07 JAN 2015:  As we celebrate the arrival of the New Year, destinations are eagerly prepping for some blockbuster events and milestone anniversaries.  The general themes in 2015 - war, freedom and cuisine. Now, here’s a handy list for travellers who happen to be in the vicinity and want to check in on some festivals at home and around the globe.

Several groundbreaking historic battles either started or ended. There’s the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the battle of Agincourt (600th anniversary) and the Battle of Waterloo (200th anniversary) as examples.

And to help sustain us with all these heavy-themed retrospectives, on a lighter note, it’s the year for culinary celebrations. Scotland is devoting this year to Food and Drink. Milan the host city for the upcoming World Expo 2015 is showcasing gastronomy. France meanwhile tips its hat to the world’s first restaurant (yes I know, leave it to the fabulous French to snag this title); and Spain has crowned a wee landlocked town in the west as the Spanish Capital of Gastronomy.

Here’s to a happy, healthy new year.


Sir John A. Macdonald’s Bicentennial birthday: Jan. 11

Canada’s first prime minister gets top billing. This expat Scot made Kingston home prior to founding our nation so expect events scheduled across the country. The heaviest activity will take place in Kingston and Ottawa. You can participate in Macdonald Week held in Kingston January 6-11.

130th anniversary of the North West Rebellion (aka Second Riel Rebellion)

This bloody five month battle in 1885 was a brief and unsuccessful uprising of the Metis under Louis Riel against the government of Canada. The result: the capture and execution of Louis Riel, a controversial act and divisive figure to this day. Fort Carlton Provincial Park in Saskatchewan is planning events.

400th anniversary of Francophone in Ontario

The province is celebrating our French heritage dating back some 400 years with one of the biggest commemorations rumoured to be occurring during the Toronto Pan Am Games.

Toronto Pan Am and Parapan Am Games
Over two weeks this summer the city is gearing up to greet the world as it hosts some of the world’s best athletes in what’s been billed as “the world’s third largest international multi-sport games.” Insiders report that 50,000 tickets were purchased on the first day of sales.

50th anniversary of the Canadian Flag: Feb. 15

For nearly a century Canada had no flag to call its own until 1965 when we finally got our iconic red and white banner bearing the Maple Leaf. A 20-year-old Joan O’Malley sewed the prototype on her Singer sewing machine. Here she is: http://www.newslook.com/videos/768894-woman-who-sewed-first-maple-leaf-flag-honoured. Also watch the first official flag raising ceremony on Parliament Hill in 1965. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6NGnVgI75o


450th anniversary of St. Augustine: Sept. 8

Revered as America’s oldest continually occupied European settlement, the Spaniards arrived in 1565, built a huge fortress and since then the sun kissed city in Florida has encountered many other superlatives. Tycoon Henry Flagler, the builder of Florida’s railways and founder of Standard Oil, created three hotels and vacationers have been arriving ever since. Expect lots of party themed events, and exhibitions throughout the year.

400th anniversary of San Miguel in Socorro, New Mexico

The old San Miguel mission in Socorro gets feted. What started as a traveller’s aid post for the hundreds of Spanish colonists trekking north up the Rio Grande eventually morphed into a mission called, “Nuestra Senora del Socorro” meaning “Our Lady of Perpetual Help” which helped travellers and locals. A series of events have been planned over the next three years.

Puerto Rico: Mayagüez American Capital of Culture

The International Bureau of Cultural Capitals has chosen this year to feature the city of Mayagüez. A former manufacturing center (mainly tuna canning and beer) the compact city on the western coast has closely situated landmarks thanks to the colonial legacy. On the outskirts find hiking trails and the bird rich sanctuary known as the Desecheo National Wildlife Refuge.

80th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s birth: Jan. 8

The “King of Rock’n’Roll,” Elvis Presley would have been 80 years old this year. His hometown in Tupelo, Mississippi and his home known as Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, as well as fan-based associations worldwide will be saluting the acclaimed artist who spawned a generation of frenzied teeny-boppers in the fifties and sixties.

125th anniversary of Yosemite National Park: Oct. 1

It’s astounding to think that as the Civil War raged on, President Abraham Lincoln decided to tuck away this pristine wilderness for all time, which helped set the stage for the national park system. Benjamin Harrison, another US president signed the deal in 1890 giving America its third national park.

Disneyland’s 60: Anaheim California

The story goes that after Walt Disney spent a day with his daughters at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, the uncanny idea of creating a kiddie wonderland was conceived. Sure enough on July 17, 1955 roughly 28,000 people arrived to witness the Disneyland opening. For those who couldn’t make it ABC did a full broadcast hosted by Art Linkletter. Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuzrZET-3Ew. It’s believed over 600 million people have visited Disneyland since.


