Beware! What you are about to read is the most epic bucket list before i die things you have ever read.
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#1 Find Yourself In the Most Epic Carnival
To get the most out of Carnival in Brazil’s northeastern city of Olinda, you shouldn’t so much go with the flow, as completely give in to it. Nowhere here will you find the regimented rows of security railings, ticket blockades and spectator seating that defines Carnival in Rio. In Olinda there are no spectators; people, processions, musicians and Carnival freaks all funnel through the town’s narrow, cobbled, disorientating streets as one. If you’re here, you are Carnival.
So give up on crowd control. Be irresponsible. Dance. Don’t sleep. Find friends, then lose them again. Surrender to the insistent, comedic, skipping rhythm of frevo, the musical lifeblood of Olinda’s Carnival; a high-speed military two-step-cum-polka (its name taken from the Brazilian word ‘to boil’), it will have you flinging your limbs around like your flip-flops are on fire. Follow brass bands led by beaten-up trombones and tarnished trumpets. Bounce over cobbles holding a multicoloured umbrella – the symbol of the region – above your sun-addled head. And wonder not how the thing got into your hands.
Get drawn into a maracatu drumming procession and try, in vain, to shout for directions above the cacophony of cowbells, whistles and hundred-strong battery of alfaias (drums). You are lost. Embrace it. Embrace someone. Most people will be: arms and shoulders intertwined, jumping, dancing, losing integral parts of their homemade costumes, noting them being crumpled underfoot with a smile. Encounter everyone from Zorro to Thor during the ‘superheroes parade’, comprising costumed characters the surreal likes of which never graced the pages of a Marvel magazine. Stroll alongside ‘Supermarket Man’, riding in a shopping trolley wearing little more than a smile and an oversized papier-mâché carrot, and concede that what it lacks in sophistication, Olinda makes up for in genuine party spirit.
#2 Sleep In the Most Epic Castle
You – yes, little old you – are sleeping where Robert the Bruce; Mary, Queen of Scots; Oliver Cromwell; Sir Walter Scott; even Queen Victoria slept. All these luminaries have walked within Dalhousie Castle’s thick 13th-century walls in Scotland – and so can you.
The ancestral home of the Ramsay family became a hotel in 1972, as many such piles have had to in these less aristocratically friendly times. However, it still echoes with its illustrious past. The Grey Lady, the spirit of a 16th-century laird’s mistress, reputedly haunts the stairs. Fixtures from the original drawbridge can be seen above the door and a Civil War–musket shot is still embedded in the outer walls.
You’ll lay on a plush four-poster bed, in a room of 16th-century furnishings, exposed stone walls and a profusion of tartan drapery. There’s a fire roaring in the drawing room, a restaurant in the dungeon, and a spa in the old storage vaults. Pose by suits of armour, watch falcons fly across the grounds and listen for a piper striking up Robbie Burns’ Address to a Haggis. You’ll feel like a fleeting part of the castle’s story, more so than if you’d just made a day trip. You are living the kitsch-yet-awesome Scottish stereotype, in quite some style.
#3 Visit Bali The Most Epic Way
Some places you pass through, others have an extra gravitational pull. Go for a week, end up staying for months. Or at least that is how it should be. But in a world where we increasingly travel with timetables and checklists, the art of allowing ourselves to be seduced by somewhere, letting a destination derail us – and our schedules – is being lost.
And more’s the pity, as these magnetic planetary spots are, often, the last places you imagined you’d end up pausing. And thus the world surprises you, as it should. Take Bali. It’s heaving with tourists, tainted with the scars of religious extremism and suffering from a rebranding by way of the blockbuster Eat, Pray, Love. But… there’s a reason that this mystical Indonesian island became the ‘pray’ part of the story. There really is something so soul-stilling about its orderly tiers of rice fields, temple-like mountains and brilliant-white, jungle-fringed beaches.
Do as artists and travellers have done for a century: arrive for those beaches and stay for the grace of the island’s interior. The central town of Ubud has been drawing creative types since the 1930s, seducing Europeans with spiritual, decorative and figurative painting, intricate batik and sculpture. In the face of mass tourism, Bali has somehow preserved its rich Hindu culture with dignity and smiles. Temples rise over the crashing ocean like serene gods; handmade Hindu offerings line the street corners, more colourful, even, than the island’s myriad endemic butterflies and sudden, Technicolor sunsets.
