The illustrated calendar takes us to streets pocked by cultural landmarks, boutique stores, cool cafes, and natural and built heritage in alluring cities across the world.
January: Chefchaouen, Morocco
The streets of Chefchaouen, or Morocco’s Blue Pearl, are anointed with several shades of blue, a colour that—urban legends suggest—emulates flowing water. Another complex theory states that the Jewish immigrants fleeing Nazi persecution introduced the city to the colour, considering its symbolization and spiritual significance in Judaism.
They present a picturesque, dramatic contrast to the rugged tapestry of the Rif Mountains amidst which the city is perched. The charming, cosy cafes on the streets are brimming with tourists.
Chefchaouen was a fortress in a 15th-century fight against the Portuguese invasions, during the Spanish Reconquista. The labyrinth of narrow winding lanes is often called the Medina. The city is best explored on foot. You can expect to be surprised with a little pop of colour from street-side carpet vendors or souvenir stores. Feline-friendly tourists will find plenty of cats lazing around
The cannabis culture in Chefchaouen is popular. So much so that there are marijuana fields, which can be visited with prior booking.
February: Umbrella Sky Project (R. Luís de Camões), Águeda, Portugal
In July every year, the Águeda sky is studded by hundreds of pop-coloured umbrellas that shade a city street. The art installation is inspired by Mary Poppins—the English nanny with magical powers from P.L. Travers’ 1934 novel. These levitating parasols have a peculiar arrangement, which, during the day, enables sunlight to weave through the pattern, casting different shadows and a shower of colour from several angles.
The umbrellas debuted in 2011, during the Ágitagueda Art Festival, as an ergonomic and economic way to keep the streets shaded during harsh summers. The umbrellas are suspended over the streets with the help of over-the-roof cables. Photographs of the art project may have made its way across the world, but the real purpose of the installation is to shade the streets on balmy summer days.
March: Burano in Venice, Italy
The streets of the colourful island of Burano, merely a 40-minute boat ride from the floating city of Venice, feature houses that sport bright colours to help local fishermen identify them from the sea and navigate through a fog blanket in the lagoon. They are lined with restaurants, most with enviable al fresco dining options.
Established circa 6th century, Burano was first inhabited by the Altinos fleeing the barbarian invasion. Over the years, this picturesque island has been home to a happy community of fishermen and farmers living in the Venetian lagoon. The houses, sporting a shade of state-approved bright colour, doubles up as a great photo backdrop for tourists seeking nothing more than tranquillity and hearty portions of fresh seafood.
Organised tour groups and other tourists tend to flock to the island on a one-day tour during late mornings, hence it’s advisable to plan an early visit and have the island to yourself for a while. The fisherfolk take their trawler out to the sea early in the morning, making it just in time for restaurants and their hungry diners for some pescatarian nosh, such as the traditional Venetian seafood delicacy Risotto di gò.
Apart from the colours, cobbled paths and seafood, the island prides itself on Burano lace, arguably, one of the most intricately hand-crafted laces in the world. The trade flourished in the 16th century and since then has been diminishing. Yet, it is a rare art with admirers from the world over. Museo del Merletto is a local lace museum that displays revered artwork.
April: Bukchon Hanok Village, South Korea
South Korea’s best-kept secret, the Bukchon Hanok Village, sits atop a hill and is surrounded by ancient palaces and shrines. Locals breathe life into the village’s several arachnid streets, also called hanok. It’s not unusual to find children playing games, locals gossiping and the elderly keeping a watchful eye on their neighbourhood, which is full of peculiar Korean houses belonging to the nobility and high-ranking officials that served the Joseon dynasty. They are built with curved roofs and the quintessential Korean heating systems, the ondol floor.
Bukchon translates to mean the ‘northern village’, an apt name considering the village is located to the north of Cheonggyecheon stream and the Jongno area. This Korean hamlet is surrounded by heritage monuments, such as the Gyeongbok and Changdeok Palace and Jongmyo Royal Shrine. Today, the town remains ensconced in its six-century old history. It boasts of several museums, among them the Owl Museum and the Han Sangsu Embroidery Museum.
