x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Where to go in May to July: a taste of things to come

Feature Killian Fox maps out three months' worth of everything exciting. Choose from glamorous festivals, scenic hikes and dreamy getaways.

The stark landscape of Olympic National Park, Washington. Between May and August, TrekAmerica is offering tours of sites in Oregon and Washington that featured in the Twilight movies.
The stark landscape of Olympic National Park, Washington. Between May and August, TrekAmerica is offering tours of sites in Oregon and Washington that featured in the Twilight movies.

Expo 2010 Shanghai May 1 to October 31 Beijing had its turn with the 2008 Olympics, but this summer, with the biggest Expo of all time taking place on the banks of the Huangpu River, it is Shanghai's chance to prove anew why it is one of the most exciting cities on the planet. In accordance with the Expo's "Better City, Better Life" theme, Shanghai has undergone a multi-billion-dollar upgrade. The subway has been expanded, the Bund waterfront area has been revitalised, and even more weird and wonderful structures have been added to the burgeoning skyline. Take the 430kph Maglev train from the airport and stay at the world's highest hotel, the Park Hyatt Shanghai, situated on floors 79 to 93 of the new Shanghai World Financial Centre - it has an excellent spa and six open kitchens in addition to staggering views and one very precious commodity in a city of 18 million: silence.

From there you can explore the narrow lanes of Xintiandi, the classily restored shopping and eating district, and experience the bizarre Bund Sightseeing Tunnel. If you want to join the estimated 70 million visitors at the Expo, which runs until October 31, be sure to catch the UAE's "sand dune" pavilion, designed by Foster + Partners, and Thomas Heatherwick's otherworldly Seed Cathedral at the British pavilion. Double rooms at The Park Hyatt Shanghai (www.parkhyattshanghai.com, 0086 21 6888 1234) cost from US$348 (Dh1,278), including taxes. Expo tickets are available from en.expo2010.cn, starting at US$13 (Dh48).

Twilight Family Adventure Tours May to August Tapping into the enormous success of the Twilight books and movies (with Eclipse, the third in the series, in cinemas this summer), TrekAmerica is organising four Twilight-themed tours of Oregon and Washington between May and August.

Stephanie Meyer's vampire novels, brought to life on screen by Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison, have captured the imagination of teenagers worldwide, and few are the young fans who wouldn't jump at the chance to visit locations from the series. The 12-day camping tours begin in the town of St Helens, where much of the filming took place, and end with a visit to Seattle. In between, there are plans for moonlit kayak voyages, horse riding, waterfall adventures, volcano treks and, most importantly, a visit to Forks, the Washington town where the series is set. Uninitiated adults can delight in the spectacular Pacific Northwest scenery while Twilight aficionados revel in the details, such as the Bloated Toad restaurant in St Helens, where Bella and Edward went on their first date, or the View Point Inn by the Columbia River Gorge, where the prom scene was filmed. Prices start from $1,082 (Dh3,973) including taxes. Visit www.trekamerica.com or call 0044 208 772 3758.

Cannes Film Festival May 12 to 23 Try as they might, Berlin, Venice and New York annually fail to eclipse the small city on the south-east coast of France that, each May, hosts the most exciting and glamorous film festival in the world. 2010 looks set to be another vintage year for Cannes, with Alejandro Gonzales Innaritu, Abbas Kiarostami, Woody Allen, Jean-Luc Godard and Ridley Scott unveiling new work at the festival, which runs from May 12 to 23.

Tickets for the big premieres are notoriously hard to get, but even if you fail to see a single film, it's worth coming for the atmosphere, the spectacle, and the myriad of stars who can be sighted waltzing up and down the Croisette. Let the stars come to you: sit on the terrace of Café 72, opposite the Martinez Hotel, or dine at La Mere Besson, and chances are you'll see the likes of Freida Pinto, Javier Bardem or Russell Crowe. The place to stay this year is the five-star Hotel Majestic Barrière, at the west end of the Croisette, which has been completely renovated and now boasts a new wing overlooking the Palais des Festivals. With its extravagant decor, Murano-enamelled outdoor pool and superb seafront location, the hotel is a magnet for movie stars. Double rooms at Hotel Majestic (www.lucienbarriere.com; 0033 4 92 98 77 00) cost from $223 (Dh820).

Prague Spring Festival May 12 to June 4 Prague is a wonderful place to be in May, when the city is exploding with green, and even more so if you're a lover of classical music. The Prague Spring Festival, which begins on May 12 every year and continues into the first week of June, is one of the most important events on the musical calendar. Since 1946, such formidable talents as Herbert von Karajan and Mstislav Rostropovich have appeared here, and this year isn't short of star attractions. Anoushka Shankar, a sitar virtuoso like her famous father Ravi, will be performing on May 24, and the legendary conductor, composer and the Oscar-winner Andre Previn will be appearing as a soloist on May 28 as well as conducting the Czech Philharmonic on June 3.

