Haunted Hamburger, which is so much more than a burger joint and had us grinning with delight!
Immune to the sniggers of visitors, the small town of Intercourse, Pennsylvania, is in the centre of “Amish Country.” Black Amish buggies trot along the roads, often with a gaggle of small, bonneted children peering from the back, while stalls selling fresh produce abound along the roadside. The Amish shun modern machinery, or even electricity, so horses and hand-drawn ploughs are a common sight in the fields. Like other towns in the area, it boasts ‘all you can eat’ Amish and Mennonite restaurants where you can indulge in limitless helpings of wholesome, traditional cooking; leave room for tooth-numbingly sweet desserts like ‘Shoo-fly pie’. Passing tiny, one roomed schoolhouses, you can see children clad in lace bonnets, pinafores and dark, knee length dresses playing traditional playground games in the schoolyard. Staying in the Red Caboose Motel, a collection of old railway carriages in nearby Strasburg, we awoke each morning to perfect stillness and silence, broken only by the sound of threshing being done by hand in the fields beyond.
Mamallapuram: surfer paradise, backpacker loungeville, and home to Unesco-listed 7th-8th century rock carvings.
The Arujuna Penance is set back from the road, unreachable to greasy, corroding tourist hands (a good thing when you consider that the Five Rathas and Shore Temples have become play parks for many tourists, and in the case of the furthest shore temple, a lavatory). You can stand and gaze at this terrific scene of gods and animals and make up your own stories for ages, or read the Archaeological Survey of India's website.
Although carved thirteen hundred years ago, the figures are still fresh, like naive art. I loved the monkeys sitting off to one side, as well as the cat lecturing his mice and the snake (gods?) falling through the Ganges. Ignore the touts and "guides' and just enjoy it for its own sake.
The other great thing? It's free.
Considering they were built over fourteen hundred years ago, and are situated on the shore of the feisty Bay of Bengal, it's an achievement that the temples are still here at all. (I wonder how many tsunamis have washed over them?) Ignore the moaning ninnies who go on about the carvings being indistinct and badly eroded: yes, they are to an extent, but they are still beautiful structures with a stunning backdrop.
The Shore Temples cost a non-Indian 250 rupees to visit (10 rupees to Indians), but this gets you into the Five Rathas too (make sure you go on the same day). The surrounding area is reasonably clean and free of litter, but why is the guard more concerned with people walking on the grass, than peeing in the shrine at the back of the furthest monument?
Go early to avoid the relentless heat and crowds.
Veterans of roads less travelled will not mind the one hour ferry crossing of the Pentland Firth to the Royal Burgh of Kirkwall, capital of the Orkney Archipelago. Those in a hurry can take the flight from Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen (connections to London). The city’s architecture tells of a grand Norse past. The formidable red and yellow stone St Magnus Cathedral dates from the C11th and is one of Scotland’s finest. Those favouring earlier times will find tours from Kirkwall of Orkney’s ancient Neolithic sites, the greatest concentration in all Europe. Autumn is the time to visit in particular for nature lovers when the whole archipelago thrives with migratory birdlife, which can be seen on walks along wild and sometimes stormy headlands, or on organised boat tours. In the evening the harbour is the place to be with a good mix of bars and friendly island locals. Whiskey lovers will be interested in Kirkwall’s Highland Park Distillery, the northernmost distillery in the world.
Google map: bit.ly/POIHvy
Tucked away in a corner of the Max Euwe Plaza is a fascinating free museum, unique in the chess world, with a vast archive where you can play a game with the hosts while drinking coffee. Dr Euwe was Holland’s greatest player and a member of the Dutch Resistance. A recently donated chess board unearthed in a German attic depicts the white pieces as a strong heavily armed World War Two German army while the weaker black pieces are armed with mere hand grenades. Carved into the frame of the board are the names in chronological order of the conquered nations. Interestingly, the last name to be engraved is England. A short tram journey away is the ‘flea market’ in the old Jewish quarter which is not far from the Verzetsmuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum) where a chess set, handmade secretly in a safe house, is on display but this time the pieces show a different view of the war. The white pieces wear the soft caps of the Dutch Resistance, the black pieces the helmets of the invading army. The chilled October air on the canals serves to heighten the poignancy of these two museums.
