Oliver Broad
venice, Italy

The Joanna Lumley Effect

29.11.18 | Oliver

I recently saw Joanna Lumley perform her touring show at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall. It was an entertaining evening as Joanna took us down memory lane and through the decades of her career with amusing anecdotes and stories.

One moment which really stood out, and had the audience gripped, were the questions surrounding her various travels. Joining Joanna onstage was her grandfather’s travelling case from India, as well as various keepsakes from around the world.

Her search for the Northern Lights was officially her most memorable trip whilst Japan, Egypt and her most recent Silk Road adventure were all mentioned and it was a joy to recap the memories together with the audience. There is no doubt, Joanna really brings a destination to life, but of course there is nothing like experiencing the real thing for yourself.

With this in mind I thought I would take a look at some of the destinations Joanna recently toured along the Silk Road and the opportunities for our clients to visit them for themselves.

Often referred to as the most romantic city in the world, Venice was the entry point to Europe for traders travelling along the silk road. The influences the city absorbed from the array of different cultures which the traders and visitors brought with them is all around. The highlight for many will be a visit to the Doges Palace, but we would also recommend a visit over to Murano Island to see the skills of the glass blowers. Winter is a beautiful time to visit when the crowds reduce a little and you can wander until your heart’s content along the canals. A nice respite from the hustle and bustle of the city is Venice Lido. This green oasis is just 20 minutes by boat and is a great place to visit or stay at one of the beachfront hotels. For a really luxurious treat, why not book onto the Venice-Simplon Orient-Express eastwards to our next stop; Istanbul.

Venice simplon - orient express

Istanbul is a remarkable city with an array of ancient monuments, fun bazaars to explore and fascinating religious buildings to tour. It is easy to combine the city with the Cappadocia region where Joanna explored the underground cities that formed the heart of the Hittite empire. These unique caves are architectural marvels and like nothing you will have seen before. The scenery is spectacular too with ‘fairy chimney’ rock formations dotted around. You can even stay in one of these unique cave hotels, many of which are some of the most luxurious in Turkey. 7 day holidays to both areas with a comprehensive tour programme with private car transportation, flights from the UK and luxury hotels starts from £920 per person, based on 2 people travelling privately.

With a complicated past, Georgia is a fascinating country to explore and learn more about. One of the world’s oldest Christian nations, Georgia has plenty of beautiful churches to visit, as well as Roman fortresses and rock-cave monasteries. Joanna also visited some of the more remote parts of this country. The lush-green landscapes that the silk road winds along are home to remote villages working off the land with age-old traditional means. In stark contrast, the capital city of Tbilisi is a buzzing cultural hot spot and is quickly becoming one of the ‘must-see’ cities of the area. Access to the country is easy too with no current visa requirements for UK passport holders. 9 day escorted group tours start from £1,335 per person with flights.

The capital city Baku was one of the stand-out moments of Joanna’s documentary to me. This vibrant, modern metropolis with futuristic architecture is developing at a fast pace. The city offers plenty to discover from the past in the 10-century old town, and provides an exciting look into it’s future too with jaw-dropping masterpieces from some of the world’s top modern architects. Away from the city, one of the highlights to visit would be Ateshgyakh Fire Worshippers’ temple at Absheron, as well as ancient rock carvings at Gobustan, a Unesco world heritage site dating back 20,000 years.

Few would tour around just Azerbaijan, instead opting to combine with neighbouring Georgia and Armenia. We offer a 14 night escorted group tour that does just that takes all three states of the southern Caucasus starting in Azerbaijan on the shores of the Caspian Sea where a visit to the Khan Palace in Sheki is also on the agenda. The tour then heads to Georgia, famous for its ancient monasteries and viticulture, and ends in the small, proud nation of Armenia, one of the oldest Christian countries in the world. Prices start from £1,995 per person including flights.

In Episode 3, Joanna was very excited to have their visas granted so they could visit Iran, and it soon became apparent why. A key part of the Silk Road’s history, the home of the Persian civilisation has some of the most wonderful architectural sites of the ancient world including the tiled mosques of Isfahan. Other highlights include the verdant gardens of Shiraz, the ancient Achaemenian capital of Pasargadae, the desert architecture of Yazd and the splendid bas-reliefs of the Palace of Persepolis.

Iran has certainly become more popular in recent years and in our opinion booking onto an organised, group tour, with like-minded travellers, is the best way to do it. 9 day fully escorted group tours start from £1,780 per person. We also offer a longer tour focussing on arts & culture which is a more comprehensive programme visiting specially arranged visits to unique places with local experts, from £4,495 per person.

Visiting Iran on a group tour is one of the best ways to see what the country has to offer. Explore grandiose historical sites with a group of like-minded travellers in a hassle-free manner.

The final stop on the documentary was Uzbekistan, a country which we first encountered around 10 years ago when my colleague visited. It was once one of the main trading stops on the Silk Road and home to impressive, bold and colourful Islamic architecture. The country has a history of many conquerors and nomads who left behind a legacy of architectural sites and cultural influences. The towering fortresses of Khiva and Bukhara and the Islamic architecture of Samarkand are all a must-see, once some of the most powerful cities in the world. More recent Soviet history can be discovered in the modern day capital city of Tashkent, a modern day, well planned and laid out city. Well worth a visit is also the sleepier Uzbek town where mud-walled houses are surrounded by traditional farmers. 12 day group tours around Uzbekistan with flights start from £1,845 per person.

To plan and book your holiday along the silk road call RB Collection on 01543 258631 or email vip@rbcollection.com



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