Readers offer tips and recommendations on extraordinary undiscovered sights in unusual destinations, following the launch of our new series Tales of the Unexpected
Power of the poster
The taxi driver left us in a quiet residential area. There were no signs to indicate the existence of the Propaganda Poster Art Centre in Shanghai. We entered a block of flats, walked down long corridors, past front doors and a windowless flight of stairs to a plain wooden door with a tattered handwritten sign on it. The furtiveness of it made it feel illegal. The small museum was packed with more than 5,000 posters which, up to 1979, were a very powerful tool for propaganda.
The power of the exaggeratedly happy facial features in the early posters and the presence of red-and-black art style, promoting Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution in the later ones, were evocative. Photographs showed the posters and political slogans daubed over buildings. It was surreal to be in a secretive, windowless basement in China and actually see and imagine the ways that public opinion had been moulded in former times.
Queenstown, New Zealand – on every street corner it seems there is an opportunity to buy an adventure: rafting, bungee-jumping, zip wire, jetboat - the list seems endless in the macho atmosphere of the adrenalin capital of the world. But turn the corner into Beach Street and at No 45 you find a complete contrast. For this is the gallery of New Zealand’s leading landscape artist, Tim Wilson, who paints the spectacular world of the Southern Alps and Fiordland on a grand scale. Huge panels, diptychs, triptychs, all painted with up to 30 layers of paint, which produce a dramatic three-dimensional effect that mesmerises the senses. State-of-the-art lighting can be adjusted to completely alter the visual effect, bringing out features that were hardly noticed at first. If you’re lucky, Tim will be there, working on one of his creations, but not too busy to speak to admirers of his work. What a gem.
Down under in Brighton
Let us go to Brighton beach and watch surf rolling and hear the seagulls squawking. Take a breath. Hold that breath. In fact, take another and keep it spare. You’ll wish you had. We’re going underground, 40 feet to be precise; and back in time, a hundred years and more. We’re going to admire some Victorian handiwork – in Brighton’s sewers. Brickwork, lots of it; much beloved of Victorians. You get to see, admire and coo at 400 yards of close curvature.
It’s quite clean down there. Not the best for claustrophobes, though surprisingly spacious between the tunnels.Dark and dank; darker if the lights fail; which they do through half of the experience. You have to do it once.Now, back to the beach, waves breaking, seagulls and breathe. -Neil Kenning, Gloucs
In a small corner of far western France we discovered an ancient medieval tower known as the Donjon presiding over a tranquil stone village called Bazoges-en-Pareds. The honey-coloured stone tower and surrounding buildings look as if they belong in Spain or Italy. Black crows circle above the watchtower, their harsh cawing cries echoing around the village.
Inside, the Donjon has been restored and a climb to the top rewards you with stunning views of the Vendée countryside. A barn houses a small museum and a beautiful dovecote sits beside a peaceful medieval garden, planted with herbs, medicinal plants, and a pair of chickens who shared our picnic lunch.
In the summer there are fairs and torchlit evenings, but on the day we visited we were the only ones there and it seemed as if we had been transported back to another time. -Jill Ellis, Essex
Entertained and educated
Walking the White Rose Way, a 100-mile walking trail from Leeds to Scarborough takes you through some surprisingly interesting areas. These include Louis le Prince’s workshops where he produced the world’s first moving images on film, ruined mills which prompted the building of the world’s largest single room (two acres), two battle sites centuries apart, which saw 28,000 men killed in a single day, and the site of the Vikings’ last defeat on English soil.
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as well as the delights of the North York Moors National Park is encountered before reaching Britain’s first seaside resort in Scarborough. Enough to keep any history buff entertained and educated! - Paul Brown, Yorkshire