The most auspicious date of them all
Sunday 27 December 1998
I am sorry to bang on about this, but next year's total eclipse of the sun is a lot more than just a date on the calendar. It will be only the fifth time in the last thousand years that the skies over our shores have been darkened by a black ball of rock surrounded by pearly fingers of light.
As far as most of northern Europe is concerned, in fact, it will be now or never, so I adjure everybody, as soon as possible, to reserve their train tickets to Penzance or (at the very least) to book short breaks in Picardy, just across the Channel. To give you an idea of how urgent this is, Explorers Tours, who specialise in taking people to see eclipses, say that their two specially chartered trains to Penzance from Preston and Paddington are already both completely full up. Try your luck with Great Western Trains, or with some nice little firm who rent out rural gites in northern France. And don't let the threat of cloudy skies put you off.
As for the other big travel event of 1999 - the millennium - I am determined not to get into a panic about it. But then again, Christ! What about the millennium bug? The merest suggestion, however unlikely, that we might all wake up on 1 January 2000 to discover that the global village has been zapped back to the technological level of the first century AD is certainly not stimulating my millennial fever.
Is it not tempting fate just a teensy-weensy bit to fly to the other side of the world, while the entire human race is staring in incomprehending horror at a row of noughts? The concept of spending the next millennium wandering round Western Samoa, Fiji or Kiribati in an existential trauma, with no credit card, no flight home and no means of communication with the outside world is just not all that appealing. Is it (or is it?).
The holy places of Christianity do not look terribly attractive propositions for a millennial holiday either. Rome expects to be so overwhelmed by pilgrims that it has almost given up thinking about how to house, feed or entertain them. If a sequel to the Bible is ever written, it may yet contain a chapter about a miraculous feeding of loaves and lasagna - for the five billion. As for the birthplace of Christ, poor old Bethlehem currently looks about as relevant to the message of universal peace and love as Wall Street or the London Underground.
If I had to go anywhere to see in the new millennium, it might be Panama, which - starting at noon, 31 December 1999 - will have a very tangible reason indeed to party: namely its acquisition of full sovereignty over the Panama Canal. There will be nothing remotely artificial or contrived about this particular orgy of drinking, and no number of crashed computers will put a stop to the fun.
Failing Panama, I think I will try London, which is not only conveniently close to where I work but also happens to be the only large city in the world with the line of zero longitude running right through it. Further south, the same line passes reasonably close to Valencia in Spain, Oran in Algeria and Accra in Ghana. But London gets it right through the goolies, which sounds strangely promising for the year 2000.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 I was raped by another man. And now the Government wants to take away the one thing that saved my life
- 2 Preston fan who appeared to snatch Jermaine Beckford's shirt from eight-year-old boy identified and says: 'the truth will come out'
- 3 Priest warns pupils the 'Charlie Charlie Challenge' is 'demonic activity'
- 4 Iran launches anti-Isis cartoon competition 'to expose true nature of Islamic State'
- 5 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
Does Ryanair charge for allocated seating?
Inside Travel: Greece 2015 Q&A - should we cancel our Greek holiday? Are our flights safe? And what will we be spending there?
Travel in London expected to grind to halt in taxi driver slowdown against Uber
The most powerful passports in the world
The 10 Best lightweight luggage
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
£32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...
£27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...
£24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...
Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...