Summer is the season for escape. The season for plots and conspiracies, incubated in tropical heat, to escape.
They could be imaginary itineraries, hypothetical round trips or an idle spin of the globe on Google Earth—but the kernel of an idea must exist.
Allow us to help.
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From volunteering in a social commune in Israel or discovering the science of whisky in Scotland, to drinking volcanic wines in Greece and dressing up as a zombie, there’s something for every traveller in our summer travel special issue. If you can swing an “official” work trip in the coming months, preserve the globetrotter’s dream itinerary for this summer.
Why ignore the Indian summer? Forests near Delhi, caves in Meghalaya and a music festival in the hills of Uttarakhand are some unusual but fulfilling places to visit. Or explore getaways immortalized in the works of Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh and other writers.
And for homebirds, there’s always some way to make a staycathon interesting.
So go ahead, plot and conspire.
THE JET SETTER’S SUMMER HOLIDAY GUIDE
Our itinerary for those of you who can swing an ‘important’ business trip to London in June and Spain in August
CITRAWARNA, KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
Malaysia’s equivalent of the Republic Day parade without the all-pervasive security, CitraWarna was conceived by the Malaysian government to showcase the culture of its states. The parade originally featured traditional dancers from across the country in Kuala Lumpur’s Merdeka Square, and now includes food, fireworks and shopping offers. It’s no substitute for reading about the long and complex history of migration in South-East Asia, but will give you an amuse-bouche-sized taste of all the ethnic groups in Malaysia today.
NEED TO KNOW
• AirAsia uses Kuala Lumpur’s Low Cost Carrier Terminal as a hub: Search for deals to Australia, Indochina and the rest of South-East Asia to extend your holiday.
• If you’d rather stay in Malaysia, skip the tourist trap of Genting highlands and head further north to Cameron Highlands for a farm resort holiday.
HAY FESTIVAL, HAY-ON-WYE, WALES
26 May-5 June
The tiny town of Hay, just south of the England-Wales border, hosts one of the world’s biggest literary festivals—although “literary” is just shorthand at this point in the Hay Festival’s evolution, given that it hosts almost 700 events covering art, politics, economics, comedy and musical performances. Expect everyone from Nobel laureates V.S. Naipaul and Mohamed ElBaradei to concerts by Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Afro Celt Sound System.
Wordsworth: Hay-on-Wye. Matt Cardy/Getty Images
NEED TO KNOW
• The ticketed events may cost anything from £4-19 (around Rs 300-1,400), so use the website filters to decide a genre or form you’d like to see and book online.
• The surrounding countryside is perfect for an English summer idyll—medieval castles, splendid views of the Wye river and the countryside. In case you want more than intellectual exercise, there are plenty of adventure tourism options for biking, rafting and camping enthusiasts.
PHILLY BEER WEEK, PHILADELPHIA, US
3 June onwards
Philadelphia is one of the world’s best beer cities—it’s home to more than 30 local breweries and close to 500 beer bars that serve craft beer. Once a year, the city feels like showing off its stuff. Philly Beer Week is seven days of pub crawls, beer derbies, tastings, competitions and special offers. Breweries use the opportunity to inflict their latest experiments on you, restaurants offer marvellous discounts and Philadelphia’s illustrious history of alcohol production and consumption spills on to the streets. Be sure to wear a sombrero and don’t miss the Cinco De Mayo pub crawls.
NEED TO KNOW
• Get yourself a Philadelphia CityPass which grants access to six of the city’s main attractions: the Franklin Institute Science Museum, Adventure Aquarium, Philadelphia Zoo, a 24-hour pass on the Phila Trolley and the Big Bus Company, the playful Please Touch Museum for children and the grim Eastern State Penitentiary.
VENICE BIENNALE, VENICE, ITALY
4 June-27 Nov
2011 sees India’s debut at the 116-year-old Venice Biennale—the oldest and most prestigious art fair in the world. It’s marked by its unusual choice of artists, including a radical Guwahati art collective called The Desire Machine, who “stretch the idea” of India, according to curator Ranjit Hoskote. The 250 sq. m India pavilion will be housed next to China’s pavilion, another debutante at the fair. The biennale is spread across more than 30 national pavilions with an eclectic “fringe” area for young, emerging artists. The Venice Film Festival is part of the biennale, as is a festival of contemporary dance.
Art alive: Be there for India’s debut at the prestigious Venice Biennale, one of the oldest art fairs in the world. Wikimedia Commons
NEED TO KNOW
• Entry to Italy will mean getting a Schengen visa, which opens up almost all of mainland Europe for further exploration.
• If you’re in the mood for more art, head to Paris, which plays host to many interesting art events in summer.
E3/GAMESCOM/TGS, LOS ANGELES, US/COLOGNE, GERMANY/TOKYO, JAPAN
7 June onwards
Video games are going to take over the world, so what better way to educate yourself in their ways than by stalking them across three continents. E3 (in June), GamesCom (in August) and the Tokyo Game Show, or TGS (in September), are the industry’s biggest events. If the term “industry event” makes you blanch, don’t worry. These are more like noisy, colourful exhibitions—full of strange sights and bleeding-edge technology. And it’s not just about the games. Don’t miss the performances and the after-parties.
NEED TO KNOW
• The exhibition halls tend to be dominated by the large game studios and companies. But don’t miss the small indie titles at the edges.
• Head to GDC (Game Developers Conference) Europe in Cologne a week before GamesCom. It’s a fascinating peek into the art and craft of video games, as opposed to the commerce.