Max Euweplein 30a, 1017 MB Amsterdam
+31 20 6257017
Plantage Kerklaan 61-A, 1018 CX Amsterdam, Netherlands
+31 20 620 2535
Google map: bit.ly/VUAA4X
The Asamkirche is a small and highly ornate church, alongside the original home of the two brothers who designed it, in Sendlingerstrasse, in the old centre of Munich. It was built initially as a private church between 1733 and 1746 by the Asam brothers who were obliged (quite rightly) by the church authorities to open it for public worship.
It's a short walk from Marienplatz, in the old city centre, and is an essential item on any visit to Munich. The interior of the church is an extreme example of late Baroque (or Rococo?) design, with curly columns, statues and carvings climbing up the walls and attempting to gain a foothold on the ceiling; painted decorations of all kinds and inscriptions. The high altar offers the climax to the entire extravaganza.
The church was carefully restored between 1975 and 1982. It is unique.
I attended a two-hour organ recital there on my first visit to Munich a few years ago. The pews naturally face forward, towards the altar; the organ however is at the back of the church. As a result of facing the altar for two hours I was obliged to study every detail of it. I think I can still draw the entire thing from memory.
Sendlinger Straße 32, 80331 München, Germany
Google map: bit.ly/PkW1M6
This is a beautiful village on the Charente river, which Francoise 1st said was the most beautiful river in France. Add to this Le Chateau de la Rochefoucauld which is stunning and dominates one end of the village and at the other end is the 12th century Eglise Saint-Medard which contains a magnificent sculpture by Germain Pilon entitled Mise au Tombeau. Between the two is the rest of the village with a working water mill boutiques and restaurants. There are places to stay, places to eat and its not far from Angouleme or Poitiers.
The Alte Pinakothek is one of three world class museum/galleries in close proximity to one another in Munich. The collections here range from the Middle Ages to the end of the Eighteenth century (later work is to be found in the other two museums). The range of work is extensive and includes wonderful examples of paintings by the Old German masters of the Renaissance, such as Cranach and Durer, and Italian and Netherlandish artists of the same period. Each succeeding century is represented by terrific examples from Western European art. For the record, other World art is shown in museums and galleries elsewhere in the city. The Alte Pinakothek is a very large building and is beautifully designed but don't try to do it all in a morning. You'll have very sore feet and a tired back! Decide to tackle one period of art and maybe go back for more on another occasion. One more thing, wear soft-soled shoes! Everyone else seems to, and if you don't you'll clack around the place on the ceramic tile floors.
Tallin, the jewel in Estonia's crown, is worthy of a visit in the autumn, for it's never ending magic. The incredibly beautiful buildings, silhouetted against the autumn skies can take your breath away when looking westwards from the numerous vantage points along the compact old city walls. Towers, domes, turrets all glow with the colour of the sunset skies. Eat outside around the old square, wrapped in the fleeces and sheepskins provided, under heaters, and watch the magic of the old town light up in front of your eyes, while eating a hearty stew. Stroll around the ancient streets and alleyways to cosy basement bars, fires blazing, while picking up beautifully made Estonian gifts on the way.
Kyoto is beautiful in October, when palace and temple gardens are aglow with the blaze of autumn. It is also when the Jidai Matsuri (Festival of the Ages) takes place - a feast of incredible colour and elegance, involving 2,000 participants wearing costumes from the Heian to the Meiji periods. The procession starts at noon, heading from the Imperial Palace to the Heian Shrine, but don't wait until then. Go to the palace early in the morning when it's quiet and watch the performers getting ready. The 'samurai' are happy to chat and pose, and you can snap a close-up of ladies in the beautiful and complex kimonos of the Imperial Court.
The Jersey Shore is a great place to visit from nearby New York - you can get there in under an hour on the ferry. Forget the gambling hub of Atlantic City, and what you've seen on reality TV shows, the Shore is also the home of the drive-in movie and the knickerbocker glory. Explore the lovely small towns scattered along the coast, from Wildwood in the south, with its two-mile boardwalk, 50's 'Doo-Wop' architecture and sweeping beaches, to Long Beach Island with romantically named towns such as Ship Bottom and Loveladies. My favourite place is Asbury Park. You don't have to be a Bruce Springsteen fan to enjoy the boardwalk, clam bars, pinball museum and jazz clubs, but if you are, then there's the extra attraction of hoping Bruce might turn up and play an impromptu gig at one of the town's rock venues such as the Stone Pony.