Bali is the place to master the art of doing nothing, to spend a while in gentle meditation and mindless contemplation. For travellers who let themselves simply ‘be’, Bali induces a case of eat, love, stay.
#4 Most Epic Way To Face Your Fears
The day starts at Triple B Ranch unapologetically. You’re woken by the thunder of a 40-strong herd of horses coming in from the bush for breakfast. If this isn’t enough to rouse you, the accompanying neighing, whinnying and snorting will. It’s time to get up, boot-up and buckle-up – the day starts here.
Eliminate ignorance and so too goes fear. And being taught to ride by a horse-whispering rancher is arguably the best way to overcome any equine nervousness. Novices and experienced riders alike are drawn to Triple B, a working ranch in the Waterberg Mountains, South Africa’s borderlands with Botswana. A wilderness once beloved of Mandela, the Waterberg is home to big game, bigger mountain ranges and hardy herds of Anglo-Arabs, Thoroughbreds and Boerperds. Here, horses are ‘tamed’ using the round-pen techniques of Shane Dowinton, an expat Brit who applies his natural horsemanship to all species, maintaining there ‘are no bad horses, just bad people’.
The day’s activities include yoga-in-the-saddle and rounding-up cattle, allowing nervous riders to quickly forget their mount and concentrate on the task in hand. And then there’s the game viewing. There’s nothing like catching-up with a herd of giraffe to make you forget about your rising trot; staying in the saddle is a means to an end. Horseback safari is an electrifying experience, as you become one with the pack of wildebeest, hartebeest, zebra, impala, kudu, rhino and even hippo.
And at the end of the day, you’ll kick back, boots off, with a beer. Storms crackle along mountain ridges, while electric-blue kingfishers flash through trees like forked lightening. If South Africa is, as locals say, God’s Country, then Waterberg is His hilltop retreat.
#5 Experience Most Epic Live Music Event
You open one eye slowly, tentatively, and see from your window that the sun is already high in the sky. Your ears hum with Disclosure’s closing tracks from last night and you can still see the dancing lights from Arcade Fire’s thrilling set. You stretch lazily, reach for coffee and hope that today will match up to your first day at Barcelona’s first-rate festival, Primavera Sound.
You gather your mates and head out the door, deciding to skip the bus and take the beach promenade, sipping a beer as you stroll by the waves. The crowd is already building as you approach the Parc del Fòrum; the sea glints, and the atmosphere builds. You ease your way into the music-filled mayhem by swaying along to Sharon Van Etten, grab a few beers before heading to see SBTRKT, and then throw yourself into the mosh pit for The National. The crowd is immense, and you raise your arms into the air, letting yourself be carried by the momentum of the music.
The tunes keep coming and no-one looks set to stop. You dance in the Boiler Room dome til the sun starts to show, find your friends, and as the tens of thousands of revellers start to depart, you decide that the return walk with the sun rising is probably the perfect way to sober up.
#6 Eat The Most Epic Meal Of Your Lifetime
You know it’s slightly bonkers to spend a month’s salary on a single lunch. Maybe more than slightly. And you know it’s crazy to spend eight hours flying each way for one meal. But then you somehow manage to finagle a table at Copenhagen’s Noma – one of the world’s best restaurants – and you don’t think twice.
Now you’re not just dressing for dinner, you’re packing for it too. And your priority isn’t just sharing those Instagram photos with jealous friends, it’s to be surprised and delighted by this first-class culinary journey.
And so you show up at Noma slightly before noon, while the northern light is still slanted at the late-morning, industrious angle. But your mission is wholly pleasure. Eleven ‘snacks’ come out before you decide whether you want the 8- or 12-course tasting menu. You eat them all, and especially love the raw oyster in a cast-iron pot. And then you order the 12-course lunch, with wine pairings – you’ve come this far, how can you not go all the way now?
Your afternoon unfolds slowly, with course after course brought out and explained by one of René Redzepi’s entourage of interns. You can ask them exactly how the juniper foam got that texture, and they know. Or you just talk about German metal bands – the heavy staffing in the kitchen means the cooks have time to socialise.
Lunch is really the way to do this. At Noma you can watch the day unfold, watch the light change over the harbour, the reflections on the buildings change their timbre, and be aware of all the hours you’re giving over to pure pleasure.
