This is an excerpt from our December 2015 Editorial.
As a full blooded Lagosian, I know that no year is complete without a vacation to ease off the stress that is a part of all of our daily routines and completely unwind from the road rage (Lagos traffic can drive you mad sometimes). We plan our leave days so perfectly so we spend maximum time with our families and are free of the buzzing phones and endless emails. Sometimes, we may even have the luxury of taking a travel vacation outside of the country in order to soak in new sights and sounds. Unfortunately, choosing a vacation location can cause a headache with so many cities to choose from, travel options to consider, accommodation and cost of travel and vacation expenses.
So here’s my vacation wish list. Five cities I’d love to spend my vacation in, given the opportunity and maybe a bonus or two. If you can afford to, make sure to see all five cities. If you can’t, wait until you can and make sure to see all five cities (yeah, they’re definitely worth it).
Dubai is one the fastest emerging cities in the world and a popular tourist destination within the middle-east. A city characterized by immense luxury and incredible architecture, it provides a rich middle-eastern experience without losing any of the comforts of today’s modern cities. Tradition blends with innovative technology to create a wonderful tourist experience you will not soon forget.
Where to Stay: Home to the world’s first seven star hotel, Dubai is teeming with luxury accommodation that caters to your every comfort. Even if you can’t afford to stay at the Burj al Arab, you can always book a room at any of the Hilton hotels all around Dubai known for their great locations and excellent staff. There are also a couple of Sheraton Hotels including the Four Points that provide a memorable experience. The excellent locations of luxury hotels all over the city coupled with top-notch architecture ensure you have wonderful accommodation anywhere with great views of the city.
Tour Guide: Begin with the dashingly new metro, going everywhere in the city, and then head for the traditional souks and magnificent malls, the lofty creek and the stupendous towers, and the breath-taking fountains show. Conversely, start at the Burj Khalifa which has one of most interesting architecture in the planet. The tallest building in world with more than 150 floors is an excellent symbol of engineering and lots of visitors come consistently to take a perspective of this incredible building design. Proceed to the Dubai Museum with its architecture and uniqueness that shows the culture of the city. Here you can explore the interesting history of the nation, and light effect give a mesmerizing view over there at night. A tour of Dubai of course wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Burj Al Arab and except you’re lodged there, this marvel of engineering is wonderful place to visit.
The Palm Island in Jumeriah is also another amazing feat of engineering in a city that is constantly pushing the boundaries and is an artificial island shaped like a palm frond. You have just got to see it from an aerial view; majestic. Then, there’s the Dubai aquarium complete with a diving experience, the Jumeriah mosque, the Al Badia Green hill, the Dubai creeks and the Wild Wadi Water Park which can provide fun for the kids; all a part of the excellent Dubai experience.
If you wanna visit a metropolis much similar to London without all the crowds or the extra cost, then Dublin is the place to be. With its small city feel and Irish charm, the city is as easy to drink in as a smooth pint of Guinness and although the Irish capital has undergone a number of changes over the years, it has managed to retain its history despite that. With its down-to-earth, friendly atmosphere and welcoming, open-hearted people; it is no wonder this vibrant city is one of Europe's top tourist destinations.
Where to Stay: There’s the hip new Dean Hotel located downtown, capped by a beautiful rooftop restaurant. If you don’t mind a 20-minute walk to the city centre, opt for a private room at the Generato Dublin, a design-forward hostel housed a former Irish folk-dancing hall. The Dylan, Shelbourne and Clarence hotels, all from the 19th century are also very wonderful accommodation steeped in the history of the city.
Tour Guide: Dublin has a myriad of visitor attractions to suit all interests so that you enjoy maximum fun during your stay in the city. Top on the list of attractions to visit during your time in Ireland has to be the Guinness Storehouse located in the heart of the St. James Gate Brewery. Whether or not you’re a fan of the black stuff, this is a must-see. This seven-storey building has been remodelled into the shape of a giant pint of Guinness and its tour comes with a complimentary stout at the Gravity Bar. The St. Patrick Cathedral and the Book of Kells are a pointer to the city’s rich religious history and a time when it wasn’t so metropolitan and will make for a divine tourist experience. The Book of Kells was written around the year 800 AD and is one of the most beautifully illuminated manuscripts in the world. It contains the Latin texts of the Four Gospels and it was deposited for safe keeping in Trinity College Dublin in 1653. The Botanical Gardens and Dublin zoo are also wonderful for nature lovers. Art enthusiasts are welcome to indulge at the National Gallery or the National Museum of Archaeology as a part of a wonderful Irish experience. Finally, there may not be leprechauns in Dublin but there is a world’s first; The Science Gallery at Trinity. It’s a masterpiece that is now being cloned all over the world. Their collection is always changing and there’s always something new to see. Make sure to visit different pubs, art galleries and shops and get the feel of the city through the eyes of locals.
