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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The really rough guide



Northern Ireland has made the grade as one of the world’s top tourist sites, for the very first time since Gerry Adams stopped being voiced by a Yorkshireman:

Lonely Planet co-founder Maureen Wheeler, who grew up in Belfast, was full of praise for her homeland. "I love the city, its grittiness, its resilience and its beauty and I love how Belfast people turn every social interaction into an excuse for a party," she said. "The landscape of Northern Ireland is astonishingly beautiful, the people are warm and genuine, and yet it is still relatively undiscovered which makes it the perfect destination."

All very true. Most of Ireland, truth be told, is worth seeing, and quite frankly, the risks of getting shot in the head (or the more traditional kneecaps, if you like) are probably as great in South London as they are in South Armagh (provided you take the precaution of removing your bowler hat and orange scarf before taking a bracing countryside stroll).

I myself have an unexplainable penchant for former warzones and – in tabloid parlance – ‘trouble spots’: this year alone I have given serious consideration to visiting Sarejevo, Istanbul and Jordan (the latter two a mere day or so after agitated gunmen had taken potshots at tourists. Maybe that says more about the luck of my timing than it does anything else).

In any case, when you find out that Beirut (last seen remodelled, as above, by the not-at-all-reactionary Israeli armed forces) also makes the Lonely Planet’s top 30 of the world’s most desirable tourist locations, you’ve nevertheless got to start wondering what the hell is going on.

What’s next, Kabul? Fallujah?

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