When COVID-19 hit and borders across the globe shut down for the better part of 2020, like most travel enthusiasts, I went through a gamut of emotions. Travel, for me, has always been therapeutic. Immersing myself in different cultures, learning about the history and heritage of different countries, meeting new people and making lifelong memories—be it physical visual or social, travel is as stimulating as it is healing. So this year, with many countries cautiously opening its doors to tourists, I chalked out a new Covid-adjusted bucket list for myself. If you’re all rested and recharged to kick start your travel in this New Normal Covid-era, here are some recommendations to help make informed choices along with Covid appropriate behaviour and travel precautions put in place by countries across the globe.
Taking the familiar by surprise Comfort is a big factor in anxious times but here is how to enjoy your favourite safe havens, albeit differently
SPAIN AND ITALY
No Italian escape is complete without a food tour in Palermo or the Godfather Tour in Catania. Luxuriate in the celebrity-famous Lake Como and visit Cinque Terre—five stunning villages guaranteed to make you feel like a star. What’s not to fall in love within Spain? From food to architecture, locales, and adventure, this is where Pedro Almodóvar gets creative; need we oversell? Travel further east of Madrid to the Mediterranean city of Barcelona, home to Catalonia’s most famous architect and go on an artistic private bike journey through the city of Gaudi. Ride on a horse carriage in Seville and sample authentic tapas, visit private palaces, and watch Flamenco dancers and singers perform. Let your hair down in Ibiza, the Balearic island off the southern coast of Spain famous for its appeal to celebrities, millennials et al. Your itinerary must include the beautiful city-resort of Marbella, popular for its Sierra Blanca Mountains as the backdrop to sandy Mediterranean beaches, villas, hotels, and golf courses. To the west of the town is the Golden Mile of prestigious nightclubs. Stay at Puente Romano Marbella—a lifestyle resort with direct access to the beach, a paradise for lovers of sport and leisure (www.puenteromano.com).
Visit the Croatian coasts and islands to explore Plitvice Lakes National Park, known for a chain of 16-terraced lakes, joined by waterfalls that extend into a limestone canyon. Walkways and hiking trails wind around and across the water. Sample oysters in Ston, plan a visit to Zagreb and experience some epic Game of Thrones fan moments.
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HOME IN THE WORLD
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BJP IN GOA
Making Mumbai the Kindness Capital
Happiness delivery: Organising meals and vaccinations for the underprivileged in Mumbai and offering educational and financial support to children orphaned during the pandemic
THE CLOUT WIELDERS
THE GLOBAL COVID PANDEMIC, which hit the world last year, not only took away the lives of millions and devastated economies, it also reorganised the political order in many regions. India was among the countries hit the hardest by the ravaging virus, yet, the political impact of Covid is still not evident. Six states went to polls since the pandemic broke out in India in March 2020—all before the second wave of Covid hit the country in early April 2021—but it was not an electoral issue during the campaigns. The political power order of the country has remained largely unchanged with the RSS-BJP ecosystem firmly entrenched at the top. While de facto Congress chief Rahul Gandhi remains the sole national voice against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government, recent political movements have seen the emergence of regional satraps as new power centres. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee not only withstood a massive BJP campaign to dethrone her in the assembly poll earlier this year but is also now projecting herself as an alternative to Modi. In this quest, she will need the support of Maratha stalwart Sharad Pawar, who is the unofficial nerve centre of the Maharashtra government. The India Today political power list of 2021 provides a quick overview of the strongest players giving direction to the political discourse in the country.
J&K: Fear Returns To The Valley
For the past fortnight, a Kashmiri Pandit social activist in Srinagar (name withheld for security concerns) has been living under police protection. A posse of policemen knocked on his door around midnight on October 5 and shifted him to a more secure location, a kilometre from his house. “They told me I was on the militants’ radar and needed to go with them,” he says.
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Behind the Scenes
Get a glimpse of the inner workings of luxury hotels.
Celebrate Good Times
Travelers again look to special trips to observe life’s milestones.
David Neeleman Has No Fear Of Flying
The founder of JetBlue has overcome some crazy setbacks on his way to becoming the most successful serial airline entrepreneur in history. So why would he let a global pandemic get in the way of launching his latest carrier?
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David Neeleman, airline savant (think Jetblue) and perpetual optimist, is at it again with a new budget carrier called Breeze
Aloft Delray Beach
Arrival/Check-in: I arrived at AloftDelray Beach pretty late in the evening after a COVID-friendly outdoor dinner reservation. However late it may have been, a lovely woman at the front desk greeted us as if she had been waiting for us all day.