Whether you are reading this at your desk, slowly disappearing beneath a pile of aesthetically pleasing yet functionally useless revision notes, or frantically clutching a coffee cup in some uninhabitable, oxygen-starved corner of the library – allow me to provide some momentary relief.
For the benefit of those who *accidentally on purpose* missed all their lectures last term, and are now paying the painful price, I have complied a list of five dream destinations, for the summer that seems like it will never come. For now, simply read on and relax. Allow the concrete walls of the library to melt away, and visualise yourself as far away from North street as humanly possible. Feeling better already?
1. Lisbon, Portugal
With breathtaking vistas around every corner, and a reputation for being the continent’s sunniest capital, it’s no wonder that the popularity of this costal paradise is ever-growing. Boasting multiple beaches, historic architecture and surprisingly cheap beer (as little as €2 in some restaurants), Lisbon is the perfect post-exam getaway. Fill your days with culture by visiting the city’s numerous and widely celebrated museums, and be sure to check out the Belem cultural center which features art from the likes of Dali and Picasso. Or, if you’re still recovering from that night-before cram session, relax on Lisbon’s Guincho beach and remind your body that sunlight still exists. The beauty of this place is, you can do both – the proximity of the city to the Portuguese coastline allows you the culture and nightlife of a city break, as well as the tranquil shorelines of beach holiday.
2. Chandigarh, India
Exam season is rarely a cheery time, so why not brighten your horizons with a trip to India’s ‘happiest city’? More like a tropical garden than a city, Chandigarh houses a Unesco World Heritage site and is known for its beautiful parks. A trip here reveals a different side to India, cosmopolitan yet still bursting with greenery. The city has award-winning modern architecture and an impressively high quality of life. Experience the unique delights of Rock Garden, a 25-acre labyrinth which contains an array of intriguing sculptural installations crafted from materials ranging from broken bathroom sinks to old bicycle parts. For those seeking further cultural stimulation: Chandigarh’s Government Museum & Art Gallery is a mecca of creativity, featuring a diverse range of works from ancient carvings to modern landscape paintings. Calling all culture vultures, I think I just found your nirvana…
3. Havana, Cuba
This colourful capital is an interesting mix of past and present: crumbling colonial architecture sings of years past, but look hard enough and you’ll find a trendy bar has just opened up in a reconstructed factory. Embrace Havana’s faded glamour by wandering its vibrant bazaars by day, and salsa dancing with the locals into the the night. Don’t be afraid to try out the hip establishments that are popping up all over the city, head to El Cocinero to eat, this rooftop restaurant has a rotating menu of small-dish delicacies – the epitome of new Havana. Next, something old – take a tour around Partagas factory, home of the iconic Cuban cigar, or book a room at Hotel Roc Presidente to enjoy some old world charm.
4. San Sebastián, Spain
Post-exam time is the perfect excuse to treat yourself, and for pleasure seekers, San Sebastián is the dream. This resort town has it all, from award-winning restaurants to a 16th century castle, all set against a backdrop of dreamy art-nouveau architecture and picturesque bays. For a taste of modern San Sebastián, head to Zurriola beach, this place is popular with surfers and is set closely against the city, the famous Kursaal building is just within reach. For a dinner to remember, surround yourself with culinary excellence at the prestigious Arzak restaurant, renowned for its New Basque cuisine. To complete your hedonistic retreat, why not indulge in some shopping? Frida, a boutique filled with eclectic gems, is perfect for beachwear – think pretty kaftans, beaded dresses, and you can never have too many bikinis, right?
5. Antigua, Guatemala
Last but not least, I present to you the little piece of paradise that is, Antigua. If you’re looking to go all out this year, consider this the holy grail of summer escapes. This glorious, sun-drenched island is the perfect location for spending long days reclining on white sand beaches, and midnight hours cooling off in the turquoise sea. To make the most of the waters, take a boat out sailing and explore some of the island’s hidden coves, or relax on-shore in a local bar with the friendly islanders. In the evening, experience a traditional Antiguan night at Shirley Heights Lookout – enjoy local cuisine, live reggae music and incredible views over the English Harbour. If you somehow manage to exhaust the 365 beaches Antigua has to offer, take a day trip to its sister island, Barbuda, for yet another slice of Guatemalan paradise.