Back in the summer of 2013, I was lucky enough to experience the Pamir Highway from the city of Khorog in Tajikistan through to Kyrgyzstan’s South Capital, Osh. The high-altitude route was built by Soviet military engineers between 1931 and 1934, yet the path follows on from those forged by the ancient Silk routes. Still relatively unknown, the pass was only recently opened up to travellers, so if you’re looking for a niche New Year’s resolution to undertake this year, head to the Pamir Highway.
Also known as ‘The Roof of the World’, the official and much blander name of the road is the M41 Highway. The Pamirs offer unparalleled mountain scenery with a mixture of yurts and yaks, as well as some of the most richly coloured lakes of a deep-blue colour that I have seen. Roads can be perilous with frequent landslides, heavily damaged by the elements with steep mountain passes with no barriers between the road and cliffs. Numerous lorries navigate the largely one-track passes with impressive skill and courage, but with its decaying road, travel is not for the faint-hearted and must be approached with the utmost caution.
After spending quite a lot of time travelling around North America, I can safely say that nothing beats the quaint area of New England. From the steaming hot summers to the freezing cold winters Boston is always a sight to behold. With Italian restaurants, sweeping parks and cosy coffee shops, the city is more a snippet of Europe than an American metropolis. If you want to explore Boston like a local, follow this guide to see how the Boston folk like to spend their time.
- Coolidge Corner
Where to shop
First of all, despite the tourists, the Prudential Centre is always a favourite for shopping. Located only minutes away from Newberry Street (which holds all your heart can desire), the Prudential has some nice stores inside including a big Barnes and Noble for the book lovers among us. If the Prudential is too crowded for you, just beyond the Copley Square tube station and past the public library you will find two big department stores handy for home and designer clothes shopping. Good for bargain hunters, Marshalls and Nordstrom Rack hold clothes and home accessories which stock great finds for the quality buyer.
It is not news that USA and Canada are at loggerheads with anything from sports to syrup, but very few things come as close in subject and location as the Niagara Falls. Three waterfalls bordering Ontario, Canada and New York, America leave a legacy of the last ice age that receded in 11,000 BC. An arresting scene of natural beauty, the falls are one of the top attractions in both countries and are also used as a source of power. But instead of being asked about the scenery or overall visit, the most common question asked is “which side did you go from?”Having visited from both sides myself, I now plan to distinguish the difference.
- (Ueno Park; lovetoexplore.blogspot.com)
In the autumn of 2009, a fresh-faced, 16 year old version of me equipped with a phrase book and an embarrassingly large backpack set of on the greatest adventure of her life to date – a 3 week tour of Japan. Travelling as part of a school group forming a link with a partner school in Oita, we travelled around the largest of the islands; Honshu, visiting a variety of cities including Hiroshima, Kyoto and of course, Tokyo. Japan is a fascinating mix of the futuristic and the ancient, a place where you can leave an 8 storey arcade, turn a corner and find yourself in an ancient Buddhist temple, a place where vending machines dispense boiling hot noodles, a place where people will stop you on the street to stroke your hair because they’ve never seen a natural red-head. A place that was, through my wide-eyed perspective, like nothing I had ever seen or experienced before.
We flew into Tokyo and after dropping our baggage at the very reasonable Sakura Hotel in Ikebukero, spent the afternoon exploring the city. My personal highlights of this city include Asakusa for traditional Japanese architecture and the electronic dazzle of Akihabara, both perfect examples of the stark contrast between tradition and development. Make sure to explore the bizarre fashion district, Harijuku, and for a break from the bustle; the tranquil Ueno Park. A real moment for me was experiencing the epic Shibuya crossing, a 3 way junction that is constantly crammed with thousands of commuters and tourists alike. The sheer volume of people amidst the screen-clad skyscrapers makes you feel both tiny and important simultaneously.
“Present for you, present for you”, a man says, pulling at my wrist and tying a piece of multi-coloured thread around it, whilst thrusting two roses into my hand. I smile. “That’s two euros.” Hmm. The word “present” has different connotations here, and I’m literally knotted to the exchange. I’m less than delighted at having to pay for my newly acquired ‘gifts’, but I suppose I’m not just getting a bracelet for my money. These men are ultimately selling one thing: romance. And it works.
A view of the Colosseum steeped in history (famouswonders.com)
I’m in a place that’s renowned for having an atmosphere of sizzling passion. Finding love in Rome is unavoidable. Influenced by what they’ve seen in well-known Hollywood romantic comedies such as “Roman Holiday” and “To Rome with Love”, many people visit the city with a hope of finding said romance, whether that falling in love with a person or the place itself. The Italian language, one famous for being a language of love, is enchanting: “ciao bella” appears to have an irresistible and unquestionable charm when spoken by a stranger, whereas the thought of hearing a “hello beautiful” from someone you bump into on a British street is likely to send us running.
I leave my flowers on a table outside gelateria for a passer-by and continue through the maze of streets. The crowds begin to thicken and I start to realise why: the Trevi Fountain stands centre-stage around the next corner. Although a little crowd has gathered, securing a photograph and a close-encounter with this magnificent marble and travertine piece is happily surprisingly easy. The statues glow incandescently, like mother of pearl in the sunlight, the carved bodies of men rippling as though real. Throw one coin over your shoulder into the fountain and you’ll return to Rome; two, you will find romance; three, you will marry. A couple hold each other close for a picture and I wonder whether they’re feeling superstitious.