The black-book to Middle-Earth

Always the favourite country of tourists, New Zealand is often said to be the secret paradise of the world. Quietly tucked away in a corner, this island nation perhaps escapes the attention of some travellers, but as anyone who has ever set sight upon its shores would tell you, it would stay with you forever.

There are countless reasons to visit New Zealand, but the most important one is the simplest one: it is beautiful. Readers familiar with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings franchises would need no introduction to its majestic, awe-inspiring, truly picturesque scenery. The climate is very pleasant most of the year. It’s ranked as the no. 1 Community on OECD Better Life Index and no. 2 on Social Support by the World Happiness report. The result is that it’s one of the most hospitable, tranquil and beautiful places on this earth, not just to travel, but even more so to live in. As if this were not enough, its global contribution to Science and Technology is 6th highest according to The Good Country Index, and is 3rd highest in Sustainability according to the Fragile States Index. No wonder, it is often viewed as a template for a futuristic, sustainable world.

As a tourist destination, except perhaps for historical museums (who’s going to miss those anyway, eh? :D); New Zealand has anything and everything to offer. Auckland is one of the most beautiful, geographically unique and diverse, and socio-economically advanced cities of the world. Lying on an isthmus connecting the northern and southern parts of the North Island, the city is, at its nucleus, a world class hub of modern lifestyle, known for its shopping, art galleries, restaurants and bars. Towards the peripheries are beautiful beaches, wine regions, resplendent rainforests, the glorious Harauki Gulf and not least the Waiheke Island, which ranks amongst the top ten tourist destinations of the world. Just a half-hour ferry ride away from the city, this island is a world apart.

Wellington is a capital city well worth the title. Rather compact, but bursting with life, it flaunts gorgeous Victorian architecture on a backdrop of scenery comprising of rugged shorelines, harbours and hill-top views. It’s notable for its botanical gardens, the night food market, and boasts some of the best pubs and bars.

It should hardly come as a surprise that New Zealand has some of the best beaches of the world. Perhaps the most popular is the Ninety-Mile(actually, 55 miles long) beach that stretches along the north-west coast of the north island. Then, there is the black-sand beach of Auckland, the iconic Kiwi beach of Hahei, the beach of Manu Bay (most famous for surfing) and many, many others.

If you’re an adventure and sports enthusiast, Queenstown in the place to go. Known as the adventure capital of the world, it boasts some of the world’s more blood-curling, adrenalin-rush sports and scenery. Whether it is skiing, sky-diving, or the world’s biggest swing (it is really big), there are enough adventures, many of which you’ve probably never heard of, to thrill yourself to your heart’s content.

For the foodies, Central Otago is world-famous. Beautiful vineyards and restaurants that serve the best of the New-Zealand food right in the middle of majestic natural scenery is a staggering assault on the senses, enough to leave one awestruck. Otago is also quite famous for its Farmers’ market, known for its authentic organic foods.

All things considered, while New Zealand may not have an iconic Eiffel Tower or a legendary Statue of Liberty; what it does offer is a once in a lifetime experience truly unlike anywhere else in the world. Not for nothing, it’s known as God’s own country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

France

France, often called L’hexagone, occupies a unique position in Europe as well as the world. Situated at the edge of western Europe overlooking the Atlantic, yet connected to Germany, Span, Italy and the United Kingdom (through the English Channel) among many others, it serves as the unofficial gateway to Europe. The number one tourist destination of the world, The Land of Earthly Pleasures, France is a bustling yet tranquil, beautiful and enigmatic, traditional and yet progressive country that is and has always been a powerful and yet non-oppressive force in this world.

France has an awe-inspiringly diverse history, that is often as bloody as it is intellectually stimulating. It is rich in culture, ideas, conquests, wars and revolutions; France has really been through hell and back to get where it is now, and remnants of a glorious past are still minutely visible to those who look for it. Always the centre of cultural development, art and ideas; France has been the earliest to implement a democratic government, participated in both the World Wars, suffered one of the worst economic crisis in modern history and still has territories all over the globe that are a humble reminder of its years of world conquest. Currently one of the most progressive societies in the modern world, it is globally the most networked country, supplies a staggering 75% of its electricity through nuclear power, and is the centre of artistic creation in the world.

The French language is renowned all over the world for its lilting and mellifluous tones, and the french people are notorious for being monolingual. Often called the most romantic language, it is widely used across Europe and beyond. In Healthcare and Education, France is one of the most progressive states. It has one of the best healthcare systems in the world primarily because heavy central governmental support with an impressive 77% of all healthcare expenditure covered by the government. Its Education system is also centralised and government funded upto the level of High school. Religiously speaking, France is a secular country with a strict distinction between Church and State. Although, comprised of Catholics by majority, it also has the highest Atheist population in all of Europe. It has deep historical ties with the evolution of Christianity through the middle ages and that is still clearly visible in its architectural landscape.

