Back in the mid-eighties, I secured a booking for a large GAA group that wanted to undertake a multi-city tour of the US, taking in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. As is standard practice with large groups, I brought two of the group leaders out with me on an inspection tour of all three cities so that they could stay in the various hotels that we had chosen for them and deliberate on which tours to take in each destination. During the New York phase of the trip, we booked a dinner in a restaurant called ‘Windows on the World’ which was located at the top of one of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. The views were spectacular and ‘Window’s on the World’ turned out to be a complex of multiple restaurants which occupied the very top floors of one of the towers with double height ceiling to floor glass panels that provided uninterrupted views over downtown and midtown Manhattan. Sadly, people can no longer enjoy those views because of the tragic events of 9/11.
It got me to thinking about other places and experiences around the world that, for one reason or another, may cease to exist because of a combination of factors so here’s a short and arbitrary list of just some of the many places that you should probably put on your ‘To Do’ list, while you still can!
- The Taj Mahal
I was in India a couple of years ago but spent all my time in Kerala and so never got to visit what is commonly referred to as the Golden Triangle that includes Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. I am finally getting to undertake that trip in just a few weeks’ time as the Taj Mahal has always fascinated me — not least because of the impression that the Alhambra Palace in Grenada, Spain, made on me many years ago. I am a lover of good architecture and they don’t come much more exquisite than the Alhambra. I was shocked therefore, a few weeks ago, to read an article which claimed that the Indian government has threatened to close all access to the Taj Mahal unless the local authorities start spending a lot of money in renovating and maintaining the structure which is apparently falling into serious disrepair! A wake-up call if ever there was one to go and see this man-made wonder of the world.
- The Maldives
I’ve been meaning to visit the Maldives for several years but keep on putting off the trip because, idyllic and all as they appear, my concern is that I would get bored after a day or two as I am not a sun worshipper, even though, paradoxically, I love beaches. AS you probably know, the Maldives are a collection of coral atolls located less than 1,000 kms southwest of Sri Lanka and average between 1.5 and 2.4 metres above sea level in elevation so there are very real concerns that they could end up becoming submerged (along with several other island nations) beneath the sea due to global warning and melting ice caps. Better experience this piece of paradise before it becomes too late.
- The Great Barrier Reef
The first time I visited Australia back in 1988, I had the extreme pleasure of spending the most amazing day snorkelling on that part of the Great Barrier Reef that is located about 20 miles off Cairns in Northern Queensland. The moment I donned my facemask and submerged myself into the waters that were pristine clear and of body temperature, I had what I can literally describe as an out of body experience that I’ve never experienced before or since. Visibility could be measured in hundreds of yards and the explosion of colours that I experienced between different species of coral and fish is still one of the greatest highlights of my global meanderings over the past 40 years! Recent reports worryingly speak of major destruction and bleaching of the corals due to pollution and other factors, so this underwater nirvana may not be there to be experienced by future generations of snorkelers and scuba divers. One for the bucket list.
- The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is amazing! Not only is it the lowest point on planet earth but it is also famous for the legendary buoyancy of its water, due primarily to its extremely high salt concentration. It is impossible to sink in its waters and experiencing the sensation of lying on your back whilst reading a book or newspaper is quite a surreal experience. A word of warning though! Don’t go into the waters if you have any cuts or abrasions on your body (as I foolishly did) as they will sting like hell. The waters contain high concentrations of other minerals such as manganese and so are highly recommended for health purposes, as is the low barometric pressure in the area which is apparently good for asthma sufferers. Unfortunately, the waters of the Dead See are evaporating at an accelerated pace so best to check it out whilst it’s still there.
In case you weren’t aware of it, Venice is sinking. The whole city is built on stilts believe it or not on some reclaimed land in the middle of the lagoon and the sheer weight of the amazing palazzos and churches that were build on top over the centuries is causing the whole series of islands to sink bit by bit each year. Rising water levels are not helping matters either. The city authorities have recently voted to ban larger cruise ships from visiting the city, such are their fears over flooding and damage to the foundations of its historic buildings. Venice is such a unique destination in the world, so if you haven’t been yet then you’ll surely have to put it at the top of your list.