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Medium 9781743215661

Nice, Monaco & Menton

Lonely Planet Lonely Planet ePub

There may only be 30km between Nice and Menton, but this short stretch of coastline packs a powerful punch. Nice, with its atmospheric old town, rich architectural heritage (baroque, belle époque, contemporary), raging nightlife, alfresco cafe life and culinary excellence is a natural queen of the Riviera. Road-tripping east, the Grande and Moyenne Corniches (coastal roads) mesmerise with panoramic views of the Mediterranean, while the Corniche Inférieure laces the shore with its sandy beaches, pretty fishing villages and fabulous belle époque follies. Monaco elicits mixed reactions: the world's second-smallest country is a concrete jungle with a glitzy port, its own monarchy, throngs of VIPs and high-octane casino glamour. Yet it's this very razzmatazz that enthralls, fascinates and entertains. And when you want to make a run for the hills, what better place than the Arrière-Pays Niçois, an unspoilt and tranquil hinterland of stark beauty.

A Olive et Artichaut

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Medium 9781743216729

Ayuthaya

Lonely Planet Lonely Planet ePub

Ancient ruins, a rural Thai vibe, tasty food, good-value accommodation – and all of this only an hour from Bangkok. Ayuthaya is the easiest and most worthwhile escape from the Big Mango.

Ayuthaya was the capital of Siam from 1350. It was also a major trading port; international merchants visited and were left in awe by the temples and treasure-laden palaces. The glory lasted until 1767, when an invading Burmese army sacked the city, looting most of its treasures. In 1991 Ayuthaya's ruins were designated a Unesco World Heritage Site.

อุทยานประวัติศาตร์อยุธยา individual sites 50B, day passes 220B; h8am-5pm

Ayuthaya is about 70km north of Bangkok.

s depart from a stall east of Bangkok's Victory Monument (60B, one hour, hourly from 5.30am to 9pm).

AAlthough buses and trains also link Bangkok and Ayuthaya, minivans are the quickest and most efficient method of reaching the city.

Try Ayuthaya's signature dish, gŏo·ay đĕe·o reu·a, aka 'boat noodles', so-called because they were formerly sold from boats, at Lung Lek ( GOOGLE MAP ; Th Chee Kun; mains 30-50B; h8.30am-4pm), located conveniently across from Wat Ratburana in the historical park.

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Medium 9781742206219

Møn, Falster & Lolland

Lonely Planet Lonely Planet ePub

Denmark’s ‘South Sea Islands’ may lack the coconut palms and hula skirts usually associated with that phrase, but they do offer a fine glimpse of rural Scandinavian island life: rolling fields, sandy beaches and Neolithic tombs.

Møn deserves the most attention: it’s perfectly sized, artistically spirited and home to something very unusual for Denmark – cliffs! Four churches exhibit wondrous medieval frescoes, from recognised masterpieces to primitive daubs. Add evocative beaches, enchanted forests and cosy guesthouses, and you’ve got the perfect island escape.

While less inspiring than Møn, Falster is famous for its beaches, which lure Danish sun worshippers each (short) summer. Further west, Lolland’s sprawl of farms and woods is punctuated with Maribo’s small-town charm, as well as blockbuster attractions Lalandia waterpark and Knuthenborg Safari Park.

All three islands are easily accessed by road bridges from southern Zealand.

To catch a glimpse of Møn’s rare orchids, head to the island between May and August. This is a good period in general, as many attractions and restaurants close or reduce their hours outside high season. Falster’s famous beaches make July and August crowded, but if lazy beach days and lively bar nights are your thing, these are the months to go. Across the islands, September is ideal, with relatively good weather and fewer crowds, especially at Lolland’s family-focused drawcards.

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Medium 9781741798968

    Benin

Lonely Planet Lonely Planet ePub

Benin

pop 9.6 million

The birthplace of voodoo and a pivotal platform of the slave trade for nearly three centuries, Benin is steeped in a rich and complex history still very much in evidence across the country.

A visit to this small, club-shaped nation could therefore not be complete without exploring the Afro-Brazilian heritage of Ouidah, Abomey and Porto Novo, learning about spirits and fetishes.

But Benin will also wow visitors with its natural beauty, from the palm-fringed beach idyll of the Atlantic coast to the rugged scenery of the north. The Parc National de la Pendjari is one of the best wildlife parks in West Africa. Lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants and hundreds of other species thrive here.

In fact, Benin is wonderfully tourist friendly. There are good roads, a wide range of accommodation options and ecotourism initiatives that offer travellers the chance to delve deeper into Beninese life. Now is an ideal time to go because the country sits on the cusp of discovery.

Nov–Feb Warm and dry weather. Prime wildlife watching. Harmattan can produce hazy skies.

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Medium 9781743214695

Poland

Lonely Planet Lonely Planet ePub

If they were handing out prizes for ‘most eventful history’, Poland would get a medal. The nation has spent centuries at the pointy end of history, grappling with war and invasion. Nothing, however, has succeeded in suppressing Poles’ strong sense of nationhood and cultural identity. As a result, bustling centres like Warsaw and Kraków exude a sophisticated energy that’s a heady mix of old and new.

Away from the cities, Poland is surprisingly diverse, from its northern beaches to a long chain of mountains on its southern border. In between, towns and cities are dotted with ruined castles, picturesque market squares and historic churches.

Although prices have steadily risen in the postcommunist era, Poland is still good value. As the Poles continue to reconcile their distinctive national identity with their place in Europe, it’s a fascinating time to pay a visit.

AMay–Jun Stately Kraków returns to life after a long winter.

AJul–Aug A brief but hot summer is good for swimming in the Baltic Sea or hiking in the mountains.

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