1-South Africa: Johannesburg and Cape Town
The passing of the late Nelson Mandela has put the world’s focus on one of South Africa’s major cities – Johannesburg. Also known as Jo’burg or Jozi, the big city vibe is discernible. Life is fast-paced and buzzes with cafes, theatres and a burgeoning art scene especially in the cultural districts of Newtown and Braamfontein. Indeed what was once a no-go zone is now a sought destination by tourists who enjoy its a stunning skyscape.
Since South Africa has hosted the world cup in 2010 the city and the nearby township of Soweto, Mandela’s birthplace have been regenerated. This is where the Apartheid Museum and the Old Fort Prison complex that held Mahatma Gandhi and Mandela captive can be seen.
From here, it’s just a short domestic flight to South Africa’s mother city, Cape Town – possibly the most beautiful in the land. To see it all take a trip to the top of Table Mountain – named so because a flat layer of cloud unfurls over its top) and from their choose your favourite beach. An hour’s drive away is the winelands grown out of fertile valleys and producing the famous wines of Stellenbosch.
It was once a fishing village, but today Dubai artfully crafts its world-wide reputation as playground in the sun. With so many shopping centres and high rise hotels it may be easy to forget that this is the Middle East.
This means you won’t see any debouched night clubs, Las Vegas style shows or casinos (gambling is illegal even though Dubai famously hosts the world’s must lucrative race horse). But you will see sensational architecture. One example is the seven-star hotel, Burj El Arab that overlooks reclaimed land that has been fashioned into sensational palm tree shapes. The Beckhams reportedly have a home here.
In August 2016 the city became home to the largest theme park in the world. They are expecting over four million visitors over the year. Every day it can host up to 30,000 adventures and offer several zones over 1.5 million square feet: Lost Valley – Dinosaur Adventure, Cartoon Network, Marvel, and IMG Boulevard. Incidentally, the haunted house is said to be so frightening that children under 15 years old are not alllowed in.
The brilliant skylines shows off modern and Moorish architecture, modern shopping malls galore – one with its own ski resort – and away from all this there is still the souq where you can haggle for something oriental. Weather here is extremely hot and the best time to visit is from November to March.
India, a country of a billion people, is not for the faint-hearted but Delhi, home to 25 million, is a good place to ease you into what is a uniquely shocking culture, of in-your-face friendliness and tenacious touting.
In the centre, in New Delhi, there are monuments that speak of the Day of the Raj such as The Parliament house a circular colonnaded building that houses ministerial offices and India Gate an Arc-de-Triomphe look-alike memorial to British soldiers designed by Edwin Lytyens. Elsewhere, in Old Delhi are narrow lanes and sensational mosques that reflect Islamic India.
Some shoppers may find the noisy, chaotic bazaars exciting places to shop and haggle yet elsewhere there are mega malls. It is impossible to ignore the Red Fort, a sandstone fortress surrounded by an 18ft wall which founded Shah Jahan in 1648.
From here it’s just a train journey to Agra to see the great Taj Mahal.
It’s about fun in the sun right now down under and affluent Sydney as a good place as any to be. It is on Australia’s south-east coast on the Tasman sea with a well-recognised shimmering harbour and an iconic opera house. And that’s without considering made-for-surfing beaches such as Bondi and Manly, the lively night life, shopping and myriad of festivals and galleries.
The city is built on hills around Sydney harbour and further in is the metropolitan area dotted with several national parks as well as the Royal Botanic Gardens. Life is outdoors and sporty and you could be tempted to jog, surf or cycle with the locals as they go about their daily routines.
When it comes to going on winter holiday we could do worse than follow Sir Cliff Richard’s lead to Barbados because for winter sun, this tiny island is a classic. The hurricane season ends in November after which the island is showered in sunshine for 10 whole hours a day.
The island certainly has everything you would expect of a tropical paradise – coconut trees, humming birds, a rain forest, blue coral-reefed seas and miles of sandy beaches.
Bridgetown, the capital, is also the bustling commercial centre of the Island. Everywhere there are signs of the country’s heritage as a former British colony and also its passion for Cricket – Barbados’ national sport.
This remote corner of Yucatan has quite the party reputation. Between the Caribbean sea and the lagoon are many all-inclusive hotels shimmering along the 15-mile strip of Zona Hotelera. It is the place to enjoy tacos while soaking up the rays and perhaps later moving to the salsa rythms. But when you are all partyied out, it’s easy to make your way down to visit the fascinating Mayan world of Chichén Itzá for the day