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Passionate experience junkie. Lover of the arts and architecture. Want to see and share the world, one village at a time.

Five Off-the-Beaten Track Must-Sees for the New Year

Planet Earth holds wonders plentiful and marvelous. No one could ever experience them all but I offer up five places that slide under the mass-media radar. They are nevertheless priceless nuggets that offer design, history, sunshine, iconography, and whimsy. Enjoy!

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The Mountain Apartments

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V and M Apartments


Masters of Design

If you need design stimulation of the first degree, get thee to the streets of Orestad for your architecture fix. In what used to be the empty island of Amager just to the south of Copenhagen, the new city of Orestad appeared seemingly overnight like mushrooms, but with elegant alchemy of metals, glass and stone. Over the last twelve years, this flat, buildable area has become the architectural gem of Denmark with one building more unique and innovative than the last.

Apartment buildings like the VM Houses, so named because from above the pointy balconies look like Vs and Ms, and The Mountain, are by Bjarke Ingels and Julien De Smedt. Lucky students attend Orestad Gymnasium where the upper exterior has multi-colored swiveling glass panes and an equally innovative flow-designed interior common space, visible through huge first-floor windows. The recently completed 8House holds 476 apartments and retail space in a figure-eight design by Bjarke Ingels Group, (BIG), and was named “The world’s best residential building” at the 2011 World Architectural Festival in Barcelona.

The obsessively on-time and automated trains arrive on architecturally elegant raised tracks from Copenhagen’s city center in a quick ten minutes with two stops in Orestad.

Copnhagen City and Port Development

Nordre Toldbod 7
DK-1013 København K, Denmark

Tel: +45 3376 4800



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Off in the distance you can see the tiny slip of land that encloses Mar Menor. Photo credit: Hotel Costa Nerejos


Mar Menor, Small Sea of Many Talents

In one of those “when the earth was formed” kind of stories, Mar Menor in southern Spain fits the bill with its unusual shape. This 170 square kilometer sea was formed when a tiny isthmus of land called La Manga stretched out and dotted the sea to form a delicate lattice encircling what many call a lake. The saltwater of the Mediterranean flows in easily as this little sea is not completly closed off by La Manga, but the effect causes the waters of Mar Menor to be calm as glass, making it ideal for windsurfing, boat races, and growth of a seaweed that is said to rejuvenate your skin.

Ladies and men wade into the Mar Menor as if on a mission. They are. Know just the right spot – Lo Pagan – and you can wade in, reach down and pull up the mud and seaweed to rub on your body for healing wounds and alleviating arthritis.

Love sailing and windsurfing? The shallow waters, (seven meters maximum), and glassy surface make excellent year-round conditions for learning, experimenting, and racing, putting Mar Menor at the top-of-the-list for a sail or a bath – mud, that is.

Mar Menor Tourist Office

Gran Via K. 0

La Manga del Mar Menor, Spain

Tel: +34 968 146 136


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Winery at Cordoniu

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Spain’s Codorníu Winery

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Whimsical Cava Country

Everybody likes wine, but the Catalonians find wine – or more specifically cava – to be as vital as breathing. Vineyards with macabeo, xarel·lo  and parellada grapes pepper the rolling landscape and the grapes are picked each autumn and driven down two-lane country roads on trackers to nearby wineries, large and small to make the sparkling wine.

Southwest of Barcelona is cava country and the wineries are plentiful for processing the local fruit and to keep the economy chugging. Two heavy-hitter cava makers grace the town of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia: Freixenet and Codorníu.

After entering through the iron gates of Codorníu, a tree-lined lane leads you to the compound. Graceful arches of glass and stone come into view of the stunning main building by renowned Catalan architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch, a forerunner of Antoni Gaudi. Bumpy spires tell a design story carried on by whimsical Gaudi. The lyrical arches continue underground to the damp and solid cellars. Take a guided tour of the buildings, landscaped grounds and cellars to soak in the musky ambience and masterful architecture. Oh, and have a glass or two of cava.

Codorníu Winery

Avda. Jaume Codorníu s/n.
08770 Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Spain

Tel: +34 93 891 33 42


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Cartegena’s City Hall

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Unearthed Roman Theater bumping right up to existing apartments in the background

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Peral’s submarine


One Under Land, One Under Sea

Cartagena, Spain not only has palm trees loaded with bright green parrots, but also two more elemental-bound aspects. Along Paseo de Alfonso XII which parallels the waterfront can be found the 22 meter-long first experimental submarine of Isaac Peral, now mounted outdoors for view. Lieutenant Peral invented this very first submarine in 1888. As with all brand-new inventions, Peral’s submarine had some bugs to work out and the inventor died before knowing his underwater ships would become vital wartime and scientific devices. Peral also invented the periscope and an early form of underwater lamp.

Cartegena’s “under land” element happened by accident. Several decades ago a blight-filled neighborhood gave the city elders one too many headaches and the decision was made to raze crumbling tenements. As the buildings came down, it was discovered that the foundations shared stones with an ancient Roman theater completely underneath the existing streetscape. It took ten years to unearth the entire Roman amphitheater, completely changing the personality of the city. Now, the prettily-landscaped 2,000 year-old theater and new museum bump right up to still-existing apartment buildings, giving a surreal atmosphere to the space, and boosting tourism.

Museo del Teatro Romano de Cartagena

Plaza del Ayuntamiento nº9 30201, Cartagena, Spain 

Tel: +34 968 504 802


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Harry’s Cafe De Wheels


Follow the Stars Down Under

Follow the undulating shoreline to Sydney’s east side to Woolloomooloo Bay for an iconic midnight snack. Since 1938, Harry’s Café De Wheels has been serving up its fare to movie stars and everyone else who find this a must-stop on their itinerary while in Australia. Frank Sinatra, Sir Richard Branson, Russell Crowe, and Anthony Bourdain, among many others have enjoyed “pies + peas” at Harrys.

Order any of the meat or vegetarian pies, topped with “mushy peas,” take it in its cardboard box out to the cement ledge by the bay and watch ducks swim as you enjoy your midnight snack. Late night is the best time to go for people-watching and not-so-frantic cooks inside Harry’s.

Harry’s Café De Wheels joined the Australian National Trust Register in 2004 for places with historical and social significance.

Harry’s Café de Wheels

Corner Cowper Wharf Roadway
& Brougham Road
Woolloomooloo, NSW 2011, Australia
Tel: +61 02 9357 3074

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2 Responses to “Five Off-the-Beaten Track Must-Sees for the New Year”

  1. Fun locations! And you’re right, not typical at all! Hope to get to Spain and Denmark and will put your recommendations on our list. 🙂
    Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru recently posted..Ludwigsburg: Fairytale Palace and GardensMy Profile

    September 29, 2014 at 1:31 am Reply
    • Hi Betsy,
      I hope you get to Spain and Denmark soon, too! They are very different from each other, but both beautiful in their own right.
      Happy and safe travels to you!

      October 1, 2014 at 2:53 pm Reply

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