12 PLACES THAT I’D LOVE TO VISIT AGAIN.
Hu Nan Province, in central China, is one of the most foreign places that I’ve ever visited. I was the only alien there, and I was stared at like a celebrity everywhere I went.
Oh, the scenery is almost unreal, and the colours are unique!
The food was delicious, and we didn’t see anything scary, thank goodness!
But I hated the queues and the loos.
I’m sure it’s the only place where the queues get longer, not shorter. I was longing for a little old Mediterranean lady to hit them all with her walking-stick. But the Chinese just tolerate everyone pushing in, and it doesn’t bother them.
And the loos…. Well, we won’t go there. And I hope I never have to again!
On the other hand, China is a massive country, the people are very friendly and easy-going, and I’d love to see more of it, especially the Teracotta Army.
I felt very relaxed in the Carcassonne area in France. It’s pretty, with no graffiti or litter.
All the food I had was locally produced, which I love, and the scenery and the weather were perfect.
The whole region is pulsing with history, and conspiracies about hidden treasure.
It’s been occupied by the Knights Templars, the Visigoths, the Cathars, and many others.
They love the British because we helped them in the war.
I want to go back and see Rennes-le-Chateau, the mysterious village where the priest Berenger Saunier lived.
If you’ve never heard of him, you’ll have to do your own research, Dear Readers.
The UK has developed as it is because we’re private people.
Some countries are virtually the same wherever you go, but every county in the UK is completely different. They even speak differently!
I loved the town of Henley. It’s unique as it spills into three counties; Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. The ‘natives’ were friendly, there’s lots to do and see, and if someone from the 1400s reappeared, they’d recognise it.
There are 368 listed buildings in the town. It’s antiquity with electricity!
Poor Lebanon. Talk about having the Neighbours From Hell. The Lebanon’s surrounded by them!
The Lebanese have been horrendously persecuted in the past, and it’s still going on in fits and starts. But despite this, they’re very friendly and welcoming.
Beirut is more European than Arabic. It’s a bustling, fashionable city. And the weather’s good.
It can be a bit hazy in the busy areas as they’ve got some old cars and vans that blast out thick smoke fumes from their exhausts!
I was lucky enough to see Baalbeck before it became a dangerous area. It’s one of the most amazing ancient sites I’ve ever seen.
It might be safe again now.
And oh, the Lebanese food! Boy, they can eat!
Do go and see the Lebanon. If you look at their website, there’s a map of no-go areas scattered around the edges which varies from week to week.
And let’s be honest, there are no-go areas in some of our cities!
The mountain community of Mestia in Georgia is up one of the most dangerous roads in the world.
I use the word ‘road’ loosely.
A couple of years ago I was one of the first people to fly there and land at their new airport, and I’m a bit worried that I saw Mestia as it will never be seen again.
See my Mestia article.
The town has been practically cut off from the rest of the world until now, and probably still is. I doubt if many of them can afford to fly anywhere.
Fierce wars have been fought among the townspeople and their neighbours.
Strange high towers peep out around the mountains where families would go to hide, taking their animals with them, until things died down again.
The Greek myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece is said to have started there as apparently there’s gold in the mountains and people would use sheep fleeces to pan for the gold.
I know this is called 12 Places that I’d love to visit again, but I’d be a bit worried about returning to Mestia in case it’s altered for the worse. I’ll never forget it.
Memphis, Tennessee, is one fun place to go!
Never in my life have I been surrounded by so many happy people. And they’re like that every night!
Even if you haven’t got any money, you can still wander up and down Beale Street, watching the diverse revellers, and listening to the fantastic, high-quality rock and blues bursting out of bars, all played by live groups.
Ooh, the food! We went in a restaurant just off Beale Street, and it’s the first time that I couldn’t focus on the whole plate with my camera.
‘Is that all?’ I sarkily asked the waiter. He just smiled. He’d heard it all before.
‘If you can eat it all, I’ll bring you another plateful free of charge,’ he replied.
In the daytime, there’s a lot to do and see.
Read my Memphis article.
I wonder if the TV ratings are low in Memphis? I wouldn’t want to stay in!
I love Italy. But I adore Matera! It’s in the South, in the Basilicata region, in Italy’s instep.
The town is built up the sides of a mountain, with views for miles.
Originally the people lived in caves with the front built on.
They were notorious slums, but now a lot of them have been transformed into luxury hotels.
You have a choice of absolutely loads of restaurants. There must almost be one per person! But they were all full when we walked round the town, and got lost in the labyrinth of narrow lanes.
Apparently it’s the only place where Macdonalds closed down because no-one went in it!
The Norwegians have got it right. Norway is for the Norwegians and their Government looks after their country and runs it well.
The standard of life is excellent, even for manual workers.
Technically, all the Norwegians are millionaires!
