Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Five - 'you have got to be kidding' - tourist attractions

Let me preface this post by saying that the tourist sites on this list may be a little wacky but that doesn't make them boring. You won't find them on the 'highly recommended' lists in the main stream guidebooks, but on the upside, none of them will be crowded when you get there. The fact that they made the list means we thought them worth a visit. 



1.  Stonehenge, Oregon -

Stonehenge, the original, is amazing, but let's face it, it's crowded and a long way away. If you have never been there, it's probably worth the trek, but with an estimated 66 large scale replicas around the world, if you just can't be bothered then there is probably a fake near you.

On our recent trip to the US we detoured to the Stonehenge at Maryhill, Oregon. Stonehenge, Maryhill was built by Sam Hill as a memorial to US soldiers who lost their lives in WW I. At the time, it was believed that the original Stonehenge was a place of human sacrifice and Hill used his replica to evoke the pointless sacrifice of young lives in the war.

Made of cement, rather than stone, the full size replica is nevertheless definitely worth a detour.  Perched on a grassy hilltop it overlooks the Columbia River with the slightly incongruous sight of 21st Century windmills in the distance.

In the fake Stonehenge stakes, for once, we in the Antipodes have not missed out.  Both Australia and New Zealand  have their own versions. Australian Stonehenge is in Esperence, WA.  New Zealand Stonehenge is on the North Island. We haven't been to either but the photos on the web look amazing - they definitely just joined our 'to do' list.







Useful Links:
Australian Stonehenge - http://esperancestonehenge.com.au/
New Zealand Stonehenge - http://www.stonehenge-aotearoa.co.nz/


2.  Memento Park, Budapest

Those of us old enough to remember the collapse of the Soviet Union will recall nightly television images of Soviet era statutes being torn down by jubilant crowds across the Eastern Bloc.  Memento Park, Budapest is testament to the fact that they weren't all destroyed.  Rescued from oblivion the monuments here date from 1945 to 1989. It's great fun wandering around the park, wondering what 'over the top' propaganda moment you will see next.








Useful link:


3. The Plaza de Toros (Bullring) in Colonia, Uruguay -

This once magnificent structure is slowly crumbling into history. Built by an Argentinian entrepreneur it opened in 1910 and staged just eight bull-fights before the sport was banned by the Uruguayan Government. 7,000 spectators packed the stadium for it's opening event, many of them crossing the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Airies, where bull fighting was already outlawed.

I wouldn't recommend making a journey here just to see the bull-ring.  In a quiet neighbourhood it is easy to get up close and walk around  but a perimeter fence stops you from wandering through the inside. Incongruously it sits in the middle of a roundabout.  However Colonia del Sacramento, with its World Heritage listed historic centre, is absolutely worth the journey, . If you're here anyway and you have a car the bull-ring is only about 7km from the historic district.



Useful link:


4. Colonia del Suiza, Argentina -

A little bit of Switzerland in South America - well not really, more like a little bit of Swiss kitsch in Patagonia. Colonia del Suiza was settled in the 19th Century by the first Swiss immigrants to make their homes in Patagonia. Slightly isolated, down the inevitable Argentinian dirt road, this tiny hamlet comprises a small collection of restaurants and tourist shops in Swiss architectural style. 

It may be kitsch but there is something about the place which draws us back. We first visited in 2010.  No. 2 son and I had fondue for lunch in an 'Alpine' restaurant - it was just weird.  David and I returned a few months ago. David fell in love with the world's tackiest souvenir, an early 20th Century Coca-Cola poster with the caption - "Coca-Cola revives and sustains; Take one glass of Coca-Cola when weary with shopping. It imparts energy and vigor".  I only let him buy it because it was in a wooden frame. Australian quarantine inspectors are notoriously strict about letting wood, of unknown origin, into the country.  I was sure it would be confiscated at the airport but despite my best pleading the quarantine guy let it through and now I have to tolerate it on the family room wall.

Like the bull-ring at Colonia del Sacramento, Colonia del Suiza isn't worth making a journey all on its own but it makes a pleasant side excursion on the magnificent Circuito Chico near San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina.



  



5. The Venetian Hotel/Casino, Macau - 

It is not enough that the city of Venice has been copied and Disneyafied in The Las Vegas Venetian, but the Las Vegas hotel/casino has itself been copied to create 'The Venetian', Macau.  Like the ever more remote clones of Michael Keaton in the Hollywood comedy 'Mulitiplicity', The 'clone of a clone' Venetian Macau bears only the most superficial resemblance to the original city from which it took its inspiration.

It is however a great place to spend a couple of nights.  Once inside, guests lose all connection with the outside world.  It may feel more like living in Disneyland than in Venice but it is still great fun. Meander through cobblestone 'laneways', cross and re-cross the canals on quaint little bridges, listen to the music of wandering troubadours, eat in an 'outdoor' restaurant and cap it all off with a gondola ride in 'The Grand Canal'; all without ever leaving the building.

It is easy to spend  days inside The Venetian without ever feeling the need to re-enter the real world, but don't be tempted to leave Macau without at least a day or two spent discovering the charm and history of the old city.

   




4 comments:

  1. Haven't heard of any of these; interesting nonetheless

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    1. Until you have been to a fake Stonehenge you can't really call yourself a traveller - lol. D and I will be in Esperance later in the year and I am looking forward to visiting the one there.

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  2. I've stayed at the Venetian - so hilarious. May I add the replica medieval French village built outside of Da Nang in Vietnam....soooo funny. And that kooky all the countries of the world in Macau even Sydney's Forum in Leichhardt....

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    1. David and I had a great time at the Venetian but it was weird. We used to lived in Hong Kong and went to Macau occasionally so we have quite a soft spot for the place. Maybe one day I'll get organised and do a collab post on all the weird things we bloggers have come across on our travels.

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