As you ponder travel destinations for the year ahead, consider looking back at history for inspiration. This year, some momentous anniversaries are fast-approaching, offering travelers a new celebratory or reflective lens on locales running the gamut from Venice to Cape Town to New Orleans. Celebrate the birth of a Brit Lit great with a brooding stroll across England’s moor country, or carol your way through a not-so-silent night in Austria’s Salzburg region this Christmas to celebrate 200 years of a world-famous hymn. Or if you’d rather step away into nature for a while, now’s also the perfect time to #findyourtrail 50 years after the founding of America’s National Trails System.
1. Founding of New Orleans — 300 years
You can be sure the Big Easy will be partying hard this year: New Orleans is fast approaching the 300th anniversary of its 1718 inception. Founded by an ambassador of the enterprising French Mississippi Company as La Nouvelle-Orléans, the colony was ceded to the Spanish in 1763 following the Seven Years’ War. By the dawn of the 19th century, though, it was back in French hands, and Napoleon, whose dreams of a robust French presence in the New World had soured, sold the whole of France’s massive Louisiana territory (a.k.a. “New France”) to Thomas Jefferson at a primo price.
Since that storied 1803 transaction—the Louisiana Purchase—the city of New Orleans has grown to be a point of pride for Americans everywhere, a cultural bastion teeming with the best in distinctly American music (jazz, blues, rock, R&B, hip-hop), cuisine (Creole, Cajun, soul food, po’ boys, beignets) and spirit (Mardi Gras, French Quarter Festival, Satchmo SummerFest). Visitors to the city during this historic tricentennial year can expect an especially exuberant display of New Orleans love; the 2018 NOLA Commission convened by Mayor Mitchell Landrieu promises a wide selection of concerts, fireworks displays and general good times. A city-wide historical symposium is slated for early March, and at the end of the year, buildings all over New Orleans will be bathed in luminous art for the Art Council’s mesmerizing Luna Fête.
2. Birth of Tintoretto — 500 years
Connoisseurs of late-Renaissance art have a fabulous excuse to fly to Italy this year: the beloved Venetian Mannerist painter Tintoretto was born 500 years ago, in either September or October. The son of a silk dyer, or tintore, Jacopo “Tintoretto” Comin gained a reputation for his astonishing work ethic and technical sophistication.
Drawing on the Mannerist movement sweeping Europe during the latter half of the 16th century, Tintoretto injected asymmetry and subtle stylistic distortion into his compositions. But as a lover of Venice—a city from which he rarely strayed during his life—he also embraced fully the vibrancy of Venetian School painting, which tended to prioritize rich color contrast. By welcoming both of these inspirations, and suffusing his work with arresting light and shadow play, Tintoretto carved out a distinct niche for himself in the art world, and produced such immortal treasures as Miracle of the Slave (1548) and Christ at the Sea of Galilee (c. 1575-1580).
In recognition of the artist, who is seen as a hero by Venetians, the group Save Venice Inc. (“Dedicated to preserving the artistic heritage of Venice”) will be throwing an eventful Tintoretto 500 Celebration Weekend from October 5-7. Visitors are invited to partake of an additional two-day trip to the Veneto countryside once the weekend festivities have concluded. The non-profit Venezia Arte is hosting monthly Tintoretto-themed tours of Venice as well, and on September 7, the comprehensive exhibition Tintoretto: The Artist of Venice at 500 will make its debut at the Doge’s Palace.
3. Death of Blackbeard — 300 years
Early on the morning of November 18, 1718, Royal Navy lieutenant Robert Maynard mounted a brazen ambush of the elusive pirate Blackbeard, whose sloop Adventure was moored at Ocracoke Island in North Carolina. Caught unawares, the infamous sea wolf, a.k.a. Edward Teach, nonetheless managed to put up serious resistance after cutting his anchor line and bringing his cannons to bear against the small Navy vessels Maynard had deployed.
A perfectly timed broadside from Blackbeard wreaked havoc on the British ships, nearly thwarting their mission. Maynard, however, persisted in his approach, advancing on Blackbeard’s cornered Adventure despite numerous crew casualties and a lack of backup. Ultimately, Maynard pressed the pirate and his men into a full-on brawl on the deck of Maynard’s Jane, which ended with Blackbeard shot up and sword-sliced all across his body. Maynard’s crew relieved the dead man of his head, carrying it off on Jane’s bowsprit as proof of their achievement.
2018 marks the 300th anniversary of this storied encounter; North Carolina is without a doubt the place to be for pirate enthusiasts this year. Stroll the wild, undeveloped beaches of Ocracoke Island’s Cape Hatteras National Seashore, break a sweat in the Blackbeard Half Marathon on April 29, or join Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree in late October, which promises a “historically accurate pirate encampment” and a reenactment of Blackbeard’s final battle. Artifacts from Blackbeard’s sunken flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, will also be touring museums and other public North Carolina venues across the entirety of 2018, and the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort will be offering young kids a thematic pirate adventure all their own.
4. Birth of Emily Bronte — 200 years
Brit lit buffs may know that Emily Bronte, the Bronte sister who most notably authored Wuthering Heights, was born 200 years ago, on July 30, in a village called Thornton Market Street. An insular animal lover, Bronte shocked Victorian audiences with her dark, gritty novel, a tale of base lust and impassioned violence set against the stark backdrop of English moor country. Many period critics were scandalized that anyone could produce such an unflinchingly dark book, let alone a seemingly mild-mannered woman.
Wuthering Heights, which has since spawned numerous movies, TV series and additional works of written fiction, was fated to be Emily Bronte’s first and only novel. She caught a nasty cold at her brother Patrick’s 1848 funeral, one which rapidly worsened, opening the door for tuberculosis. Repeatedly refusing the aid of a physician (she distrusted doctors), a consumptive Emily went on to die in her bed, aged 30. Wuthering Heights was published only one year prior, under the nom de plume Ellis Bell.
British actress and entrepreneur Lily Cole will be helming Emily Bronte bicentenary festivities at the Bronte Parsonage Museum, located in the sisters’ former West Yorkshire residence. Cole will be conducting and presenting an analysis of the real-life inspiration for the Heathcliff character in collaboration with London’s Foundling Museum. Patience Agabi, Kate Whiteford and The Unthanks, meanwhile, will pay poetic, painterly and musical tribute to Emily. More details will emerge as the date draws nearer.