As a tourist destination, France has a lot to offer. There are beautiful villages like Vienne and Sainte-Enimie, collectively known as Les plus beaux villages de France scattered throughout the country that offer picturesque views and a sense of tranquility on the banks of beautiful rivers, among rolling landscapes, nestled between beautiful mountains. For the adventurous, there are spectacular mountain ranges such as the Massif Central that provide the perfect opportunity for trekking and climbing. The coastline is dotted with numerous beaches such as the one in Saint-Malo that offer stunning natural scenery of mountains, plateaus, cliffs, and beautiful sunset views. Just like the landscape, the climate in France is also diverse. The areas around the South-eastern coastline, especially along the Mediterranean and along the German border have relatively hot summers, while the region along the Alps – which incidentally, is home to Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe – can get pretty cold. However, mostly, and especially in the major cities including Paris, the climate is temperate and pleasant all year round. 
France remains world renowned for its rich cultural tradition. The cuisine is regarded as the best in the world, and almost every place has a specialty of its own. The Bordeaux wines, Champagne, and the bemusingly large varieties of cheese are some of its unique varieties. Paris is the art and fashion capital of the world, with some of the biggest global brands such as L’Oréal and Chanel headquartered there. It is also known as the ‘City of Light’ because historically it has been the center of development, a place of education, philosophy and learning. The Louvre is the world’s biggest and the most visited museum, and a historic and a monumental landmark of France. It houses Egyptian and Eastern antiquities, Islamic art, medieval sculptures, legendary paintings and of course, the mysterious smile of The Mona Lisa. The Eiffel Tower hardly needs mentioning and the city is planned in such a way that it is visible at all times from anywhere in the city. France is also home to numerous historical sites which include many religious buildings such as cathedrals and basilicas but also museums, monuments and memorals; and many of these are world heritage sites, as declared by UNESCO. 

The French Riviera along the Côte d’Azur, i.e., the southern coastline overlooking the Mediterranean Sea is an elite tourist region notable for its ski resorts, yachts, high end restaurants, golf courses and stunning beaches. Premier among here is the sovereign state of Monaco, notoriously known as the playground of the rich, famous for its mild climate, beautiful scenery, gambling establishments and race courses. Off the coast, lies the island of Corsica,  famous for its heterogeneous culture, diverse ecology and stylish towns; all nestled within the beautiful lap of nature. In the northeast, Lille is a very academic city with an strong industrial background located close to the Belgium border. It is known for its dynamic city life and active culture. In the West, Nantes is a city overlooking the Atlantic with an immersing and rich history and a landscape known as the greenest in the world. It is claimed by many to be the greatest place to live in the world. 

All in all, France is almost a model prototype of modern civilization. Its medieval cities, picturesque villages, diverse culture, architectural excellence and scenic beauty make it a must-see for tourists and the culturally dynamic life make it an attraction to the whole world. 

Europe 

The cartographical center of the world, Europe is a multilingual, multicultural land of wonders. It is home to 50 countries and 225 languages, which is more than the Americas and Australia combined. Joined by the Schegen Area agreement, half of Europe is borderless, which means no military control and no passports. Wherever you’re in Europe, you’re usually a single hassle free train ride away from immersing yourself in a wholly new culture. 

As a tourist destination, Europe has anything and everything to offer. The southeast coastline of the Baltic sea is dotted with stunning beaches and breathtaking natural scenery, while further inwards, Central Europe is, on numerous levels, the unofficial center of the world. A heterogeneous mix of cultures, it is a center of attraction for the whole world. The scenery consists of vast plains nestled between the majestic Alps, while forests diverse in flaura and fauna are spread throughout. Numerous rivers thread thorough the lands, sustaining the civilization and completing its beauty. France, known as the land of earthly pleasures, is a cultural haven for artists and art-enthusiasts of all kind. Germany is a scenic country representing modern excellence, perhaps inspired by its vastly rich and turbulent history.

Further south, Bulkan countries such as Macedonia and Alabania consist of charming and picturesque towns which offer a unique multicultural and multilingual experience. Italy is famous for its beautiful cities seeped in culture and history, and is also home to Vatican city, the smallest country in the world and the center of Christianity. To the south-east is Greece, the most sunny country in Europe overlooking the Mediterranean Sea; it has visually stunning beaches and a history more ancient than western civilization. Towards the east are the remnants of the USSR Split surrounding the black sea, offering a surprisingly heterogeneous landscape consisting of lakes, forests, vast plains and mountains, and equally as much vineyards, fortifications and monumental buildings. 

Across the Baltic sea, the Nordic countries offer a taste of harsh nature. Uninhabitable icecaps, beautiful snowcapped mountains, active volcanoes and sub-zero temperatures form part of an ever present scenery. The Scandinavian culture there is a beautiful exhibition of human coexistence. The languages are more or less similar, and schools are often trilingual. There is significant political cooperation through the nordic Council and the policies are often focused towards cultural development and preservation. It has a rich history, and the landscape is dotted with citadels and museums as well as forest, lakes, glaciers and geysers. It’s a cooperative society in the midst of beautiful nature. 

Western Europe comprises mainly of the United Kingdom, perhaps historically the greatest political force in the world. The northern islands consist of characteristic rolling landscapes, scenic beauty and temperate climate. Famous for its landscape that consists as much natural beauty as architectural excellence, home to the Prime Meridian timeline, birthplace of Shakespeare and the world’s best Oxford University; England is a multicultural, modern and central force in world. To the south are Spain and Portugual known for their cultural diversity and relatively sunny climate. The cities are known to be lively and friendly, with picturesque landscapes and a rich culture. 

On the whole, Europe can said to be a bustling and beautiful continent, with an infinite variety of tastes, languages, cultures and people,  all packed within a landmass area only slightly larger than that of the United States; a fitting center of the world.