This year has a particularly rich calendar of anniversaries. If you’re looking for a trip down memory lane, look no further.
The Eiffel Tower turns 125, France
Paris’ identity is so deeply entwined with the Eiffel Tower that it’s hard to comprehend a time when it wasn’t there. Built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, it was only supposed to stand for 20 years. Its usefulness as a communications tower saw it preserved, and the tower remained the world’s tallest man-made structure for more than 40 years. You may wonder if braving the hordes who flock here is worthwhile, but be in no doubt this feat of engineering remains both deeply impressive and hugely fun to ascend – especially if you book ahead to beat the queues.
Book tickets and get times for the tower’s spectacular light shows at www.tour-eiffel.fr.
Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, Italy
Shakespeare’s all about England, right? Stratford-upon-Avon, the Globe in London and all those plays about kings suggest that to find the Bard you’ll do best in his home country. In fact, Italy is just as good a place for a Shakespeare tribute tour. The playwright set a third of his works here. Following their trail will take you from the sublime (Venice, home to both the eponymous merchant and Othello) to the ridiculous (Juliet’s house in Verona, arguably the world’s most tenuous tourist sight) via a few surprises: Padua, beautiful and largely undiscovered, and Rome, where Julius Caesar plays out.
See www.shakespeare-online.com before taking a grand tour in search of his heroes.
Chances are you have already paid your respects to the fallen of WWI. The Anzac Day service at Gallipoli in Turkey and the vast cemeteries of Flanders have long been established as essential places to get to grips with the enormous scale of this conflict. If you haven’t, this year offers a poignant reason to do so (Gallipoli marks its own centenary next year). If you have, many more places to seek out WWI sights include modern-day Israel, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and the then-German-controlled port of Qingdao in China.
A useful guide to WWI war graves around the world is at www.ww1cemeteries.com.
25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany
One of Europe’s undoubted highlights is Berlin, a city whose past quarter-century has seen unprecedented change and catapulted it into the superleague of European cities. The German capital will hog the headlines, but this anniversary is a great excuse to visit some of the other cities across former East Germany that were key in the fall of the wall, most notably Leipzig and Dresden which hosted huge demonstrations in the autumn of 1989. Of course, you won’t be far from a very fine German brew to help you toast the quarter-century of the Peaceful Revolution.
The free Deutsche Bahn app can help plan any train journey in Europe, but is especially useful when travelling in Germany.
20 years of the Channel Tunnel
It can be hard to recall the days before the Channel Tunnel; the near day-long train-boat-train slog between London and Paris is now a distant memory. The start of Eurostar services under the English Channel in 1994 has led to many changes: Paris, Brussels, Lille and London are superbly connected and travellers can easily link previously defiantly separate countries. The English capital has become the sixth-largest Francophone city in the world. Unfortunately, you can’t see fish swimming alongside the high-speed train, but minor gripes aside this is the time to sing joyeux anniversaire to an engineering feat that has made European travel even better.
The Panama Canal turns 100
A palindrome tells the story: ‘A man, a plan, a canal – Panama!’ The Panama Canal remains one of the greatest feats of engineering and one of central America’s biggest tourist drawcards. It was built so ships didn’t need to go around Cape Horn, and the best way to appreciate it is to get on the water. A full transit takes the best part of a day. Experience being lifted by mighty locks, passing through tropical hinterland and seeing bustling Panama City’s skyline. Don’t make it all you see in gloriously underrated Panama, but this centenary trip is a must.
Plan for your canal trip at www.panamainfo.com – it has tips, articles, ideas and guides.
Fifty years since the Beatles took America by storm
The Fab Four first hit the USA in 1964, and neither they nor America were ever quite the same again. In fact, the Beatles visited twice that year. That first iconic trip can be traced via New York’s JFK Airport and the Ed Sullivan Theater, from where they broadcast to America’s largest ever TV audience. A side-trip to Miami Beach, where their second Ed Sullivan Show was filmed, is an option. Or stay in the Big Apple and visit Carnegie Hall, where they also performed, and follow the Beatles to John Lennon’s Strawberry Fields Memorial in Central Park, where a meditative mosaic circles around the word ‘Imagine’.
The Ed Sullivan Theater is home to the David Letterman Show. Apply for tickets up to six months in advance at www.cbs.com.
50 years since record-breaking speeds were set in Australia
Only one man has ever broken speed records on both land and water – British velocity enthusiast Donald Campbell, in 1964. Checking out the two scenes of his zippy record-breaking makes for an unusual Australian tour. There isn’t a lot to see at Lake Eyre (Australia’s largest lake – when there’s water) deep in the South Australian outback, but there is a plaque marking Campbell’s efforts at Level Post Bay. Access is via rough tracks and you’ll need a 4WD and someone with rough camping experience. The water speed record was set at Lake Dumbleyung, three hours from Perth, Western Australia.
Marking Senna’s last race in Italy, 1994
Though dashing three-time Formula One world champion Ayrton Senna was killed in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, the race was held at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, Italy. Senna was not the only driver to die that weekend – Austria’s Rolan Ratzenberger died the day before. Fans of Senna tend to aim for the driver’s grave in his home town of São Paulo, Brazil, but hardcore fans will also visit Italy this year. Combine a visit with some of the most famous sights in Italian motorsport for a grand pilgrimage.
At www.ayrton-senna.com you can find videos, pictures and tributes to the driver.
Thirty years of Virgin Atlantic
Few would deny that the world of flying would be a duller place without Virgin Atlantic. Richard Branson’s airline manages to remain deliciously anti-establishment despite years of long-haul operations. These are changing times for the airline, which launched its first domestic UK flights in 2013. Branson’s mug continues to pop up around the world and he even had a cameo in the James Bond film Casino Royale. This year also marks the 75th anniversary of the first transatlantic flight, operated by Pan American Airways.
The independent site www.v-flyer.com helps you get good prices, plus cheeky luggage tags.