12. Visiting Gothic Cathedrals
I always visit the cathedral in every city that I visit and for years did so by default rather than by design. After all, it is very often the most impressive construction, a city’s show of wealth and ostentation.
My favourite style of cathedral is definitely Gothic – flying buttresses, vaulted ceilings and grotesque gargoyles are all winners. Throw in stupendous stained-glass windows, a colossal bell tower, intricate carvings or sculptures, a atmospheric cloisters and a huge oak or cast iron door, and you have an unbeatable tourist attraction.
As I said before, my cathedral visits were always random, they just happened to be in all round great places to visit. That was until I discovered the definitive list of Europe’s Gothic cathedrals that number 170 in total.
I have found that I have seen 53 of them and now I am on a mission to visit as many as possible (that bloke collecting gene again!).
Rather like James Bond films, I find it difficult to pinpoint my favourites as they merge into each other through their similarities.
I do recollect Troyes, Reims, Seville, Segovia, Gloucester and Cologne as deserving special merit, but then again so do Winchester, Milan, Peterborough, Notre Dame, Valencia……..
Where are you favourite cathedrals?
11. Watching Sporting Or Cultural Events
Watching culture or sport overseas is extra special. You feel like part guest part gate-crasher.
I have managed a fair few now, some organised in advance, others delightfully stumbled across by chance.
My favourite city for culture is Prague where I have seen many ballets, operas, orchestras and even a top of the table football match.
My most cultural weekend ever was in Milan in 2015. La Scala to see Giselle, the Dominican convent adjoining the church of Santa Maria delle Grazieto to look at De Vinci’s Last Supper and finally the San Siro to watch the Milan derby (and of course the cathedral!). It wasn’t cheap, but so worth it!
10. Visiting produce markets
The colours, the aromas, the tastes, the sounds. Nowhere encapsulates the word ‘sensation’ quite like a market.
Virtually every city has one. They vary from the scrupulously clean and hygienic to those where health and safety are alien words.
What is common everywhere is that produce markets are a hive of activity. From the ridiculously early deliveries and set up, through the trading hours and up to closing, the activity never steps. This makes a market the perfect place to linger and watch the world go by.
I love looking at the creative displays of colourful fruit & vegetables, the smells and sights of that day’s catch, the mountains of vibrant, strong-smelling spices, the trays of aromatic sticky sweets.
I do try and give the meat area a wide berth, especially the further east I travel. The animal lover in me is not up to seeing the cramped conditions the chickens are subjected to, whilst freshly slaughtered livestock attracting flies is enough to convince anybody to become vegetarian.
I have too many favourites to mention, but Middle Eastern souks take some beating and the floating markets of the Mekong probably take the novelty prize.
Floating Market, Mekong Delta, Vietnam