Choosing new travel destinations can be tricky, because everywhere you haven’t been yet is new.
But there are some places that celebrate their newness, shout it from the rooftops, and unashamedly admit that they are – well – not the originals, but they’re still pretty special. In fact, many of them have surpassed the originals they were named after. Or whatever – it’s not a science, it’s wordplay.
The rather out-of-the-way Dutch colony of Nieuw Amsterdam was renamed New York when the British accepted it as part exchange for the then far more valuable Run Island. You may not know where Run Island is – it’s part of Indonesia – and many years ago it was the only place in the world where nutmeg grew. But now, of course, it’s a mere shadow of the spectacular city New York has become. If you are remotely interested in city life, great food, superb shows, magnificent museums, and funky neighbourhoods, you have to check out the Big Apple.
From its fabulous colonial architecture to its spicy Cajun and Creole food, and its key role in the development of jazz music, this city has much to celebrate. And it’s turning 300 this year, so the party will probably go on 24/7/365. Situated on the banks of the Mississippi River, and close to some fabulous wetlands, there are also some great outdoor exploration options. New Orleans has strong French, Spanish, Caribbean and African influences – including some fascinating voodoo culture and history – so it is unlike any other city in the United States, and it’s from its history as a French colony that it gets its name. Orléans is the city in France where Joan of Arc (aka the Maid of Orléans) was instrumental in furthering the French war effort against Britain. Of course, this kind of behaviour was unladylike, so she was later burned at the stake. Saint or schizophrenic (or both), she was an amazing young woman, and this town deserves to be named after her. But it wasn’t, of course, it was named after a man – Philippe II, Duke of Orléans. No-one remembers him, or who he was, but we remember Joan.
New Delhi wasn’t named after some colonial ancestral place far away. The city of Delhi has been the capital of the various incarnations of India for centuries but, when the British colonialists moved ‘their’ capital from Calcutta to Delhi, they built a whole new section of the city – and called it New Delhi, which is a lot better than New Birmingham or New Shropshire, which it could well have been. It’s still the capital of India, and it’s a great place to visit for fabulous food, fascinating buildings, great shopping and a host of museums, temples and other cultural attractions.
New Guinea is neither a country nor a town, and it’s more appropriately called Papua, but it’s complicated. It’s an island – the second biggest in the world – and it consists of two separate countries. The western half is part of Indonesia and is referred to as West Papua, or just Papua (although it was also called Irian Jaya for a while), and the eastern part is called Papua New Guinea. It’s a truly amazing place with more than 1,000 languages – not dialects, languages. With its high altitude, it displays a fascinating biodiversity, and it is culturally one of the most interesting – if somewhat obscure and inaccessible – places in the world. Definitely not your average tourist trap.
Newcastle upon Tyne in the north of England is not a new place by any stretch of the imagination. It was a fortification on Hadrian’s Wall, which the Romans had built in the first century CE to protect their fledgling colony from the native Picts. About a millennium later, another European coloniser – William I (also known as William the Conqueror, or William the Bastard) had a ‘new’ castle built there, so it was henceforth known as Newcastle. It’s a pretty city on the Tyne River, with some great old buildings (like the ‘new’ castle), and some trendy neighbourhoods, including a historic quayside. It’s most famously known as a coal-mining district – hence the phrase ‘bringing coal to Newcastle’ to describe a needless effort – and there’s an interesting Victorian-era tunnel that was used to transport coal to the jetties on the Tyne. The tunnel was also used as an air-raid shelter in World War II, and it’s worth visiting. Don’t take coal.
The new Newcastle
You probably know there is a Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal, and you probably know it’s the centre of a coal mining area, so you probably think it was named after the original city of Newcastle for that. But it wasn’t. It was named after a dude called Henry Pelham-Clinton, aka the Earl of Newcastle. He’d never been to Africa, but he was the British colonial secretary so he expected to be immortalised in the odd town name. The coal was only discovered later – how weird is that? This Newcastle is a great base for an exploration of the KZN Battlefields.
Named after a biblical spot with lovely fresh springs, this Karoo town is best known for the fabulous Owl House, but there’s also lots of great rock art nearby, Karoo fossils and a host of small-town attractions like a fab little micro brewery, with a coffee roaster, artisanal cheese maker and charcutier on the side, art galleries, craft shops, restaurants and cute little guest houses.
There are two islands called New Scotland – sort of. Nova Scotia, off the Canadian coast, is a pretty chilly island that does actually look a bit like Scotland, but New Caledonia is a glorious tropical paradise in the Pacific that – oddly – was a French colony, and is now a French overseas territory. And, carrying the Scottish theme further, both islands had towns called New Edinburgh (Nova Scotia still does) and the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) was a mere 400 kilometres to the north of New Caledonia, which is about the same as the distance between (old) Edinburgh and the Outer Hebrides.