#7 Dress The Most Epic Way
IF YOU’VE MORE COSTUMES IN YOUR CUPBOARD THAN A YOUNG LIBERACE, TRY ON A COUPLE OF OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE WORLD’S FANCIEST FANCY DRESS OPPORTUNITIES
ELVIS EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS, BLACKPOOL, ENGLAND
The northern home of ‘kiss me quick’ hats, illuminated trams and donkey rides along a wind-blown beach gets a dose of Deep South in January, when the impersonator-heavy Elvis European Championships come to Blackpool’s Norbreck Castle. Brush up on your hip rotations, dig out your pantsuit, and practise your ‘uh-huh-uh-huh’s.
COSPLAY PUBS, TOKYO, JAPAN
If dressing as a schoolgirl, a manga character or even Hello Kitty is your thing, hit downtown Tokyo for a spot of fancy dress in one of numerous cosplay (short for ‘costume play’) pubs, where the stars of manga, graphic novels, video games and anime cartoons and storybooks come to life in intricate, elaborately detailed fancy dress costumes.
VILLAGE HALLOWEEN PARADE, NEW YORK CITY, USA
New York City’s the place to be come 31 October, when the Village Halloween Parade arrives in a feast of dazzling fancy dress creation, with 50,000 costumed revellers and another 2 million turning out to watch. The pageant was conceived in the mid-’70s by a local puppeteer who lamented the decline in the city’s Halloween celebrations.
#8 Do The Most Epic Hike
There’s something magical about moonlight. The way it bathes everything in a deep, golden glow, looms large then high and lights up the sky so brightly even the stars retreat. And when surrounded by nature, it feels especially profound, making full-moon hikes full of promise and joy. The best ones start late in the evening and high in the mountains, on a trail you know well enough to tackle in the dark hours.
Sandstone Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains makes for a perfect night hike. At around 11pm the glow should be bright enough to reveal the countryside’s secrets. You may glimpse an owl peering from the treetops, and grazing deer tracking down a midnight snack. The trail is clear enough to follow through the sagebrush and emerges onto a moonscape plateau between two peaks. The tallest is Sandstone, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the water white-gold with the moon’s reflections. Find a flat rock and take in the scene. Stories are spun, laughter shared – perhaps someone will pass you a bottle of hooch – this moonlit adventure will linger long in the memory.
#9 Get Lost At The Most Epic Places
How many valleys are there in the world? Not a couple of rolling hills leading down to a stream. Not even the kind of valley that sits beneath a couple of alpine mountains. But a flat expanse of land surrounded by granite walls that appear to have risen from the ground. A dramatic announcement that ‘this place is not flat’.
You know, maybe there are many. But when you hear of one that does what Yosemite Valley can do – that sense of being subsumed by something infinitely greater and grander than your individual self – make a note of its location and go. In the half-light of a May morning, the snow on Half Dome glows. Winter barely lets spring have its turn.
Among the feelings that the valley inspires – the awe, the insignificance, the First World questions of existence – there is the sensation of revelling in greed. This is all yours. The place is a shortcut to being humbled by nature. But what you can attain walking solo in the trails is a sense of oneness.
True, you’re not a billion years old, carved by a glacier, you haven’t witnessed dinosaurs and you’ll die soon enough while this place lives on and on and on. But all the same, it happens; your thoughts are metered by the beat of your boots on the granite, the resounding anthem draws you in. You are connected here, as an object, no more or less out of place than the stones, the stream, the squirrel or the bear. You start out solo and before you know it your self has disappeared.
#10 Experience The Most Epic WILDLIFE WATCHING
It’s October on the windswept slopes of Scotland’s glens and the air is filled with the sound of rhythmic grunting. On the islands of the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, that bellowing can mean only one thing: it’s the red deer rut and the islands’ stags are staking their claim to the prime territories and duelling with their rivals. While the rest of the island’s residents are winding down for the winter, come autumn the islands’ deer have only one thing on their mind – making the next generation, and they aren’t too bothered who knows about it.
These magnificent creatures – stags stand 130cm tall at the shoulder, with antlers that can be 1m in length and have 16 points – inhabit both the Isle of Jura and community-owned Isle of Rum. There are 900 red deer on Rum, most easily seen in the north around Kilmory, where they have been filmed for television shows. In addition to rut-watching, Rum’s rangers can offer guided walks and wildlife-viewing, with options ranging from butterflies to eagles.