If you arrive early, don't miss the prologue in Dvorak Hall on May 9 with John Eliot Gardiner's Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists performing Bach's Mass in B Minor. Most of the concerts take place at night, leaving you time to experience the capital by day. Explore the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter for boutique shops and restaurants, and stay at the sumptuous Four Seasons Hotel overlooking Charles Bridge. Make sure you see the fabulous art deco concert house, Obecni Dum, where the festival's climactic final night, dedicated to Beethoven, takes place. Four Seasons Hotel (www.fourseasons.com/prague; 00 420 221 427 000, double rooms cost from $448 (Dh1,646), including taxes. Festival tickets are available from www.prague-spring.net

Centre Pompidou-Metz and the MAXXI in Rome May, June Two major contemporary art museums of great architectural interest are opening in Europe in May, and a short hop from France to Italy could enable a visit to both. The Centre Pompidou-Metz is the first to open, on May 9. Located 74 minutes from Paris by TGV, it is the first regional outpost of the capital's famous Centre Georges Pompidou, and it will be exhibiting celebrated art works on loan from its parent's modern art museum, including pieces by Picasso, Matisse and Man Ray. The stunning building, designed by Shigeru Ban, features a hexagonal wooden mesh roof inspired by a bamboo hat.

Even more extraordinary is Zaha Hadid's futuristic MAXXI, in Rome. Ten years in the making, with more than 6,000 square metres of exhibition space, it has been built to showcase the best of 21st century art, and will open with shows by Kutlug Ataman and Gino De Dominicis. But Hadid's building is an exhibit in itself. Walls twist like ribbons into floors, black stairways disappear up into the enormous lobby, and daylight streams into every corner. See it for yourself when it opens to the public on May 30. Visit www.maxxi.beniculturali.it/english/mostre.htm and www.centrepompidou-metz.fr

Taj Falaknuma Palace June Time was you had to be royalty, or the next best thing, to stay at the Falaknuma Palace, the guest house of the fabulously wealthy Nizams of Hyderabad. It was good enough for George V of England and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia - no strangers they to luxury and opulence - so the palace is clearly up to the standards India's Taj Hotel group, who are reopening Falaknuma as a seven-star hotel in June. A scorpion-shaped building made almost entirely of Italian marble (its name means "mirror of the sky"), the palace boasts splendid halls and libraries, a collection of priceless chandeliers, and the world's largest dining table, seating 101 people. Sixty rooms, including a suite with a private pool, have been painstakingly converted in the first phase of restoration, and the hotel will contain a spa and three restaurants.

Its hilltop location means the palace has commanding views of Hyderabad, where you can visit the magnificent Charminar arches, built in 1591 to mark the end of a plague epidemic. If the spectacle of Falaknuma isn't enough, movie fans can lose themselves in Ramoji Film City, the world's largest integrated film studio complex. Double rooms at Taj Falaknuma Palace (www.tajhotels.com; 00 800 45881825) cost from $819 (Dh3,009).

Saffire in Tasmania June Hanging like the dot of a question mark beneath Australia's south-eastern tip, Tasmania is an oft-overlooked holiday destination, but this summer presents an excellent reason to visit. Opening June 1, Saffire is a new five-star luxury hotel on the picturesque east coast, two-and-a-half hours from the capital Hobart. The hotel is intimate, with only 20 suites, and family-run; nevertheless, a whopping US$32 million (Dh117m) has been lavished on it. The location, within the Freycinet Peninsula national park, overlooking the sandy coastline and the wide expanse of Great Oyster Bay, is stunning. Blending in with the landscape has clearly been a priority and the long, wavelike roofs evoke a connection with the sea. Guests will have exclusive access to nearby Schouten Island and whale-spotting trips can be organised - there is a good chance of seeing penguins and seals, too. If that sounds too exhausting - the emphasis here is on relaxation after all - you can retreat to the hotel spa or enjoy fresh seafood from some of the world's cleanest waters prepared by the renowned chef Hugh Whitehouse. Double rooms at Saffire (www.saffire-freycinet.com.au; 0061 3 6221 1856) cost from $1,170 (Dh4,298), including taxes.

