The Natural Wonder
The longest total solar eclipse of this century takes place on July 22, when parts of China will sink into darkness for nearly six minutes. One of the best places to watch will be on the banks of the Qiantang River, where visitors can also witness the incredible tidal bore caused by the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon.
Dinosaurs hold a perennial fascination for children and one of the
year's biggest draws for families will be the Walking With Dinosaurs show. The event promises to bring 15 life-size dinosaurs - walking,
roaring re-creations - to arenas around the UK, including Glasgow,
Sheffield, Manchester and London's O2.
The $20 million spectacle tells the story of their 200 million
years on Earth and their fight for survival, with a mixture of science, special effects and "magic". See www.dinosaurlive.co.uk. (Or you could go and see Sue, the replica of the world's biggest, most complete and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, at the Auckland Museum.)
The Bintan Islands, in the Indonesian archipelago, have opened to
tourism during the past few years, with hordes travelling to make the most of the coral reefs, rainforest-clad hills and crystal water.
Some of the smaller islands, such as the private island resort of Nikoi which opened with just six beach houses in 2007, have avoided mainstream
development. Another nine houses should be completed in March, leaving the island free of building works and utterly tranquil - perfect for
a beachfront massage, romantic supper under astonishing skies or wildlife-spotting excursions. Houses cost from $250 per night, through I-Escape (www.i-escape.com)
This year sees the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland's most beloved son, Robbie Burns, and there will be celebrations there throughout 2009. The Gathering is a coming-together of clan members
from all over the world for a Highland Games at Holyrood Park in Edinburgh. The games will take place on July 25-26 and, on the Saturday evening, the clans will parade up the city's historic Royal Mile.
French Guiana and its colourful capital, Cayenne, is set to be the hip destination this summer. The city has bustling markets, stunning
colonial architecture and delicious Creole cuisine. It has a mix of Creole, Haitian, European and Asian communities, which create a bohemian feel. The country, a French departement, has lush rainforests and long sandy beaches that are home to leatherback turtles.
Kensington Gardens was the fictional home of Peter Pan and, this
spring, he returns there in a new stage production of J.M. Barrie's classic. The play runs from May 26 until August 30 in a specially
commissioned pavilion, designed to give 360-degree backdrops for a theatre-in-the-round experience, with all seats close to the stage.
Computerised effects will give the audience the illusion of flying with Peter Pan and standing on the deck of Hook's ship. See www.visitlondon.com/peterpan
The City Break
The Austrian city of Linz becomes one of two European Capitals of
Culture this year (the other is Vilnius, Lithuania), and celebrates with festivities, exhibitions and art projects. The Ars Electronica Centre has re-opened in a stunning new building and galleries and concert halls will have special programmes throughout the year.
The Spitz Hotel was created with the Capital of Culture year in mind; it is full of works by local artists, furniture and lighting have
been created by regional designers and students at Linz university were given free rein to design the fourth floor. See www.linz09.at and www.spitzhotel.at.
The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, London, is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year with the biggest, boldest displays of flowers and a series of special events. In spring, five million bulbs come into bloom - the biggest display of spring colour in Britain - followed
by a wildflower display throughout the summer, and new exhibitions and
displays. See www.kew.org
Berlin celebrates 20 years as a reunited city. The party begins in May, with an open-air exhibition on the Alexanderplatz, while buildings will be transformed with light installations, oversized "facade art" and exhibitions, spotlighting how the city has changed over the period.
But the biggest celebration will take place on November 9, the
anniversary, with a huge concert, a street festival and performance art
symbolising "the Fall of the Wall". See www.visitberlin.de
The biggest cruise ship Oasis of the Seas, sets sail with its first
passengers in December, carrying more than 5000 guests in seven
"neighbourhoods", including Central Park, with a lush, lawned area for
alfresco eating and drinking.
Cabins include loft suites that wouldn't look out of place in Manhattan
and apartments overlooking the park, and four pools cater for different
needs. See www.oasisoftheseas.com