New Orleans, U.S.A.
Home of jazz music and known as the Crescent City for the curving shape of the Mississippi as it snakes through town, New Orleans is truly cosmopolitan. It is also one of America’s most astonishing cultural melting pots. The French left their language, and the Spanish their flamboyant architecture. Africa donated the rhythms that morphed into jazz and the blues. The Caribbean left a love of celebration and a touch of voodoo magic, while Cajun Americans pulled all these influences together to create one of America’s most eclectic cuisines. Whether you come for Mardi Gras or the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival or any other reason, a visit to this unique destination is never the same trip twice. Now getting over the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina, the city seems to be on the rise again.
Where to Stay: The French Quarter is the ideal neighbourhood for anyone coming to New Orleans. It’s historic, festive, artsy and at the centre of everything although it’s usually in high demand and kinda expensive. I would recommend other places but the French Quarter is just too awesome. So find a way to get yourself accommodation in the Hotel Mazarin or the Hampton Inn (or even any Bed and Breakfast) cause staying anywhere else isn’t even half as amazing.
Tour Guide: The attractions of New Orleans are the same as they have always been – riding rattling streetcars and the Algiers ferry, snapping your fingers to hot jazz in colonial cafes, seeking out occult relics in ancient cemeteries, or just admiring the stately architecture in the French Quarter, Bywater, Faubourg Marigny and Tremé. Then of course there’s the greatest-show-on-earth that is Mardi gras, held in late February or early March. If you miss it, don’t panic; there are few weeks in the year when there isn’t some festival or other filling the streets with crowds and music. As the locals say: “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” (“Let the good times roll!”). There’s just so much to do that you’re never at any moment, bored. Immerse yourself in the city’s rich cultural history and incredible body of art. Make sure to visit the National WWII Museum and enjoy incredible music on Frenchmen street or Jackson Square.
Seychelles, Southern Africa
The islands of Seychelles has being a holiday fantasy of mine for a long time. I came across Seychelles during my geography class in my first year of senior secondary school and it had a mystic appeal to it that I was very much drawn to. Years later, when holiday plans were no longer dictated by my parents, I decided to look up Seychelles and my hunch was confirmed; it is an exquisite place to be. Stunning and unspoiled, the Seychelles star in countless tropical island fantasies. Beautiful boulder-strewn beaches, virgin jungles, thriving coral reefs, and UNESCO-listed nature reserves are just some of the many attractions of the archipelago's 115 coral and granite islands, which are the peaks of a vast underwater plateau.
Where to Stay: Like any beautiful island with unbelievable scenery, Seychelles is littered with hotels and resorts dedicated to catering to the needs of the large amount of tourists who make their way there every year. Some of the top hotels with the best views include the luxurious Four Seasons or the Raffles Praslin although the cost of lodging is pretty steep. However, if you want accommodation that’s affordable with a feel of the local flavour, you can lodge in at the Indian Ocean lodge. Whatever your proclivity, there is just about a lodge, hotel or resort that is well suited to it.
Tour Guide: Start off your holiday in Seychelles by sun-soaking on Anse Intedance; a small and secluded crescent of sand on the island's south coast. Beautiful and a favourite spot for surfing, this picturesque palm-framed strand is a delight for photographers. Proceed to the Baie Lazare with its neo-Gothic Baie Lazare Church; dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, which provides a panoramic view of the area. Looking out to sea at Beau Vallon, mountainous Silhouette Island shimmers on the horizon and the alluring curve of glittering sand is a magnet for both tourists and locals. Visitors will find a variety of water sports on offer, including jet skis and water skiing plus this is also a good choice for families with small children. The national parks including Ste Anne Marine Park, Morne Seychellois, Vallee de Mai, Cousin Island and Aride Island are an enormous delight with wildlife of incredible diversity. Even more beautiful islands complete your tour of the country and you simply cannot get enough of nature’s breath-taking beauty in Seychelles.
