An unusual time to plan a trip, but October does have its charms
Many places you’ll visit in October are still draped in autumnal colours, and depending on where you are, you can still find decent weather. Prices for accommodation tend to be lower as well in the lull between summer and Christmas. So, what’s good in October?
La dolce vita, Liguria, Italy
Once the summer rush is over and September has come and gone, there are places that can still give you the ideal combination of good weather and wonderful things to see and do. Liguria is one such place.
It’s the north-western part of the country that runs in an arc from the French border, taking Genoa as its apex, then down the coast almost as far as Pisa. The region is one of the richer parts of Italy, and in the past attracted film stars and other celebrities to its beautiful towns and glamorous locales: imagine any film in the 1960s involving someone in an open-top sports car driving along winding coastal roads and that’s probably Liguria you’re imagining.
The shoreline is an almost uninterrupted string of small towns and fishing villages as well as some of Italy’s most beautiful (and most secluded) beaches. Head up into the surrounding hills though, and you’ll be in the lush greenery that produces a heady scent from the lemon tree groves, wild herbs and pine trees.
If you want to be a bit more urban, then you can visit Genoa, the region’s capital and a slightly overlooked city. The picturesque medieval town is in sharp contrast to the hustle and bustle of the narrow streets cascading downhill to the country’s busiest port, and its mix of high energy and Italian insouciance is refreshing. Otherwise, maybe rent that open-top sports car and just see where the winding roads take you…
Seven days, seven towns, Vermont, US
Autumn (or, in this case, fall) is a much-celebrated season in New England, as the region’s already beautiful landscape becomes a riot of autumnal colours. However, this display of reds, browns and yellows isn’t necessarily welcomed by the locals, as places become overwhelmed by so-called leaf peepers.
This term refers to the thousands of people who trek to New England to enjoy the beautiful foliage, and is used either in appreciation (by local businesses who depend on the seasonal traffic), or with disdain (by those who have to use the roads and paths that suddenly become crowded).
Feel like joining in? Well, how about this: Vermont is one of the smallest states in the US, and is primarily covered in forests and hills, as well as being home to over one hundred 19th century covered wooden bridges, placing it firmly in the “twee-yet-beautiful” category. Head to the grandly named Northeast Kingdom and join in their Fall Foliage Festival.
It takes place over seven days in the towns of Marshfield, Walden, Cabot, Plainfield, Peacham, Barnet, and Groton, meaning you can spend a day in each place. The locals really take the festival to heart, providing visitors with hospitality, guided tours, pancake breakfasts or barbecue cook-outs, cider-pressing and lumberjack skill demonstrations. It’s this time of year that New England really comes to life.
Cooler is better, Dubai, UAE
During the summer months, Dubai really is very warm indeed. That’s to be expected. But come October, the place starts to exhibit a more liveable temperature and that’s when things begin to pick up again. Rather than everyone living inside with the air conditioning turned up to stay out of temperatures that routinely remain above 40 degrees, life emerges.
Restaurant terraces fill again. Beach clubs reopen. A jaunt into the desert doesn’t sound like a recipe for a quick and unseemly death. Plus you get to see a little of what Dubai is about behind all the glitz and modernity.
Despite the fact that glitz and modernity is what it’s known for, you can still see the ghost of the Emirates past in Dubai’s Old Town. The old buildings have been painstakingly restored, and a number of them now serve as galleries showcasing everything from ancient calligraphy to modern art. Learn about Emirati history and culture at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, or head to one of the tea houses to take a cup with the locals.
The souks — the old markets — have also been glammed up slightly, but you can still find traditional wares. Silks, spices, gold and perfumes make up a heady mix of colours, textures and smells, meaning that even this most modern of cities hasn’t totally forgotten its roots.
Living history, Dublin, Ireland
History lovers rejoice! From 1–20 October, Dublin hosts a series of events that, together, make up the Dublin Festival of History. It’s organised by Dublin City Council and Dublin City Libraries, and over the years, it’s gained a reputation as a festival of immense quality, attracting best-selling authors and historians of the calibre of Michael Palin, Simon Schama, Anne Applebaum, Peter Snow and Robert Harris, to name but a few.
Talks, debates, tours, re-enactments, live performances from musicians and artists, as well as living history workshops for children are all available over the course of the twenty days and, what’s even better, every single event is completely free! The idea, says Brendan Teeling, a Dublin City Librarian, is that history “isn’t just for academics. Whether you have an interest in fashion, gaming, GAA [Gaelic sports], maps or want to know more about the first wave of Irish feminism — we’ll have an event for you.”
In between times, you can make the most of Dublin has to offer in a more modern sense. Explore the parks, castles and back streets of this most vibrant of capital cities. Catch some live music, visit the Guinness brewery (and have a pint of the black stuff yourself, of course!), and get to know the present-day locals. It being October, you might fall foul of the famously rainy Irish weather, but you’ll be too busy having fun to notice.
The next big thing, Halifax, Canada
Sticking out into the Atlantic on the very edge of Canada lies the province of Nova Scotia. The capital, Halifax, is home to the excitingly-named Halifax Pop Explosion, and it’s a music festival with a bit of a difference.
Not only is it a music festival, it’s a city-wide event. Over scores of venues throughout the city, it’s been “introducing people to their new favourite bands” since 1992. This year, it runs from October 23–26 and is curated to bring music lovers a rich mix of styles, and artists that are both obscure, unsigned or unusual, as well as those that are relatively well-known.
The festival also doubles as a conference, enabling musicians and artists to meet with industry professionals, managers, agents and the like, as well as providing two days of panels, discussions and presentations. These cater from advice for people attempting to make a career in the music industry from a management / promotional point of view, to helping artists get opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have had. The conference is free to attend.
On top of this, the whole event aims to make live music accessible to all with its Pass It On programme. When you buy a festival wristband, you’re encouraged to add a bit on top, which will be matched by charitable trusts.
This money then goes to buying wristbands which will be given to a community member on very low or fixed income, enabling others to enjoy the festival as well. Local businesses have seen this as a way to give something back to the community, and is just another reason that the Halifax Pop Explosion is a little bit different to your average music festival.
Explore the ancient world, the Peloponnese, Greece
As mentioned above when discussing Liguria, October is a great time to go to Greece for the same reasons: fewer tourists, less hassle, still has decent weather. It’s the southernmost peninsula on the Greek mainland, and has attractions for beach bums, adventurers, history lovers and those in search of a bit of luxury.
This is a land of myth and legend. The Argonauts set off from here looking for the golden fleece; Paris eloped from here with Helen, starting the Trojan War; the Gods themselves were said to descend here in order to cause both miracles and mischief.
The mountainous interior is fabulous for hiking, climbing and suchlike, with its seasonally snow-capped peaks and river gorges giving spectacular views; indeed, the central region is the actual Arcadia of antiquity. Around the coast are hundreds of beaches lapped by clear blue seas. Wherever you go, you’re almost literally tripping over ancient structures and ruins from empires ranging from the ancient Greeks themselves to the Byzantine, the Frankish and the Ottoman.
It’s also said to be home to the finest food in Greece (although a lot of regions will claim that honour!), and what is definitely true is that it’s at the forefront of the Greek wine industry. So as the warmth of the day gives way to the cool of the evening, you can relax with a delicious meal and a glass of something and contemplate the fact that you’re a small part of nearly three thousand years of history.