On larger, wilder Jura, the deer population outnumbers people. They’re hard to miss, visiting the foreshore to feed on mineral-rich seaweed and taking over the north of the island for the rut, a spectacular setting for one of nature’s great annual rituals. But you don’t have to go to Jura to see and hear red stags rutting – in London’s Richmond Park they bellow in the bracken from late September to the end of October. Such natural experiences, says writer Patrick Barkham, are a sort of peaceful exhilaration.
#11 Feel The Most Epic Speed
You’re about to enter ‘Green Hell’ – or, to use its more official title, the Nürburgring Nordschleife racetrack. There used to be a big tree and an altar dedicated to St Anthony by the start line, but it was removed in 1935. Shame: some holy protection could come in handy.
You rev your car’s engine and you’re off; 21km of sinuously snaking, brutally bucking, dipping, cresting, curvaceous tarmac lies ahead. With no speed limit.
This track, built in 1925 and dinted by 73 separate bends, is legendary. It was the most notorious Grand Prix track on the Formula 1 circuit – until Niki Lauda crashed here in 1976 and it was deemed too unsafe to race in modern Formula 1 cars. But its notoriety endures.
On certain days, the public is allowed to tackle the Nordschleife in their own cars – though it’s highly recommended to do a few circuits as a passenger first. That way you can start to get the measure of this motor-racing monster, which twists mercilessly and drunkenly though the Eifel Forest. It’s essentially a public road, requiring you to adhere to Article 3, Section 1 of the German Highway Code (you must be in full control of your vehicle, whatever speed you’re going). But there’s no actual restriction on that speed.
As you face section after punishing section – the Schwedenkreuz, Adenauer Forst, Metzgesfeld, Wippermann – your velocity is the very last thing on your mind. Staying on the road and out of the trees is your chief concern. But as you pass under that finishing gantry, feeling like Lewis Hamilton, you can’t help but look down at your watch, note your lap time, and be overcome by the urge to do it all again – just a little bit quicker.
#12 Do The Most Epic Steam Train Journey
The Jacobite, Scotland’s daily steam-hauled service has achieved a new kind of stardom as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films, in which it steams majestically across the Glenfinnan Viaduct. As you cross the snaking, single-track bridge there’s a glimpse of Loch Shiel, and of the monument that marks the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie first assembled his Jacobite army that nearly did so well for the Scots.
Even without a boyish interest in levers and furnaces, the history and landscape this train passes through is enough to ignite a passion for steam travel.
Beyond Glenfinnan, the train climbs through forests of ash, carpeted in a tartan of bluebells and bracken. The peaks are hung with the fraying rope of streams in spate and the lochs look like slices of sky fallen to the ground. Trailing clouds of steam, the Ja cob i te clatters through this mythical landscape, breathing hard. Then you round a corner and a door is thrown open to the sea. Suddenly, there’s a view of islands out across the Sound of Arisaig, where Eigg, Rum and Muck crowd the horizon. Beyond Arisaig lie beaches, and water that’s an otherworldly Caribbean blue. And then there’s Mallaig, with the Isle of Skye in the distance, and you’re standing on the rain-soaked platform at the end of your journey, a foot in the past and the present.
#13 Drink Most Epic Spirits
Hallucinations, fits, madness… all are ailments once said to be induced by drinking absinthe. The green, liquorice-flavoured liqueur had been banned in France since 1915, and was shrouded in mystery. But now the drink also known as the green fairy (la fée vert in French) is illegal no more.
The heady drink exploded in popularity in France during the late 19th century, when artists and writers such as Van Gogh, Rimbaud and Wilde savoured its unusual taste, and the effects of drinking it – although most now accept that the influential French wine industry, threatened by the fashionable drink, was behind the ban.
You watch as the bartender begins the ritual, pouring a measure into a small glass, balancing a perforated spoon holding a sugar cube over the glass and then slowly adding water to the spoon, so sweetened water drips into the absinthe. Brewed from a concoction of natural herbs, true absinthe includes three crucial elements: anise, fennel and Artemisia absinthium (grand wormwood, used as a remedy since the time of the ancient Egyptians). Now you wait expectantly but receive only an agreeably – aniseed-flavoured buzz – perhaps more research is required.
Post Submitted Charles Hindenburg