It’s easy to find tea rooms, restaurants, boutiques and craftsmen honing their skills and keeping the ancient arts alive on the streets. A walk through the hanok is a beautiful insight into the past and contemporary Korean life. Travellers favour Bukchon because of the dramatic contrast to that of the country’s modern-day metropolis.
May: Hosier Lane, Melbourne, Australia
Several aerosol-wielding vigilantes and artists have spray-painted murals across Melbourne’s Hosier Lane in a celebration of urban art. The lane has the densest exhibit of graffiti art anywhere in the world. Part of the City Lights Initiative, the underlying themes span politics, culture and humour. Acquaint yourself with the art and the artist, even as you grab a drink at one of the contemporary bars that offer a window seat.
The paved blue stone street is located in the central city grid, opposite the Federation Square, a prominent cultural centre on the outskirts of the business district. It has hosted local and international artists alike. Hosier Lane sees steady pedestrian traffic of tourists and locals looking for a quick trendy photoshoot that embodies the urban spirit of Melbourne. If you want to do more than just gawk at the murals, there are several walking tours to be acquainted with the art and the artist.
June: Lombard Street, San Francisco
Lombard Street is said to be the most crooked in the world. It snakes up an incline for a block and packs in eight hairpin bends. The street pretty much resembles something you will find in an amusement park or a video game. The sharp curves, also known as switchbacks, were built in the 1920s to ensure the safety of the residents against the dizzying natural incline of the hill.
Situated in the plush Russian Hills neighbourhood, the street was never meant to be a landmark. The one-way street features several manicured flower beds that add to its aesthetic appeal. A drive down this road is a visual treat and a required adrenaline fix. However, it is recommended only for experienced drivers.
Lombard Street is lined by a staircase on either side for pedestrian traffic. Another way to the picturesque stretch is via cable cars, either on the Hyde Street line or Powell-Mason line.
The road uphill may be treacherous but once you are on top of the hill, you’re rewarded with a panoramic view of San Francisco and the surrounding waters. Lombard Street is conveniently located close to a handful of attractions in the neighbourhood, such as Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf.
July: Brunngasse in Brienz, Switzerland
Nestled in the Alpine village of Brienz, Brunngasse is a charming old street that curves on either side. It is studded with idyllic wooden cottages, each bedecked with flowers pouring out of the window sill and bannisters. The tranquil village said to date back to the Neolithic Era, seems unencumbered by modern-day predilections.
The houses in Brunngasse are date back to the 18th century and the street seems as though it was plucked out of a fairy-tale. Apart from being a lake-side hamlet housing stunning chalets, Brienz prides itself on the being a prime destination for wood-carving workshops. The long-standing deep-rooted tradition of wood carving is evident in the architecture and the Swiss way of life. The famed Swiss cuckoo clocks start their journey as lumber at a sole bonafide manufacturer situated in the village.
August: Streets of Mykonos, Greece
A stroll through the soothing labyrinth of white-washed streets of the Cycladic island of Mykonos will unravel its Grecian heritage and its peculiar topography of hills and beaches, and its Grecian heritage. The windmills, which have symbolized this island on postcards, dating back to the 16th century. The postcard-worthy Mediterranean island features about 26 beaches where the azure waters crash against the pebbles or the sandy shores.
It is often called the Ibiza of the Aegean. There are plenty of nightclubs along most beaches. Expect soirees by the water and beach parties as well. Apart from the nightlife, some beaches are popular for water sports. Away from the crowded beaches and the merrymaking, the hilly interiors are home to traditional hamlets. The village of Ano Mera’s features an 18th-century Tourliani Monastery, a prime specimen of baroque architecture.
Outside the soothing beaches, the capital town, Hora, is a popular destination swarmed by locals and travellers alike. Narrow winding white-washed streets are overrun by buildings with blue accents and an occasional thicket of bougainvillaea cascading from windows.
September: Streets of Puducherry, India
The streets of Pondicherry or Puducherry, a sleepy coastal town on the Coromandel Coast, is best explored on foot. Charming cafes, colonial structures, traditional Indian homes with a central courtyard, and monuments such as the French War Memorial are scattered around a few blocks. This mise-en-scène helps breathe life into the city, which otherwise would have been just another coastal town with balmy summers.