I visited Trondelag, in Central Norway.
All the food is produced locally. Some chefs even go foraging before they start work!
The Norwegians haven’t needed to migrate from the country to find work. They can have grants to renovate farms, producing crafts, cheese, meat, etc.
I loved all of the country that I saw, including Trondheim, and the listed UNESCO World Heritage Site, the wooden ex-industrial town of Roros.
In fact, if I was a bit younger, I’d move there to live, and make crafts.
Slovenia is like me; small, perfectly-formed, beautiful and honest!
The only main crimes committed are done by foreigners driving through the country.
The Slovenians either know each other, or know someone who knows them.
It’s a very healthy country. You can either indulge in a variety of sports, like cycling, horse-riding, canoeing, rafting, mountaineering, and many more, (all at affordable prices, much cheaper than here) or you can just relax and take it easy
Slovenian wine is my favourite wine in the world. And they make a selection of schnapps, which I don’t usually like, but Slovenian schnapps is fruity, like a liqueur.
All their food is locally produced, and delicious.
There’s not much traffic on the roads, which is just as well, as they curve round mountains, so you can’t drive very fast.
The whole country is full of history. And you must visit the Postojna caves.
I have a soft spot for Corfu as we lived there for five months.
It doesn’t really change. Even the road from the airport has the same potholes in it!
Corfu is relaxed and totally unpretentious.
Yes, the UNESCO-listed Corfu town gets pretty packed, but you can leave it all behind when you want to.
Most of their food is simply prepared. A lot of local dishes are more Italian than Greek as they were occupied by the Venetians for a while in the 18th Century.
Sitting outside a taverna beside the sea, nibbling from a selection of plates, sipping the rather rough local wine and listening to bouzouki music.
My parents dragged me, kicking and screaming, to live in Malta when I was 15. Then they dragged me back again, kicking and screaming, five years later.
Malta is a proper island. People have lived and worked there for thousands of years. It wasn’t artificially manufactured for tourists. In fact, tourists are a bit of a nuisance, especially when they take up all the pavements!
A lot of Americans have collective amnesia. They promise to keep in touch. But they’ve forgotten you before you’ve got on your plane to go home!
But when you befriend a Maltese, you’ve got a friend for life.
Malta’s a mystery. Most of its history has vanished, possibly forever.
Its temple builders are unknown. They went to a lot of trouble, but who ‘they’ are is lost in the past.
Weird tracks criss-cross above Dingly Cliffs, ending at the end of the cliffs and the sea below.
What they were used for is an enigma. Many theories have been put forward, but nothing makes sense.
Pigmy elephants used to roam over the island, but they’re long-gone.
Malta used to produce a cheap wine unfit for sprinkling on your chips! Now they have a quality selection of white, rose and reds.
The fresh food is some of the tastiest in the world. One theory is that the ground is struck by lightning quite a lot and it gives the fruit and vegetables a unique flavour.
Some people don’t like Malta. I just don’t understand why not. I love it!
Oh, Cuba! People are inclined to form the wrong impression of Cuba if they’ve never been there.
Still partly cut off from the rest of the world, (and long may it remain so) it’s unique.
Cuba can be tranquil or deafening. There’s music everywhere.
If I go to the loo, I look both ways when I come out as I expect a band to pop up and start playing. I’m only partly joking!
On the other hand, you can stroll along the most perfect cream-coloured sandy beaches, with dark blue seas and green palm trees gently waving in the breeze.
The Cubans aren’t poor. They’re rich in lifestyle.
No, they can’t go along the road to buy a pack of pens for £1. There aren’t many shops in Cuba. But their children can dance in the streets till late at night at fiestas in complete safety.
Food is fresh but quite basic .It wasn’t very highly-rated until recently. But now the hotels are importing chefs from Spain and South America and the quality is extremely high as they have some great ingredients to work with.
Most of Cuba is unoccupied. Forests stretch as far as the eye can see.
Rainfalls are heavy but brief. They make the island very green and fertile.
You must see Havana, but do see more of the island too, especially the Cayos.
No, I wouldn’t want to live in Cuba. But I need a regular Cuba Fix or I get withdrawal symptoms!
China National Tourist Office, London
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SW5 9HB, UK
Tel: 0044 0207 373 0888
Fax: 0044 0207 370 9989
For more information visitwww.frenchhouseparty.eu.
I stayed in Moira’s villa.
Contact: Moira Martingale, firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone (UK): 01299 896819 (H) or 07900 322791 (M)
I stayed in the Cherry Tree Inn
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David Nicholson, European Director
Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau
01462 440 007
Check out www.discoverbasilicata.com
I stayed in the luxurious Marbella Beach Hotel.
Classic Collection Holidays ( 0800 294 9318 www.classic-collection.co.uk)