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Fall’s Spectator Sport
October 11, 2005By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Loire Valley Chateau

It’s that time of year again. The hordes rubber-necking along the nation’s Interstates are the most obvious clue. Fall is upon us, and though you may have missed the stein-clunking, beer-guzzling merriment of Munich’s world famous Oktoberfest, it’s not too late to soak up the season’s best pageantry in other spots around the globe. The Fall leaves are only just peaking. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some top world destinations to check out the autumn leaves.

Scotland

This little country is all the rage right now, perhaps because of the filming of the cult classic The Da Vinci Code. Devoted fans have been pursuing the film-makers from pillar to post since they begin filming the thriller in June. But Autumn is the best time to visit: the rolling green landscapes are highlighted with distinctive autumn foliage, the northern lights are on show, the whale-watching is stupendous, and most of the tourists have departed with the end of the Edinburgh Festival. Of course, the icing on the cake is off-season rates.

Where to stay? Check out the world’s best golf at Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa in St. Andrew’s. As can be expected from the home of Golf, the resort’s championship course is spectacular and challenging, offering sweeping views of the coastline and sea.

France

Lucky us-- the Loire Valley is packed with more châteaux than French residents. (Only kidding; my partner-in-crime is French.) In the Autumn, the Valley’s charming villages are blazing with autumn colors, and the vineyards are turning all kinds of crazy colors. It’s also the annual grape-plucking time, and the harvest brings lots of festivals and activities.

Where to stay? Head to the ultimate palace of extravagance: perfume millionaire François Coty’s Château d'Artigny. Like the great historic châteaux of the Loire, the hotel is set in a 65 acre estate with marvelous formal gardens. Hey—if it was permitted—I’d even stake out a room in the cellar-- brimming with 20,000 bottles of delicious Loire Valley wine.

Tuscany

What could be better than wine-tasting in autumn in Tuscany? Now that the summer crowds have thinned, take an autumn stroll through striking Mediterranean scenery. The days are still hot, and the landscapes dotted with olive, cyprus and colorful deciduous groves. As the cultural capital of the region, Florence mesmerizes with historic treasures, artistic masterpieces, and shopping extravaganzas.

Where to stay? Located in the surrounding hills of Florence, Villa San Michele is a magically-restored 15th century monastery, with its façade attributed to Michelangelo. Orient-Express Hotels undertook the massive, comprehensive restoration, with the cooperation of the Florence Fine Arts Society.

Montreal

Can’t make it to Europe? Take a weekend trip to Montreal, a European style city complete with a vibrant café culture and passion for joie de vivre. Starting in September, Fall’s pageant opens and travels down to the Canadian border, leaving a full color spectrum in its wake.

Where to stay? The fashionable Windsor Arms hotel is decidedly hip. Just thirty yards from the Golden Strip, the 28 luxurious suites are tucked away in luxurious calm. Service is exceptional, with personal butlers discreetly in attendance 24 hours a day.

New England

This is where it's at for fantastic fall foliage. It’s hard to predict the peak of the colors, but this year the eager forecasters are calculating that the colors will be at their best until October 23. (For you avid Foliage Fans, they are even some hotlines you can call for precise forecasting.) Most of the region is covered in woodland, so the landscape is utterly transformed by color.

Where to stay? Head to Boston’s classy and eclectic suburb of Cambridge, where you can stroll through the ivied courtyards of Harvard Yard. The Charles Hotel is luxurious and contemporary, and offers the best Sunday brunch in the nation, at its restaurant Henrietta’s Table.

China

Leave it to the Chinese to launch an actual “Red Leaves Project” to beautiful the outskirts of Bejing. In 2000, the government meticulously planned a 230-km swath of red leaves which is just now on show. It gets quite cold in late October, so hurry up and book those flights today. (Avoid the Fragrant Hills, 28 kilometers north of Bejing, because of the crowds and traffic. Likewise, the Badaling stretch of the Great Wall resembles a Disney Land Park with tourists and vendors galore.)

Where to stay? The Peninsula Palace Bejing is ideally located just a short walk from The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and all the tourist treasures of the capital. Following a US$27 million renovation, the hotel is the premier address in Bejing.

Kenya

Forget the leaves. The attraction here is the incredible wildebeest and zebra migration that occurs every October without fail. During the summer months, the herds (made up of millions of animals!) hang out on the savannas of Kenya’s Masai Mara, before returning to Tanzania’s Serengeti plains with the inauguration of the October rains.

Where to stay? To enjoy this spectacle, check in to one of the luxurious camps along the Mara River, like the Mara Serena Safari Lodge. Even the swimming pool and restaurant overlook a watering hole where wildlife congregate to drink.


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