by Isabel Conway –
Havana celebrates its 500th anniversary in an impressive line- up of festive events throughout the year and there is no better time to visit. Struggles, victories, losses and, of course, revolutions – not just Fidel Castro’s one – from pirate and corsair invasions, to decades long wars when the island fought to free itself from the Spanish crown, has shaped its history. Havana is a fascinating mixture of crumbling neighbourhoods and renovated plazas, weathered and gleaming side by side, shabby chic, reflecting a majestic but at times tragic past. Enjoy films, jazz, Cuban cocktails and lashings of history, countless free concerts, street parties and more. Anyone who’s ever visited the largest and most interesting island of the Caribbean will tell you that Cubans know how to party better than anyone. See www.travel2cuba.co.uk (Cuban Tourist Board) for anniversary festivities. Leading Irish tour operators offering Cuba include www.gohop.ie www.thetraveldepartment.ie www.sunway.ie www.trailfinders.ie www.cubatravel.ie Independent travellers will find good flight deals ex London with Virgin Atlantic and from Dublin and Cork with Air France via Paris. Homestays are mushrooming in Havana right now and international chains with rooms that are cheaper than elsewhere in the world are opening up too. See www.homestay.com/cuba
The 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall marking the end of the massive border complex that left this great city divided into east and west for decades is celebrated with exhibitions, street parties, concerts and other events. What was the atmosphere like in a divided Berlin? How did day-to-day life look like for people behind the Wall? And what was it like living in West and East Berlin.? In the asisi 360 degree Pergamon Panorama at the Pergamon museum you can immerse yourself in a panorama installation of daily life after the Wall and before reunification. Even today the scars left by the former Wall is a major influence in Berlin, best experienced on the Berlin Wall Trail, places where people cried, clung to each other before they were parted forever and where the lucky ones could fall into one another’s arms again. See www.visitberlin.de/en/events-30th-anniversary-fall-of-the-wall The German Tourism Board www.germany.travel has a great website full of useful information on top attractions and key events throughout the country.
It is the 130th anniversary of one of the world’s most iconic, still among the greatest engineering works of all time, the Eiffel Tower, erected to mark the centenary of the French Revolution. While lauded as a remarkable structure by the experts, Parisians were at first divided over the 300 m metal sculpture dominating the city’s famous skyline that soon became the most famous landmark of France. There’s no bad time for Paris weather wise. You can shelter in cosy cafes and beautiful museums when the drizzle descends and wander the glorious parks and pavements in dappled sunshine. Early spring is a great time to visit, while hotel prices are still affordable and tourist hordes are fewer. Aim for the bohemian Latin Quarter close to the major sites. Best book ahead to avoid the notoriously lengthy queues visiting the Eiffel tower (www.toureiffel.paris)
The most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights, the Stonewall Riots happened 50 years ago this year. New York is devoting the whole of June to celebrations marking this watershed anniversary, with three million expected to attend a huge colourful glitzy program of events. World Pride is being held in the US for the first time, in honour of the Stonewall uprising. On June 28, 1969 a gay enclave the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich village was raided – a frequent occurrence – but this time the community inside fought back. The confrontation led to the formation of the Gay Liberation front and the modern LGBTQ rights movement in the US. NYC has something for everyone, families also with lots of child-friendly museums, Central Park, hot dogs, pizza, bright lights, Broadway and Bagels. Travel Times loves the Big Apple!. See www.citypass.com who offer over 40 per cent off admission to some of the best New York attractions and the official guide to new York city www.nycgo.com
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA
It’s been fifty years since Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon with a transfixed world watching the crackling TV footage of this earth shattering event. The Kennedy Space Center, less than an hour outside of Orlando is a must visit attraction and all the more so throughout 2019 because here the Saturn V rocket that launched Apollo 11 took off. The fascinating Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has a new exhibit called ‘Touch the Moon’, using augmented reality to let visitors recreate those iconic first steps on the moon. Yes, that’s how far we’ve come. More authentic and educational than a theme park, the Kennedy Space Centre offers a mix of thrilling simulators, behind the scenes tours, rocket launch viewing opportunities and more. American Holidays (www.americanholidays.com) has an excellent dedicated Florida brochure with day tours including transport from Orlando from €83. See also award winning US specialist tour operator www.touramerica.ie