South Africa, World Cup June, July The Fifa World Cup kicks off this summer, and all eyes will be on the host country, South Africa. If you're a football fan, you hardly need an excuse to go: the tournament runs from June 11 to July 11. If not, don't let the World Cup put you off. There are plenty of reasons to visit this vibrant and physically blessed country, and if you steer clear of the tournament venues you might just have them all to yourself. Visiting South Africa without going on safari is like saying no to pizza in Rome, and the Kruger National Park is the best place to see the Big Five in all their glory. Stay at the magnificent Lion Sands Ivory Lodge on the banks of the Sable River. If you prefer golf balls to footballs, make a pilgrimage to the famous Extreme 19th hole at the Legend Golf & Safari Resort (www.legendgolfsafari.com; 00 27 12 470 5300) in Limpopo Province. You tee off from a mountain-top, accessible only by helicopter, and aim for the green 426m below. The prize for a hole-in-one is a million dollars. Finally, savour South Africa's bounteous produce at its best: The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais (www.lequartier.co.za; 0027 21 876 2151), in Franschhoek, is ranked among the top 50 restaurants in the world. Its menu includes wildebeest and Franschhoek trout. Villas at the Lion Sands Ivory Lodge (www.morehotels.co.za; 0027 11 484 99110) cost from $1,161 (Dh4,270) per person, per night, including taxes. World Cup tickets are available from www.fifa.com/worldcup/index.html

Montreux Jazz Festival July 2 to 17 Before 1967, Montreux was merely a pretty Swiss town with a stunning location on the shores of Lake Geneva, beneath the snow-capped Alps. Then Claude Nobs, a passionate young jazz fan, held a small three-day music festival there. The event quickly grew - in duration, popularity and musical scope - and now, in its 44th year, the Montreux Jazz Festival extends over two weeks and attracts more than 200,000 people each year. Jazz legends such as Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett and Nina Simone played here, but Montreux's definition of jazz is very loose ("Who knows what will happen?" Nobs likes to say) and it has also hosted the likes of Prince, James Brown and Johnny Cash. Early additions to this year's programme include the legendary guitarist Mark Knopfler (formerly of Dire Straits) and blues singer Sophie Hunger - but there will be something for everyone on the final bill. Thanks to the location and the laid-back atmosphere - many concerts are held in the open air and on boats cruising the lake - this is simply one of the most ­enjoyable ­music festivals in the world. Tickets are available at www.montreuxjazz.com, or call 0041 21 966 4444. Baalbeck Festival July 4 to August In spite of earthquakes, wars and the ravages of time, the awe-inspiring structures at Baalbek in Lebanon have remained standing for almost 2,000 years. They are among the best-preserved Roman temples in existence, and it's apt that the Baalbeck (sic) International Festival, which takes place in the courtyards and steps of the site, flourishes today despite the troubles that have beset the country in recent years. Throughout history, Lebanon has been a crossroad of civilisations, a point where eastern and western cultures ­intersect. Acknowledging this, the festival has played host to some of the finest artists of the last century from both East and West, including Miles Davis, Fairouz, Rudolf Nureyev and Placido Domingo. The programme encompasses classical music, theatre, dance, opera and jazz as well as modern music, and you're as likely to see a rock band like Deep Purple playing here, as they did to great acclaim last year, as work by the Rahbani brothers or a Puccini opera. The line-up for this year's festival, which begins on July 4 and continues into August, has yet to be announced but it's rumoured that Lebanese singers Najwa Karam and Melhem Zein will be performing. Don't miss. For ticket information see www.baalbeck.org.lb or call 00961 01 373150.

Solar eclipse, Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa, Easter Island July 11 On July 11, the moon will pass between the earth and the sun, and much of the southern Pacific Ocean will be plunged into darkness. To experience the solar eclipse, in its totality, you'll have to head to Mangaia (in the Cook Islands) or Easter Island. Few excuses are needed to visit the latter: seeing Easter Island's extraordinary stone heads is every adventurous traveller's dream. In addition to the eclipse, however, this summer offers a further excuse. Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa, a new resort just outside the island's main town, is opening at the start of July. Spread over 6.7 hectares, the resort is laid out along the lines of an ancient ceremonial village. The 75 rooms make use of clay and volcanic rock, and the lobby is built in the style of a traditional Rapa Nui boathouse. It may be inspired by the island's past - the village even contains a museum - but Hangaroa has the present and the future in mind. The emphasis is on sustainability and local skills are central to the project. But just because it's eco doesn't mean it's not luxurious: the resort will have two restaurants, a spa, a pool and a movie theatre. For extra luxury on the eclipse weekend, book the 81-square-metre Hangaroa Suite. Double rooms at Hangaroa Eco Village (www.hangaroa.cl; 0056 2 339 2260) cost from $386 (Dh1,418) per person per night, including taxes. The hotel is offering a 15 per cent inaugural discount.

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