Great selection of food and wine at reasonable prices on the top floor of the monument. Outside and inside seating with the very best panoramic views of Rome for free. Relaxing seating and cosmopolitan atmosphere. Location is between Ancient Rome sights and Renaissance museums. There is also a new sky lift (small charge) to the very top, which is worth a look.
Piazza Venezia, 00186 Roma, Italy
+39 06 678 0664
Google map: bit.ly/PyWPaU
A beautiful remote peninsula on the west coast of Scotland. Great views north of Eigg, Rhum and Skye and south across Loch Sunart and out to Mull. Take a walk along the beach from Portuairk to Sanna Bay, or the round trip from picturesque Castle Tioram along the Silver Walk then over the top of the hills on the way back. When the weather is clear, go up Ben Hiant to see the lot. Plenty of wildlife: eagles, deer, otter, and birds in the natural oak woods.
Viking remains have been found here, there is a famous volcanic geological feature and the element Strontian was first discovered in the local mines.
Go to Salen Hotel for drinks, and the local community cafes in Kilchoan and Archaracle when the weather closes in. And there is the lighthouse at the end of the peninsula too.
Google map: bit.ly/Stz8Bv
The most westerly point of mainland Britain, about an hour from the Corran Ferry south of Fort William.
Salen, Acharacle, Highlands and Islands PH36 4JN
Google map: bit.ly/SXL3Yc
Cooperstown is a picture perfect small town in upstate New York. A world away from Manhattan but only a couple of hours by car. Cooperstown is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame - you don't have to be a baseball fan to enjoy the displays. The main street is like something from a Norman Rockwell painting, especially in the fall (autumn) with the leaves turning orange, red and gold and pumpkins in front of the clapboard houses. Other nearby attractions include Glimmerlgass, with its summer music festival, and the Fenimore Art Museum, for American folk and decorative art.
One of the few places in Wadi Musa that you can get a drink (alcoholic). Not cheap in that a pint of beer costs between 5JD - 6JD. Annoying that the price on the menu does not include the 26% tax and the service charge.
Having said all that it is a great location for a bar, occupying a 2,000 year-old Nabataean tomb only a stone's throw from the entrance to Petra.
Just near the entrance to Petra (on the right hand side as you face the Petra entrance).
Part of the Crowne Plaza hotel complex.
P.O. Box 30,Wadi Mousa Petra 00000, Jordan
+962 (0)3 215 6266
Google map: bit.ly/Vi0peR
During autumn, the weather in Delhi is perfect: the monsoon rains have passed and the temperature is in the high 20s. There are some lively festivals at this time of year, including Navaratri (October 16th-23rd), during which there are ten days of street festivals, dancing, Ramlila plays and finally the burning of giant effergies of the God Ravana. The largest celebration during autumn is Diwali (November 3rd this year.) To celebrate the Hindu New Year and the triumph of good over evil, the city is filled with glittering lights - tiny clay lamps flicker from every window - and fireworks fill the skies. Delicious sweets such as the milky burfi are sold on every street corner and the roads are strewn with marigold and rose petals or colourful Rangoli patterns made from coloured sand or chalk. It's a good time to visit as hotels offer deep discounts on rooms and shops have sale bonanzas of up to 40%. I would recommend the recently built Radisson Blu hotel in Paschim Vihar, where there is a tourist concierge who will arrange independent travel by car to all the local sights as well as the Golden Triangle. We were there last Diwali as practically the only guests -Indian families prefer to stay with relatives during this special period, so we were thoroughly spoiled with cakes, fruit and sweets and the undivided attention of dozens of hotel staff.
We were in Tel Aviv for six days and came back to this area a number of nights. The old port area has been renovated and was full of shops and restaurants on the water front. Some good bars and restaurants here especially our favourite, Cafe Nimrod.
Would definitely recommend a visit here in the evening. Great buzz about the place especially on the weekend.
Tel Aviv Old Port area (Namal)
North end of Dizengoff Street
Google map: bit.ly/StOTft
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