Friday, May 9, 2008

Going a little offbeat around the world

If you hadn't already guessed from my previous post I have a bit of an odd affection for strange, unusual and offbeat attractions that don't always make it into the pages of guidebooks or local tourist brochures. So much so that the first thing I did once I arrived in Cape Town was to organise a Below the Surface sewer tour of the city with Figure of 8 for tomorrow.

A sewer tour in the bowels of Cape Town might not sound very appealing – especially for anyone who's claustrophobic – but it's actually a great, fun way to learn a little more about the history of the city and experience it from a whole new perspective. The tour takes participants through a network of secret underground passages to the city's castle; the Castle of Good Hope. What's more the group I am joining is doing this tour as part of an "amazing race" experience to raise funds for one of the townships on the outskirts of Cape Town. So I'm really looking forward to my latest offbeat adventure.

Offbeat tours and attractions are obviously not limited to Cape Town and South Africa. There are a world of weird, wonderful and quirky experiences and attractions out there just waiting to be discovered. So I thought I'd ask a few other writers and bloggers to share some of their city's best offbeat experiences.

Heather, from Heather on her Travels, suggests that visitor's to Bristol, UK should explore its dark secret - the Slave Trade:

As you wander around Bristol's pleasant Harbourside area or admire the fine 18th century houses, you may not realise that much of Bristol's wealth was founded on the Slave Trade. Why not visit the Georgian House, a free museum which was once the home of a wealthy sugar merchant whose fortune was made from his slave plantations in the Caribbean. Then download the free MP3 walking tour from the Visit Bristol website, which will guide you around the centre, stopping off at the old sugar refineries and other sites that have connections with the slave trade. You can stay the night or relax in the bar of one of these sugar houses, now a luxurious boutique hotel, the Hotel du Vin. You might like to take a drink in one of the bars and old pubs, such as the Llandoger Trow on Welsh Back, where the merchant ships would moor up when Bristol was a thriving port. Or walk across the modern Pero's bridge in the harbour, named after the slave servant of John Pinney who built the Georgian House.

My co-author for my conference paper and travelling companion for Jamaica and Cuba, Natasha Himmelman recommends visitors get tangled up with a little "Yarn Tasting" in Oakland, California:

Montclair Village in Oakland, California is, at times, a seemingly random splice of the Bay Area a place where wanna-be Piedmonters, Berkeley yippies, and Oaklanders converge. Although this fusion is sometimes odd, if not outright awkward, some businesses in the area have managed to get the recipe just right. The Knitting Basket is one such place. A yarn store by birth, the Knitting Basket has become so much more. It's a community spot where one can pick up beautiful yarns, of course, but also take knitting and crocheting classes, join the knitting charity group, become a member of the Afghan Square of the Month Club, enjoy an afternoon of baseball and knitting titch Pitch, or just drop in to say hello to Kelly. But do not let this cute yarn store fool you; it has an edge. Come on in for a Friday Night Stitching Party (BYOB) or stop by for a yarn tasting. Yes, I said, yarn. The last yarn tasting took place on 4-20, a perfect date to check out some hemp. Kelly laid out some hemp yarns, hemp fusion yarns (i.e. hemp and cotton), and some knitting needles and tasters purled, knit, and stitched (crocheters are also welcome) the new threads. So, if you're in the Bay Area, looking for some new threads or just want to try something different, check out the Knitting Basket.

For anyone visiting Lisbon, Portugal, travel writer and blogger Anja Mutić from Ever the Nomad suggests you make a splash in the city's waterways:

For a unique view of Lisbon's hills hugging the Tagus River, take a commuter ferry ride from either the Cais do Sodré or the Terreiro do Paço terminal. Get a roundtrip ticket to Barreiro, Montijo or Cacilhas. For schedules, see Transtejo’s website.

Take a tour of Lisbon's historic Águas Livres Aqueduct, built in 1834. This remarkable 36-mile construction with 35 arches (the tallest is 213ft/65m) crosses the Alcântara Valley. On this excursion offered by Lisbon's Water Museum every weekend morning from March through November, you travel along the springs of the Aqueduct and visit its cavernous interiors.

New York City-based photographer and journalist, Wendy from Escape New York says there are plenty of offbeat ways to take a bite out of the Big Apple:

Some of the best views of Manhattan are from the water. How about taking in the skyline while kayaking on the Hudson River? The Downtown Boathouse, a volunteer organisation, offers free kayaking tours.

Take the subway to Coney Island where old world Americana still exists. Sideshows by the Seashore features 'Freaks, wonders and human curiosities'. The current cast includes fire eaters, chainsaw jugglers and glass eaters to name a few. Admission is $7.50 for adults and $5 for children under 12.

You won't find this museum on the tony Upper East Side's Museum Mile. The Museum of Sex opened its doors in 2002. Current exhibitions include Sex in Design and Sex and the Moving Image. You must be 18 years and older to enter. Admission is $14.50 plus tax.

Finally, Dan Hammett (aka Diver Dan) who will be accompanying me in Tanzania offers his advice for visitor's to Edinburgh:

Try one (or more) of the pubs in Edinburgh (there are plenty to choose from!), preferably those selling a good range of single malt whisky and real ale. Some of my favourites would be the Dagda Bar (Buccleuch St), Cloisters (Toll Cross), Guildford Arms (just off Princess St), Bow Bar (Victoria St), and the Cumberland Bar (Cumberland St). Most of these are off the tourist path, but the detour is well worth it for the quality of the drinks, and the atmosphere of the venues.

Look up. When you’re walking around remember to look up as the town is built on some crazy hills and it’s easy to miss the amazing Georgian architecture surrounding you if you don’t make the effort to gaze upwards occasionally. Climb Arthur’s Seat or Carlton Hill to get a panoramic view across the city and out to the Firth of Forth and even the southern highlands on a clear day.

Do you also have a fetish for the strange, peculiar and bizarre attractions? If so, what offbeat things would you recommend for people visiting in your city do?


heatheronhertravels said...

Thanks for including me, Kim. Enjoyed reading about the other off-beat stuff too.

Wendy said...

This was a fun read. Thanks for featuring my mentions.

Kim Wildman said...

Hi Wendy & Heather. Thanks again for contributing!!