70th anniversary of the end of World War 2 across Europe

In Britain, VE Day occurred on May 8, 1945 marking an end to the bloody war that ripped through Europe. Expect commemorative ceremonies and special events across all of Europe. For instance, Reims, France was the setting in which General Eisenhower accepted the German surrender on May 7, 1945 which ended WWII.


The country of tartan, haggis and whisky (and so much more) is celebrating food and drink this year as pubs, restos and fabled car routes themed around various libations and eats gets big praise.
www.visitscotland.com or http://www.scotlandfoodanddrink.org

125th anniversary of the Forth Rail Bridge: March 4

For the first time ever visitors will be able to ascend the iconic bridge for a birds eye views at a cost of 125 pounds of course. Nominated for a UN World Heritage status, many Scots now revere the bridge as the most famous landmark in the country.


800th anniversary of the Magna Carta: June 15

The Brits by way of King John of England in 1215 introduced the Magna Carta, a total game changer that would become a symbol against oppression, a symbol of freedom under law. The Magna Carta is England’s and perhaps the world’s most important legal document which became the cornerstone for liberty across the English-speaking world.

Among the commemorative places and events you can follow is the Thames Trail between Windsor to Runnymede, the site where King John sealed the Magna Carta on June 15, 1215. In a rare event, the four surviving original copies will come together temporarily at the British Library this February.

Bristol: 2015 European Green Capital

Hailed as a green city for its monumental self-sustainable efforts, this port city of nearly 450,000 in southwest England gets a green thumbs up for its environmental standards in innovation, culture and creativity. Bristol is regarded as the UK’s first Cycling City. Watch for Big Green Week (June 13-21) and Bristol’s Biggest Bike Ride.

500th anniversary of Hampton Court

If only the walls could speak. One of Britain’s best loved treasures and the favourite digs of King Henry VIII was the center of court life for 200 years. Expect year-round special events and entertainment in commemoration of the half-millennium.http://www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/WhatsOn/

Agatha Christie’s 125th birthday: Sept. 15

The Queen of Crime novels continues to tickle the imagination. Loyal fans will reread from some of Christie’s best loved books or watch the ineffable Hercule Poirot TV series. One spot to relish in all things Christie is the English Riviera in her hometown Torquay in Devon. It’s believed her formative years were spent around these lush Devonshire surrounds. Visit her estate at Greenway where she summered and spent Christmases. Hike a path dubbed the Agatha Christie Mile that starts from the Grand or Imperial Hotel in Torquay. Every September fans gather for the International Agatha Christie Festival.

80th anniversary of the death of Lawrence of Arabia: May 19

While only 46 years old when he died British Army Officer T.E. Lawrence lived a daring life of legend, intrigue and mystery from his time as a saboteur in the desert during World War I. His life inspired countless books and one magnificent movie.

900th anniversary of St. Albans Cathedral

The cathedral built on the burial site of Britain’s first saint, Alban, will have a series of “Dedication 900” events throughout the year. Must-see artifacts include the longest nave in England, stunning medieval wall paintings, and the shrine of St. Alban. Free guided tours are regularly scheduled.


Faroe Islands

If there’s ever a natural phenomenon to watch add a total solar eclipse to the top of your list. From these small autonomous islands within the Kingdom of Denmark between Norway and Iceland solar eclipse watchers will see the wondrous spectacle of the moon passing in front of the sun which will briefly send the islands into darkness on March 20 at 9:41am. It’s believed the Faroe Islands are only one of two places in the world you can observe this cosmic phenomenon from land.


650th anniversary of the University of Vienna: March 12

Considered the oldest university in the German-speaking world, this landmark institution is associated with 15 Nobel Prize winners. Expect plenty of events, conferences, lectures, exhibitions, concerts and performances from March 12 and throughout the year. In April, the city’s annual marathon will mark the occasion with 650 runners.


1000th anniversary of Leipzig

This economic center of medieval Germany still maintains its industrial glory but also boasts several other accolades. Famous for St. Thomas Church Johann Sebastian Bach worked as a music director there. Watch for events like the Longest Civic Festival, the Street Theatre Festival and the 1000 years of Leipzig Festival Week from May 31- June 7.


125th Anniversary: Death of Vincent van Gogh: July 29

The artist who died in virtual poverty gave the world a legacy of breathtaking paintings. There’s his wistful “Self-portrait in a Straw Hat” and “Sunflowers” which have left an indelible mark in the arts world. Expect retrospectives from this Dutch master painter to be held at the biggest institutions around the world.