WIMBLEDON, LONDON, ENGLAND
20 June-3 July
The Wimbledon Tennis Championship is an excellent reason to visit London in summer. But if Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi or Sania Mirza all get bundled out early—as they sometimes tend to—don’t give up hope. London is positively brimming with things to do and places to visit and eat. For three days from 16 June, Regent’s Park hosts Taste of London, one of the biggest restaurant festivals in the world. Chefs attending this year’s whirlwind roster of classes, tastings, stalls and competitions include Michel Roux Jr. Later, retire to one of the many free music festivals all over the city, including the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival, that will have acrobatic dancers from the Wired Aerial Theatre, dancing acrobats and everything else in between. Then there’s the Bluesfest London, the More London Free Festival and a brand new production of Tom Stoppard’s play ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’ starring the camp-ilicious Tim Curry. If you stay till August, and you must, then Buckingham Palace is open for a bit this summer. We are told there will be Faberge eggs to see this year. With so much happening, thank goodness good, cheap beer is always within reach.
Power shot: Watch Rafael Nadal, full throttle, at Wimbledon in June. Julian Finney/Getty Images
NEED TO KNOW
• For more ideas, visit Londonist.com and see ‘Time Out London’ (www.timeout.com/london/).
COPA AMERICA, ACROSS ARGENTINA
Brazil may have beaten Argentina to the trophy in the last edition of South America’s pre-eminent football tournament, but the Albiceleste are on home soil this year—and all of Argentina will be putting its heart and soul into supporting them in and around historic stadiums in eight historic cities. It’s a chance to watch some of the world’s most thrilling teams, including Chile, Uruguay and Mexico (allowed in from North America), all of whom are in the same group this year. There’s also the small matter of the home team and their greatest rivals, of course.
Enjoy the football madness at Copa America. Martin Venegas/AllsportUK/Allsport
NEED TO KNOW
• Cordoba and Buenos Aires are tourist hubs, but the biggest group matches will be in La Plata and Mendoza. Save the capital for later—it’s the final venue anyway.
• If you’re in the stands, please find a section with like-minded fans before you start cheering wildly.
TOUR DE FRANCE, ACROSS FRANCE
The most prestigious cycling competition in the world starts from Passage Du Gois, a tidal causeway linking the Isle of Noirmoutier on the north-western coast of France to the mainland, before covering 3,471km, finishing in Paris after 23 days on the road. Following the race route means just about no region in France is left untouched.
On two wheels: Enjoy the French countryside during Tour de France. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Visit Brittany with its megalithic sites and pink granite coastline; some of the best preserved medieval villages in the world on the route from Blaye-les-mines to Lavaur; the iconic Catholic pilgrimage town of Lourdes; and the remote mountain towns in the Italian alpine region of Pinerolo (the tour goes over four summits). Hundreds of cathedrals, castles and vineyards dot the route. So while the competitors sweat it out, you can enjoy artisanal breads and wine, the freshest seafood and umpteen varieties of meats and cheese. Visit www.letour.fr for the route map.
NEED TO KNOW
• It will be challenging to book hotels or home stays in many of the small towns the tour passes through, and most places even in the larger cities and towns get a fair amount of tour enthusiasts, so book early www.discoverfrance.com offers holiday packages around the tour, and you can choose between hard cycling, moderate cycling or non-cycling options.
FESTIVAL OF SAN FERMIN, NAVARRE PROVINCE, SPAIN
When Papa Hemingway wrote ‘The Sun Also Rises’ in 1926, the English-speaking world came to know about the running of the bulls in Pamplona. But there’s more to the festival of San Fermin than being chased down a narrow alley by aggravated bulls: It started as a feast day for Saint Fermin and the religious procession continues to this day. Over the centuries, non-religious activities were added on, and now the festival is a week-long street party with music, drinking and, yes, bullfights.
Gear up: Keep out of the way of bulls in San Fermin. Ker Robertson/Allsport
NEED TO KNOW
• Book rooms well in advance: Pamplona is a small town and accommodation runs out quickly.
• Only four people have died in the running of the bulls in the past 30 years, but that’s no reason to be careless: Run sober and stay on the designated course.
• Read the official guide to the San Fermin festival at http://www.pamplona.es for maps, videos and pamphlets.
BIG CHILL, EASTNOR CASTLE, UK
No, not the beloved café in south Delhi. The Big Chill is the most left-field of the major European summer music festivals. The usual headliners and big names are (mostly) missing here, replaced by groovy, experimental and, most importantly, upcoming groups. This year’s concession to the mainstream is hip hop star Kanye West, who is riding on a wave of fantastic US gigs in support of his new album. Other names at Big Chill 2011 include the wonderfully erudite Janelle Monae, the groovy Dap-Kings with Sharon Jones (pictured below) and Robert Plant.
Sound of music: Groove at the Big Chill festival. Courtesy Daptone Records
NEED TO KNOW
• Like its European cousins, the Big Chill is a camping festival. Make sure you pack proper gear and tone down expectations of hygiene.
TOMATINA, BUNOL IN VALENCIA, SPAIN
Right at the end of the summer is Tomatina, the world’s biggest food fight. The tomatoes grown in the nearby community of Extremadura aren’t the right variety for either eating or making ketchup, so they’re trucked into Buñol’s town square, the Plaza del Pueblo. At 11am, people in the trucks start chucking tomatoes at tourists packed into the square. Anything that isn’t a direct hit is picked up to use afresh. The chaos ends at noon when the municipality turns on water hoses for everyone to wash off.
Festive: A still from the upcoming film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, shot during Tomatina.
NEED TO KNOW
• Once you’re done with the festival, head to Barcelona for art, architecture and paella.
• If the end of August doesn’t work for you, head to Sutamarchan, Colombia, in the middle of June for their imitation food fight.
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