From the Eiffel Tower at 130, to 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Suzanne Harrington rounds up the milestones worth travelling for.
Planning a trip? Want to add extra focus and meaning? Weave an historical date into your travels, and turn a holiday into a cultural adventure.
Here are some upcoming anniversaries in 2019, themed around revolution and breaking new ground.
Let’s start easy, with beautiful Paris. It’s the 130th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower on March 31, when it was opened to mark the centenary of the French Revolution. (Ironic, given how the current conflict between the Gilets Jaunes and the CRS riot police has seen the Eiffel Tower closed during several Saturdays in December).
Prominent Parisiens in 1889 were not initially pleased with a 300-metre metal sculpture jutting out of the city’s famous skyline; it took a few years for the tower to become France’s most famous landmark.
Make sure you book ahead to avoid the notoriously lengthy queues (www.toureiffel.paris).
Jean Cocteau, poet, film maker, painter, author of Les Enfants Terribles, and avant-garde revolutionary was born near Paris 130 years ago on July 5.
You can visit his old house at 36 Rue de Montpensier, Palais Royal, which is now a posh restaurant called Muscade (www.muscadepalaisroyal.com).
But Cocteau’s most famous house was in the countryside south east of Paris — this is where he entertained Coco Chanel, Proust, Picasso, Charlie Chaplin, Erik Satie and others.
Maison Jean Cocteau is now a museum, at 15 Rue Du Lau, 91490 Milly La Foret (www.maisoncocteau.net).
If you fancy a French road trip, why not head south to the heavenly town of Aix-en-Provence (760km), which was the birthplace of artist Paul Cézanne in 1839.
His house and studio are still there, all perfectly preserved (www.cezanne-en-provence.com).
You could drive over to nearby Arles (77km) where Van Gogh lived and worked — it’s where he painted his famous sunflowers. (www.fondation-vincentvangogh-arles.org).
Next year is the 130th anniversary of his death.
November 9 marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A ‘unity seesaw’ will be unveiled, inscribed with ‘Wir Sind Das Volk, Wir Sind Ein Volk’ (‘We Are The People, We Are One People’), the slogan shouted during those tumultuous days, and a petition has been doing the rounds to get David Hasselhoff involved again.
There will be exhibitions of photography, a Stasi records archive, and you can run the length of the Wall if you’re feeling lively. (www.visitberlin.de/en/events-30th-anniversary-fall-of-the-wall).
If, however, you hit peak Wall, you can always explore the rock’n’roll revolutionaries woven into the fabric of the city — there are David Bowie walking tours (www.musictours-berlin.com/bowie-berlin-walk), or visit the most fun place in all of Berlin, the Ramones Museum (www.ramonesmuseum.com) which is a paradise of Ramones memorabilia. You could happily spend all day there (I did).
Shout out to gay people on this 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a pivotal event in the struggle for LGBTQ liberation and equality.
New York is devoting the whole of June to celebrations — 30 days, 50 events, with three million people expected to attend (www.2019-worldpride-stonewall50.nycpride.org).
Also, on June 28, Worldpride will be held in the US for the first time, in honour of the Stonewall uprising – the theme is ‘Millions of Moments of Pride’.
On June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village was raided once again by the NYPD — but this time the community inside fought back. Led by African American drag queen Marsha P Johnson, the Stonewall customers had had enough of being bullied.
The Gay Liberation Front was formed — the beginning of the modern LGBTQ rights movement in the US. Fifty years on, the celebrations promise to be huge.
Expect glitter and joy. And Airbnb to be booked solid.
Head to Havana for the 60th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, when Fidel Castro and his band of rebels overthrew the dictator Batista and installed communism, to the horror of nearby America. Fidel is dead now, and it’s only a matter of time before Starbucks moves in, but Cuba still holds its charm, despite decades of being shot by both sides.
In 2020, Liberation Day (January 1 and 2) will be celebrated with free concerts and events. (There were already celebrations on January 1 and 2 this year.) However, if you are not feeling particularly revolutionary, all inclusive holidays are becoming increasingly popular, from lying around a pool to exploring Cuban history, culture and its famously crumbling pastel architecture, facilitated by mainstream tour operators like Thomas Cook and Virgin.
If you’d rather something more authentic, however, stay in a casa particular — a private house.
That way, you are seeing the real Cuba, while putting your money into the pockets of ordinary people instead of big companies. Try www.casaparticular.com or www.homestay.com/cuba. Viva la revolución!
THE 1519 WORLD TOUR
Grandiose yes, but it’s not every year you get to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the planet in wooden boats full of starving scurvied mutinous sailors.
While tourists cannot yet replicate the 1969 trip to the moon and back, tracing Ferdinand Magellan’s groundbreaking world trip in 2019 is more doable. All you need is time and money. If you haven’t got enough of either, cherrypick the highlights:
Seville: the famous Feria de Abril (a heady mix of horses, flamenco, sherry, and Andaluz passion) happens May 4-11 (www.andalucia.com/festival/seville-feria). Or get there for Semana Santa (April 14-21) and watch the Penitentes’ dramatic take on the Easter bonnet (www.semana-santa.org).
Straits of Malacca: Take a bouncy hovercraft from Penang in Malaysia to the coast of Sumatra, and visit its capital Medan. There’s a surprising amount to see (www.thecrazytourist.com/15-best-things-medan-indonesia).
Chile: Not necessarily the actual Straits of Magellan, but visit capital Santiago and La Serena for the full solar eclipse on July 2. (www.eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov)
Philippines: The 30th South East Asian Games happen this November, featuring 56 sports — all the usual plus rock climbing, sambo, surfing, and several untranslatable (www.facebook.com/2019SEAGames)
Official South Africa: The Cape of Good Hope is in Table Mountain National Park, teeming with wildlife — baboons, zebras, ostriches, African penguins, all kinds of boks, and you might even see whales from your vantage point. You’ll probably need a guide. (www.viator.com/Cape-Town-attractions/Cape-of-Good-Hope-Nature-Reserve)
Cabo Verde: Aaaaaaand relax. If you’ve followed Magellan’s trail and managed to not be killed, as he was, you could probably do with some sub tropical island time 560km west of the Senegal coast. Turtle hatching season is October and November (www.capeverde.co.uk) Bon voyage!