2000th Anniversary of the Roman town Emona (Ljubljana)

The Slovenian capital of Ljubljana celebrates a mega milestone tipping its hat to its rich Roman past. No wonder. Emperors Tiberius and Augustus most likely loved its location which was in the middle of a major trade route to the Adriatic Sea and the Danube region. Now you can plan tours and trips around this Roman holiday theme.


800th Anniversary of the Prince’s Palace

First built in 1215 as a fortress by the Genoese the first castle on the rock has since witnessed many incarnations. Now, the Prince’s Palace is partially open as a museum. See an Italian-style gallery, 15th century frescoes and a fabulous Louis XV lounge in this exquisite fairytale castle that was once home to the glamorous Grace Kelly when she married her prince and became a princess.


750th anniversary of the birth of Dante Alighieri

Best known for his epic poem “The Divine Comedy,” Dante is often revered as the “Father of the Italian Language.” Born in Florence, historians debate his actual birth date but one thing is certain, expect lots of celebrations around one of Italy’s most beloved poets.

Torino: 2015 European Capital of Sport

Torino (Turin) is a huge sports town. The former host city of the winter Olympics snuggled in the Alps region is prepping to now play its newest role as the sporting capital of Europe.

Milan: World Expo May 1 – Oct. 31

Earlier World Expos celebrated iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Space Needle in Washington but this upcoming expo in Milan will be shining the spotlight on food. The theme is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” Considered Italy’s second largest city millions of visitors are expected to converge on this food capital as the future of food takes centre stage.


Caceres: Spanish Capital of Gastronomy

The Spanish culinary scene just got hotter. This UNESCO town with its blend of Renaissance, Moorish and Roman architecture is home to an amazing local food scene. Void of fish and seafood akin to the coastal town of Valencia, this landlocked city celebrates snout to tail fare. Find lamb stews, chorizo sausage and condiments associated with paprika, oil and pig’s fat. Expect events and big exposure of regional produce. Caceres is off the traditional tourist trail but it’s a real find and worth the trip.


250th anniversary of the world’s first restaurant

There’s gotta be a first for everything and the French boldly are tooting their horns on this one.

It seems back in 1765 when the New World (i.e. the 13 colonies) and Britain were bickering over the Stamp Act, a lonely Parisian soup maker named Boulanger cooked up a great idea. Since there were no guilds in Paris for soup makers Monsieur Boulanger decided to put a sign in his shop window labelled ‘restaurant’ and so was born the restaurant. The legendary resto was near the Louvre on Rue Bailleul (present day Rue du Louvre) before Baron Haussmann rebuilt the district.

The Hotel Ritz Paris: reopening late 2015

This star studded luxury hotel that’s been the fabled setting for celebs, spies, tycoons and royalty has been undergoing a massive nip and tuck restoration. Loyal guests and lovers of the chi-chi wait anxiously for its return on the luxe hotel circuit. Expect three restaurants, three bars (including the Bar Hemingway), gardens, afternoon tea, an expanded Ritz Escoffier cooking school and more surprises. The hotel is also restoring the Place Vendôme column as its gift to Paris.

55th anniversary of Jazz a Juan (July 10-19)

Purported as one of Europe’s oldest jazz festivals, this crowd pleaser is a seaside jazz concert gem which besides boasting some of the biggest musical artists in the jazz business is situated in the dreamy French Riviera surrounds of Juan-les-Pins.

110th anniversary Festival of Filets Bleus

What began in 1905 as a charity party by a local canning manufacturer to raise morale and funds for the ailing mariners in the local fishing villages has evolved into one of the biggest festivals in Brittany that occurs each August. Find a queen, a vice-queen and three bridesmaids with fabulous roles. Most of the activities and concerts are free.

600th anniversary of Agincourt/Azincourt: Oct. 25

The lopsided battle between England and France was fought on waterlogged fields of Azincourt in Pas de Calais, northern France where King Henry V of England defeated forces sent by King Charles VI of France. While the castle of Azincourt has long disappeared a visit to the town and the Medieval Centre of Agincourt is fascinating. Also the British have commemorated many events around the anniversary.
http://agincourt600.com/ or http://www.azincourt-medieval.fr/

500th Anniversary of the Reign of François I – 1515 to 1547

King Francois I is known for many things but topping the list is being the patron for the exiled genius Leonardo da Vinci and explorer Giovanni da Verrazano. Events and concerts are scheduled at his favourite haunts like the castles of Chambord, Blois, Amboise, and of course, his beloved Chateau du Clos Luce where Leonardo da Vinci spent his final three years.

