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7 Top Places for Fall Travel

Posted by Amy Clyde on 6/1/2016
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Travel, Fall Foliage, Jazz, London, New England, New Orleans, England, Munich, Dublin, Berlin, Budapest, Cape Cod, Hungary, Oktoberfest, Shakespeare, escorted tours

London in AutumnThe summer crowds are gone. The fresh crisp air creates a new energy and a new sense of beginning. Much of Europe and the US is at its most scenic and most culturally exciting. Fall is simply a wonderful time to travel. For an unforgettable trip, here’s where you should go…

1. London
London TeaLondon is going to be fabulous this fall, and you’ll need to pace yourself. I suggest booking afternoon tea at a different place every day to keep you going – and also because afternoon tea is a great comfort to those of us who still mourn the passing of Downton Abbey. My favourite spot is the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason, where Coronation Chicken sandwiches have been elevated to an art form. Hotels like The Langham also do tea, and then there’s the Michelin-starred Sketch Gallery, where pink velvet booths and modern art provide a glam backdrop for nibbling on Battenberg cake, and buttery scones with clotted cream and fig jam. Champagne optional.

If you have to choose only one sight to visit, I recommend Westminster Abbey because it reveals much that is truly special about Britain. This is the church where generations of royals have been married, including William and Kate, and it’s one of the places where the British have perfected the pageantry they’re known for around the world. This grand Gothic edifice is also where, by tradition, Britain’s leading figures of all walks are buried and memorialized. Wandering among the tombs and plaques, I’m always struck anew by just how much this tiny island has given the world. Darwin, Dickens, and Sir Laurence Olivier rest here, and there are moving memorials to everyone from Shakespeare and Jane Austen to Winston Churchill. It all started with Chaucer, the first great English writer, who was buried at the church in 1400. After his death other prominent people asked to be laid to rest near him, and so it began.

shakespeareWhat’s on in London this fall? The British Museum has mounted a major new exhibition called Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds that resurrects two 1200-year-old Egyptian cities recently found beneath the Mediterranean seabed. The National Portrait Gallery's major autumn show is Picasso Portraits tracing the development of the artist through the portraits he painted. And the Tate Modern will offer a Georgia O’Keeffe retrospective in its new wing, shaped like a twisting pyramid and worth a visit for its own sake.

2016 is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, so you might want to visit the Globe Theatre. One of his best plays, Macbeth is up until October 1, and there are a number of special events dedicated to the Bard. Other highlights of autumn in London include the Totally Thames Festival, celebrating the river with boat races and arts events; the London Restaurant Festival, including restaurant-hopping tours and chef-hosted activities; and the London Design Festival, when crazy golf designed by world-class architects will take over Trafalgar Square!

2. Ireland
As autumn days grow cooler, the famous hospitality of the Irish people simply grows warmer. And everywhere you turn in Ireland, there’s a fall festival going on, bringing out the locals to share the fun. Does traditional Irish music set your toes tapping? The Cork Folk Festival presents some of the country’s best artists. Are you a theatre-lover? The Dublin Theatre Festival goes up in October, staging world-class productions throughout the city. Culinary connoisseur? Taste your way through the gourmet festival in seaside Kinsale, Ireland’s foodie capital.

Dublin’s fall festival season starts with the annual Dublin Culture Night in September, featuring late-night openings and free events held across the city’s top museums, galleries and concert halls. Then comes the Fringe Festival, offering up everything from international music and dance, to circus performers and stand-up comedy… the Theatre Festival… and the Bram Stoker Festival, four days during which the Dracula author and Dubliner (who married Oscar Wilde’s girlfriend, but that’s another story) is honoured with horror film screenings, nighttime walking tours, and other gothic fun.

A great walking city, Dublin is especially beautiful dressed up in colourful autumn leaves, which you’ll see if you do a pub crawl or two. For sheer coziness, look for the establishments that offer open hearths; others are steeped in literary legend and lore. Dublin’s pubs are inextricably entwined with the lives and writings of the likes of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. Sláinte!