Puducherry was once home to Hollywood director M Shyamalan. It is the city in which Man Booker Prize winner Yann Martel’s Life of Pi was anchored.
There are plenty of beaches studded with an equal number of cosy beachfront cafes and rooftop restaurants that offer regional delicacies and international cuisines. Comforting French such as Croque Monsieur and financiers can be ordered in cafes which also feature shop-houses replete with curios and books, among other merchandise. The cafes double up as places to swap stories with a fellow traveller or make necessary enquiries, especially if water sports seem like an intriguing activity.
The ruins of Arikamedu is a hidden gem, four kilometres from the city. The Roman fishing village was discovered circa 1947 and dates as far back as the 2nd century BCE. Auroville, an all-inclusive experimental township, is situated on the outskirts of the dreamy town.
October: Temple Street, Hong Kong
An original Chinese market, which dated back to the 1920s, has evolved into a thrilling, immersive experience soaked in urban chaos, where the old meets new. A popular night market, ambient sounds of shoppers haggling over their latest purchase, the clunk of a ladle against the wok at Dai Pai dong, delicacies from across the globe being devoured, and opera singers serenading the visitors can be heard across its expanse.
The street sees crowded nights and is visited by locals and tourists. It is just as easy to find practitioners of ancient Chinese medicine and Cantonese opera singers, as it is to discover antiques and other merchandise. Most things for sale here are cheap, the marked prices are negotiable, and the open-air food stalls are said to serve fresh seafood such as chilli crab, shrimp dumpling and pair it with an ice-cold beer.
November: Rue du Petit Champlain, Québec, Canada
The French quarter of Petit Champlain is home to arguably the most beautiful street in Canada, the Rue du Petit Champlain. The street used to be a passage to the square’s eponymous fountain. The cobbled streets, soaring stone facades and thickets of flowers overflowing from the boutiques, bistros and houses add character to the lane.
Located at the foot of Cap Diamant, just below the historic Hotel Château Frontenac, this quarter is the oldest surviving commercial neighbourhood in North America. One of the many gateways to the street is the aptly named staircase, Breakneck stairs or Escalier casse-cou in French.
There’s plenty to do here, apart from clicking pictures for social media. Several of the boutiques, souvenirs stores and restaurants on the street are helmed by the cooperative of local craftsmen and merchants. The Coopérative des artisans et commerçants du quartier Petit Champlain has been operational over the past three-and-a-half decades, curating the best of local artisanal treats that contribute to the authenticity of the experience.
The cooperative, apart from the mercantile pursuits, owns the famed mural at 102 Rue du Petit Champlain. It depicts the history of this district, which was once pocked by landslides, fires and bombardments. Amongst other attractions that strengthen the cultural fabric of this quarters are the numerous parks in the surrounding area and the Le Théâtre Petit Champlain, a theatre built in the mid-19th century. Sampling some taffy at the end of the tour is a quintessential Quebecoise experience, especially if it is at the local Petite Cabane à Sucre or Little Sugar Shack.
December: The Philosopher’s Walk, Kyoto, Japan
Tetsugaku-no-michi, or the Philosopher’s Walk, is Kyoto’s cultural landmark. The canal-side walkway is dotted with numerous cherry trees.
This iconic passage owes its name to prolific Japanese philosopher, Nishida Kitaro, who walked this route as a student at Kyoto University and later as a professor and is said to have meditated during his commute. While there are two shrines at the beginning and the end of this path, the stretch features numerous heritage attractions While there are two shrines at the beginning and the end of this path, the stretch features attractions such as the Buddhist Hōnen-in and the Shinto Ōtoyo Shrine
With its deep-rooted spiritual and cultural significance, the street is arguably the most popular hanami or cherry blossom viewing spots. At approximately two kilometres long, this winding walkway is located in north-eastern Kyoto’s lush Higashiyama district. It begins at a Zen temple, Ginkakuji, or the Silver Pavilion and ends at the Nanzenji neighbourhood.
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