Welcome to Spain
Passionate, sophisticated and devoted to living the good life, Spain is both a stereotype come to life and a country more diverse than you ever imagined.
An Epic Land
Spain’s diverse landscapes stir the soul. The Pyrenees and the Picos de Europa are as beautiful as any mountain range on the continent, while the snowcapped Sierra Nevada rises up improbably from the sun-baked plains of Andalucía; these are hiking destinations of the highest order. The wildly beautiful cliffs of Spain’s Atlantic northwest are offset by the charming coves of the Mediterranean. And everywhere you go, villages of timeless beauty perch on hilltops, huddle in valleys and cling to coastal outcrops as tiny but resilient outposts of Old Spain. That’s where the country’s charms are most likely to take hold.
A Culinary Feast
Food and wine are national obsessions in Spain, and with good reason. The touchstones of Spanish cooking are deceptively simple: incalculable variety, traditional recipes handed down through the generations, and an innate willingness to experiment and see what comes out of the kitchen laboratory. You may experience the best meal ever via tapas in an earthy bar where everyone’s shouting, or via a meal prepared by a celebrity chef in the refined surrounds of a Michelin-starred restaurant. Either way, the breadth of gastronomic experience that awaits you is breathtaking and sure to be highlight of your trip.
Art Imitates Life
Poignantly windswept Roman ruins, cathedrals of rare power and incomparable jewels of Islamic architecture speak of a country where the great civilisations of history have risen, fallen and left behind their indelible mark. More recently, what other country could produce such rebellious and relentlessly creative spirits as Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso and Antoni Gaudí and place them front and centre in public life? And here, grand monuments of history coexist alongside architectural creations of such daring that it becomes clear Spain’s future will be every bit as original as its past.
Fiestas & Flamenco
For all the talk of Spain’s history, this is a country that lives very much in the present and there’s a reason ‘fiesta’ is one of the best-known words in the Spanish language – life itself is a fiesta here and everyone seems to be invited. Perhaps you’ll sense it along a crowded, post-midnight street when all the world has come out to play. Or maybe that moment will come when a flamenco performer touches something deep in your soul. Whenever it happens, you’ll find yourself nodding in recognition: this is Spain.
A beginner’s guide to Brazil
What do you get if you combine cinematic landscapes, kaleidoscopic culture, head-spinning biodiversity and a constant rhythm of carefree joie de vivre? Welcome to Brazil!
The world’s fifth-largest country commandeers the lion’s share of South America, all the way from the Amazon Basin – the world’s largest tropical rainforest – to the pampas of southernmost Rio Grande do Sul, delivering 7500kms of sun-toasted sands in between.
It is these postcard-perfect shores for which Brazil is arguably most famous, but this Latin giant boasts far more than beaches. Lush jungle? Check. Colonial villages? Check. Unparalleled wildlife? Check. Delectable restaurants and pulse-pumping nightlife? Check. Stunning waterfalls, canyons, mountains and dunescapes? Pronto, pronto, pronto and pronto!
Brazil owes its language and much of its cultural potpourri to Portugal – both unique compared to its Spanish-settled South American neighbors – whose explorers arrived in the 1500s and settled what was then a land of largely indigenous inhabitants numbering between two and four million people. Waves of immigration from Africa, Europe and the Middle East have shaped and enriched the country throughout history. Today, with a population of nearly 200 million, Brazil is one of the world’s most diverse nations.
A tropical wonderland
A visit to Brazil usually begins in Rio de Janeiro, one of the world’s most vibrant urban landscapes, where dramatic, rainforest-crowned mountaintops surround a city nestled picturesquely between jungle and sea. The Amazon region – and its namesake river – are home to the planet’s greatest collection of plants and animals, and this enigmatic landscape has long intrigued explorers, naturalists, novelists and travelers alike. Brazil’s other hotspot for biodiversity, the Pantanal, is the world’s largest wetland, where every moment throws up another photo opportunity full of colorful birds and wildlife.
The roar of Iguaçu Falls will redefine your idea of the power of Mother Nature; this torrent thundering over the edges of cliffs is a spectacle without rival. And in a country with no shortage of world-class beaches, the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha serves up three of the best, and then adds the distinction of being Brazil’s top spot for diving and surfing, and one of the best places on Earth to mingle with endangered sea turtles and Spinner dolphins.