DublinWhile in this UNESCO City of Literature, be sure to visit the hallowed halls of the Old Library at Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. Celtic monks created this illustrated version of the gospels around 800 A.D; a labor of love and an immense undertaking that they had to guard with their lives, virtually every page is bordered by intricate Celtic designs that will take your breath away. The book has come to symbolize the power of learning, the impact of Christianity on Ireland, and the enduring spirit of the artistic imagination.

3. Munich
You may have been to “Oktoberfest” celebrations all over the world, but until you visit the original festival in Munich, where it began, you haven’t had the full Bavarian experience – a unique blend of beer consumption, traditional feasting, live brass bands, communal singing, and dancing. It all started in 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen and invited the citizens of Munich to the celebratory festivities on the fields in front of the city. Today Munich’s Oktoberfest is the largest festival in the world.

Munich OktoberfestThe party runs from the 3rd Saturday in September until October 3rd and takes place in fourteen enormous brewery tents, each with its own personality. You’ll find instructions for making tent reservations at the festival website, oktoberfest.de. A few prime examples: the gourmet Käfers Wies’n-Schänke tent attracts celebrities, the Pschorr-Bräurosl tent has a resident yodeler, and the Hacker Pschorr tent is painted to look like a “Bavarian heaven.”

Here’s your chance to quench your thirst, and eat pretzels, roast chicken, pork knuckles with sauerkraut, and spätzle while joining in old German songs like Ein Prosit, Fliegerlied, and Viva Colonia. The musicians might even throw in a few American songs, like Sweet Home Alabama, YMCA, and Take Me Home, Country Roads. Be sure to wear your lederhosen or dirndl – but no silly beer stein hats unless you want to be marked as a tourist.

4. Berlin
BerlinAt any time of year, few cities are as fascinating as Berlin. 20th-century history is everywhere, from the Berlin Wall to the Brandenburg Gate, speaking eloquently of a past that’s still relevant today. The five museums of Museum Island house priceless treasures. And the city sizzles with the energy of hip, creative, young (and young-minded) people from all over the world who’ve settled there – and filled the city with art, music, new German cuisine, and some of the best Turkish food outside Ankara. Not to mention currywurst, the locals’ all-time favourite fast food, which has a museum devoted to it.

A great thing about visiting in autumn is Lichterfest, when more than 70 city structures – buildings, bridges and landmarks – are illuminated at night, staged by famous artists and lighting designers. And then there’s the stunning Pyronale World Fireworks Championship; six international teams compete to create the most spectacular display against the imposing backdrop of the Olympic Stadium and historic Maifeld Bell Tower. Best of all is the public party at Brandenburg Gate on German Unity Day, October 3rd – commemorating the reunification of Germany after the Berlin Wall fell.

After you’ve seen Checkpoint Charlie and discovered what life was like on the Eastern side of Berlin, you might want to see The East Side Gallery – one of the most iconic parts of the Berlin Wall that remains. Soon after the reunification, more than 100 artists were commissioned to paint murals on this mile-long stretch of the wall, as a celebration and vibrant memory that would be preserved for future generations to share and understand. It’s the best graffiti in the world.

5. Budapest
Budapest
From the moment you see the Hungarian Parliament Building sitting majestically on the Danube, you know you have arrived in a city of remarkable architectural beauty. The banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle quarter and Andrássy Avenue, lined with turn-of-the-20th-century mansions, chic shops, and elegant restaurants, have together been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and “one of the world's outstanding urban landscapes.”

In Budapest, the fine architectural heritage is intertwined with some of the most delightful events of fall. The royal castle in Buda will be the palatial setting for both the Budapest International Wine Festival, where you can sample some of the best Hungarian wines and national culinary specialties while listening to folk music, and the Pálinka and Sausage Festival; pálinka is a type of Hungarian brandy that finds its way into all sorts of delicacies. It goes well with sausage!