Since the Roman Empire, Italy has been long associated with beauty and grandeur. The Vatican, the Colosseum, the tower of Pisa and beautiful cities with impeccable architecture yet Venice manages to stand out. Whether you’ve been to Venice two or 20 times, there’s always something new to discover. Indeed, even the most seasoned visitors get lost in the city’s labyrinthine network of islands, bridges, pedestrian alleys, and canals. And therein lies the beauty of the destination: afternoons spent wandering from palace to piazza, exploring the small art museums, shopping the stalls that line the streets, and encountering a fresh side of Venice, a fascinating amalgamation of influences—Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Italian—every time you round a corner. Swoon-worthy beauty is Venice's calling card. Canals and bridges crisscross the Italian city, people gather in 17th-century palazzi, Renaissance masterpieces hang in museums, and not a single car traverses its stone paths.
Where to Stay: Venice is filled with quality hotels and lodging like most cities in Italy and you have an endless array of beautifully structured accommodation that houses you until you’re ready to step out and soak in the city’s beauty. If you’ve got a little more money, feel free to lodge in at the Aman Canal Grande with sumptuous interiors and excellent views of the Grand Canal. The Belmond Hotel or Gritti Place Hotel are also excellent choices.
More affordable choices include the Al Ponte Mocenigo hotel, the Locanda Orseolo hotel or the Oitre il Giardino. Whatever your budget, you are still treated to beautiful accommodation befitting of the splendour of the city of Venice.
Tour Guide: If you do not take a boat ride along the Venice Grand Canal, then you might as well not have come to this beautiful city. The canal begins at St. Lucia and terminates at St. Mark Basin after taking you through the central districts. Also visit the Campamnile di San Marco—Erected in 1912, the bell tower of St. Mark affords spectacular views from the top and is another Venice travel must and make sure to see the Torre dell'Orologio; a restored astronomical clock. The Ca 'Pesaro museum houses a serious collection of modern art; and despite no large bags or cameras of any kind being allowed inside the Basilica di San Marco, this architectural wonder still makes for a wonderful experience. Galleria dell' Accademia di Venezia is one of Italy's best art museums and a paradise for art lovers. Make sure to visit various shops, galleries and restaurants for an all-encompassing stay. See a Verdi or Puccini masterpiece at the newly restored Teatro La Fenice; the city’s famous 1836 opera house (whether you’re a fan of opera or not). Stop at the Da Fiore for some oysters or fritto misto and just get completely lost (maybe literally) in all that the city has to offer.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio is a beautiful city with a tropical setting that is enjoyed to the fullest by its fun loving citizens and a deep history with the sport of football. Brazil’s former capital has managed to retain much of its distinguished character with magnificent churches and mansions clustered in downtown Centro. Forget the sites though, Rio’s best quality is its party loving, happy go-lucky citizens. There’s sure to be a party at any time of day somewhere in Rio. The sunny beaches and bodacious beauties aren’t a bad way to relax either. Its non-stop entertainment in this wonderful South American city and it epitomises the best parts of the Hispanic people.
Where to Stay: I wouldn’t advise you to do much sleeping or staying indoors but since your luggage must reside somewhere, you could lodge in at the Belmond Copacabana Palace or any Windsor hotel that offers luxury service. There are also other top-notch hotels including the Sheraton Grande Rio Resort and the JW Marriott. Any other adequate lodging suited to your budget will also suffice and can be booked through a proper travel agency.
Tour Guide: Your stay in Rio is absolutely incomplete if you do not get to visit the Maracanã Stadium, Christo Redentor or Copacabana. The Maracanã Stadium was once the world’s highest capacity football venue (it was able to hold nearly 200,000 people when it opened in 1950). Safety concerns may have reduced that number but this still remains a soccer shrine and home to some of football’s greatest moments.
Perched atop the 710 meter (2,330 feet) high peak of Corcovado Peak, the statue of “Cristo Redentor” stands with arms outstretched, gazing serenely out over the city is a pointer to the city’s rich religious culture and history. Visitors can take a vertical cog train to reach the base of the summit. Copacabana and the other beaches are also great for sunbathing and soccer or volleyball. You may then proceed to see the Sugarloaf mountain, Tijuca National Park and Botanical Garden which are a mind blowing sight to behold and express the beauty of nature in all its forms; topography, wildlife and vegetation. The culture rich neighbourhoods (Lagoa, Santa Teresa and Lapa) are nice for interactions with the locals and for a heck of a good time.
Of course you don’t necessarily have to go to any of these places to make your holiday a wonderful one and the more important aspects of a holiday such as spending time with your family and getting to relax should be foremost on your mind. Make the best of whatever location you get to spend your holiday (even if it’s just your house) and ensure to let go of all the stress and just have fun!