But wait, there’s more! Pristinely preserved colonial villages (Ouro Prêto, Tiradentes, Paraty, Olinda), scenic national parks (Lençóis-Maranhenses (parquelencois.com.br), Chapada Diamantina, Chapada dos Veadeiros (whc.unesco.org/en/list/1035), Chapada dos Guimarães), idyllic tropical islands (Ilha Grande, Ilhabela, Ilha de Santa Catarina, Morro de São Paulo, Boipeba, Ilha do Mel) and an even longer list of diverse regional cuisine and culture, from the African-fueled state of Bahía to the heavily German and Italian-influenced states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, all unite in a seductive marriage that ticks off a traveler’s wishlist.
Olympic fever (and fears)
Summer 2016 brings the Olympic Games to Rio de Janeiro, the first time the world’s most important amateur athletic event has been held on South American soil. From August 5-21, 2016, the world’s spotlight will once again focus on Brazil in much the same way it did for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. And much like the world’s greatest football tournament, the lead-up to the event has not been without controversy and concern.
Why go to London ?
The English writer Samuel Johnson famously said, “You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life;
for there is in London all that life can afford.” More than two centuries have passed since Johnson’s era, but his words still ring true. Life in London is nothing short of invigorating, and travelers find that one visit isn’t enough to experience everything this two-millennia-old city has to offer.
Here, the antiquated clasps hands with the contemporary. You’ll find the historic Tower of London and the avant-garde Tate Modern both considered big must-sees. Shakespeare’s sonnets are still being uttered by actors who don modern garb. Londoners most certainly still respect the royals, but they also jam to the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Adele. And while they still praise the power of tea, they now make room for some Starbucks here and there, and pressed juice too. A current leader in everything from politics and banking to fashion and music, London’s culture compass is always attuned to what’s next.
Welcome to Paris
Paris has a timeless familiarity for first-time and frequent visitors, with instantly recognisable architectural icons, along with exquisite cuisine, chic boutiques and priceless artistic treasures.
The wrought-iron spire of the Eiffel Tower piercing the clouds, the broad Arc de Triomphe guarding Paris’ most glamorous avenue, the Champs-Élysées, the gargoyled Notre Dame cathedral, lamplit bridges spanning the Seine and art nouveau cafes spilling on to wicker-chair-lined terraces are indelibly etched in the minds of anyone who’s visited the city – and the imaginations of anyone who hasn’t (yet). But despite initial appearances, Paris’ cityscape isn’t static: there are some stunning modern and contemporary icons too, from the inside-out, industrial-style Centre Pompidou to the mur végétal (vertical garden) gracing the striking Musée du Quai Branly.
Paris’ dining is iconic: France’s reputation for its cuisine (the French word for ‘kitchen’) precedes it, and whether you seek a cosy neighbourhood bistro or a triple-Michelin-starred temple to gastronomy, you’ll find every establishment prides itself on exquisite preparation and presentation of quality produce, invariably served with wine. Enticing patisseries, boulangeries (bakeries), fromageries (cheese shops) and crowded, colourful street markets are perfect for packing a picnic to take to the city’s parks and gardens. A host of culinary courses – from home kitchens through to the world’s most prestigious cookery schools – offers instruction for all schedules, abilities and budgets.
Parisians are synonymous with style, and fashion shopping is the city’s forte. Paris remains at the forefront of international trends, and browsing emerging and established designer boutiques and flagship haute couture houses is a quintessential part of any visit. You’ll also find uberhip concept stores, quirky homeware shops, and resplendent art nouveau department stores, along with a trove of vintage shops and flea markets, atmospheric bookshops (including the dark-green bouquiniste stalls – secondhand bookshop – lining the riverbanks), adorable children’s wear and toy shops, art and antique dealers, venerable shops selling state-of-the-art professional cookware, and, of course, gourmet food and wine shops galore.
With an illustrious artistic pedigree – Renoir, Rodin, Picasso, Monet, Manet, Dalí and Van Gogh are but a few of the masters who lived and worked here over the years – Paris is one of the great art repositories of the world, harbouring treasures from antiquity onward. In addition to big hitters like the incomparable Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay’s exceptional impressionist collection, and the Centre Pompidou’s cache of modern and contemporary art, there are scores of smaller museums housing collections in every imaginable genre, and a diverse range of venues mounting major exhibitions through to off-beat installations.