Another fun event in Budapest this fall is the National Gallop, an annual celebration of Hungarian equestrian traditions, Hungarian military history, and hussar culture. The center of the event is a national horse race in Heroes’ Square, a riveting display of horse riding skills by equestrians from all over Hungary.

For a more relaxing cultural experience, enticing on a fall day, consider taking a healing dip in one of Budapest’s public baths. (Budapest is often called the “City of Baths.”) Three of the most historically and visually interesting are the Neo-Baroque Szechenyi Bath, the Art Nouveau Gellert Bath, and the Turkish Rudas Bath, founded in the 16th century.

6. New Orleans
One taste of a beignet at Café du Monde, and you will fall for New Orleans, like so many travellers before you. A beignet (pronounced ben-yay) is a square piece of dough from heaven, fried and covered with powdered sugar – and, for me, one of the essential flavors of the city, a sweet little package infused with jazz and joie de vivre, antebellum charm and bohemian sparkle. Have yours with a cup of Café du Monde coffee with chicory, and you’ll thank your lucky stars that the French who came to Louisiana from Nova Scotia way back when had the sense to invent this almost New Orleans Musicchocolate-y dark brew. Chicory is endive root. I was skeptical at first, but then I had my first sip. One thing you learn right away in New Orleans: go ahead and taste it, whatever it is. Because it’s going to be good.

New Orleans is always fun, but autumn is my favourite time because the weather cools off and makes exploring more comfortable – from the jazz clubs and the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park to the Garden and Antiques Districts, oozing old-fashioned Southern charm. If you’re there in October, you might want to pop into the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival on Lafayette Square.

new orleans ww2 museumSome of the best things to do are taking a cooking class, going on a French Quarter walking tour, visiting the National World War II Museum, and poking around Magazine Street in the Garden District, six miles of antiques, boutiques, galleries, and restaurants in 19th-century brick storefronts and quaint cottages. And then it will be time to eat again, thank goodness – gumbo, a muffuletta, a po’boy… because, as Mark Twain once said, “New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin."

7. Just about anywhere in New England…
If you’ve never seen the blazing autumn foliage of New England, you might want to put it at the top of your list for fall travel. The autumn colours are much more beautiful than photographs can capture. Here are a few places to enjoy the visual feast, while having a lot of fun…

Early American history comes to life in New England, and nowhere more so than in Boston – from Boston Common, where British troops made camp in 1775 before braving colonial resistance at Lexington and Concord, to every other historic site on the storied Freedom Trail.

And when you’ve satisfied your inner history buff, you can explore Boston’s distinctive neighborhoods, including the elegant townhouses and cobblestoned lanes of Beacon Hill… stroll through Boston Public Garden dressed up in autumn foliage… visit Harvard across the river in Cambridge… and duck into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where an art collection featuring works by Rembrandt, Degas, and Sargent is housed in a Venetian palazzo with a much admired inner courtyard that blooms with bellflowers in September and chrysanthemums in October.

Travelling north, discover more of the unflappable Yankee sensibility in the Berkshire Mountains, a mecca for generations of artists and writers, where Edith Wharton and Norman Rockwell lived and were inspired… and in the Green Mountains of Vermont, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and a coastal world of lobster catching and sailing in Maine.
New England
Or you might want to venture south of Boston along the Massachusetts and Rhode Island shores – to Cape Cod, where the pilgrims landed in Provincetown and whale watching is a local pastime… the Yankee down-to-earth yet fashionable islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard… and Newport, which is just as lively in the fall as the summer. Here you can discover the opulent “cottages” built by the Vanderbilts and others during the Gilded Age – and perhaps check out some of the highlights of the fall season – the Newport International Boat Show, the Newport Wooden Boat Show, and the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival.


Discover the autumn travel season on Tauck’s escorted tours. If you’d like to spend some extra days in the starting city of your Tauck trip to explore more of the fun offerings of fall before your Tauck itinerary begins, or if you’d like to stay longer in the town where your Tauck itinerary ends, we can arrange a pre- or post-stay for you at our hotel. Ask at booking.
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