Czech Republic

Pilsen: European Cultural Capital

Home to pilsner-style beer and a magnificent Gothic cathedral, Pilsen has also been anointed as the European Cultural Capital and in true grand opening fashion expect the year to begin with a beer burg blitz. The city is splurging on new public spaces, a new theatre and the opening of the Svetovar Culture Factory. Festivities start Jan. 17.


Bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo: June 18-21

A defining moment in European history was when Napoleon having swept across Europe was finally crushed at Waterloo and exiled to St. Helena. The battlefield setting was 15 km south of Brussels in present day Belgium. Prepare for a huge re-enactment in this mega-event that is expecting people to play the role of 5,000 soldiers who will be accompanied by 300 horses and 100 cannons. It’s a must-see for military buffs.

Bruges: 500th anniversary of Cafe Vlissinghe

Tucked away from the main square of St. Anna Quarter in beautiful Bruges there’s a historic tavern that’s been enticing travellers with good eats and drinks for half a millennium. A fabulous Flemish medieval landmark, Bruges’ oldest pub is very intoxicating.

Mons: 2015 European Capital of Culture

Sharing the title with Pilsen, this beautiful Belgian city brimming in medieval architecture is gearing up to host countless artistic events. Look for a new Van Gogh exhibit showcasing “The Diggers,” a painting he completed while living here. Also five new museums are scheduled to open in April including The Artotheque, an art library. Only 40 minutes from Brussels the former mining and industrial centre is ready to hit the world’s cultural stage.


150th anniversary of composer Jean Sibelius’ birth: Dec. 8

The great Finnish composer took much inspiration from his love of nature and for the dramatic Finnish landscape. After performing the Sixth Symphony (you should listen to it) it’s believed Sibelius remarked, “(it) always reminds me of the scent of the first snow.” It’s an underrated symphony of intense beauty. Special events, concerts and exhibitions are added to the celebratory mix.


1500th anniversary of Abbey of Saint-Maurice d’Agaune

Considered the oldest abbey in the West in constant use for 15 centuries, both pilgrims and travellers have trekked to this ancient landmark in Valais to worship and see the extraordinary place of worship. Expect a series of special events around this special birthday.

Zermatt: 150th anniversary of the first Matterhorn ascent

When British climber Edward Whymper reached the summit (at 4,478 metres) with his rope team it was a blissful moment on July 14th 1865. No one had successfully completed the gruelling climb until that day. Now the mountain village is preparing for monumental events celebrating the ascent. Also watch for new developments like the reopening of the Hornli Hut with the addition of spacious rooms.

St. Moritz: 150 years of winter tourism

Often called the “Top of the World,” the ski resort town of St. Moritz looms high in the Alps and is synonymous with luxe and snow in what seems like forever. This year the preferred ski playground for the rich and famous celebrates with the powerful powder title: the birthplace of winter tourism. Get set for all things winter at this winter wonderland. http://www.engadin.stmoritz.ch/winter/en/activities/scintillating-st-moritz/150-years-of-winter-tourism/


25th anniversary of German Reunification

West and East Germany were finally reunited on October 3, 1990 and ever since Germany marks this historic occasion as the “Day of German Unity.” No doubt there will be special commemorative ceremonies of this special anniversary.



Rio de Janeiro: 450th anniversary: March 1

Famous for Carnival and Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro gets another special party as it celebrates the city’s founding by the Portuguese who marvelled at the “cidade maravilhosa” meaning the marvelous city. We saw how the city celebrated during last year’s FIFA World Cup so you can expect the same joyous mayhem for its 450th birthday.


Santiago de Cuba celebrates 500 years: July 25

Imagine a country that boasts cities over 500 years old. Cuba has now achieved six of them with the latest joining the half millennium fold this July. Located in the island’s east, Cuba’s second largest city after Havana is famous as the “heroic city” associated for the cradle of the revolution and is known for its popular African conga musical groups which you can experience not only during Carnival but anytime of the year. Historians along with the country’s finest artists will lend their hand in creating some phenomenal tributes to this great city. Watch for new cultural and heritage trails.

65th Ernest Hemingway International Marlin Fishing Tournament: May 25-30

“Papa” Hemingway, the renowned American author who penned “The Old Man and the Sea” among other classics had a love of Cuba and marlin fishing. The Hemingway Marina is still there in vintage glory and so is the highly anticipated annual fishing competition that takes place outside Havana.


Burj Khalifa turns 5: Jan. 4

The world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, is set to celebrate five years reigning in the top spot. At 828 metres high, the tallest skyscraper took six years to construct and judging by all accounts it looks like it’ll continue to hold this accolade for a few more years.


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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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