Travel

Amsterdam to Cape Town — travel around the world & walk in John Lennon’s footsteps


WE associate John Lennon with Liverpool and New York. But the tragic Beatle visited some surprising destinations during his eventful life.

Tuesday will mark the 40th anniversary of his untimely death in New York. Rob Crossan picks out the places around the globe where you can walk in John’s footsteps.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their week long Bed In for peace at Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal in May 1969

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John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their week long Bed In for peace at Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal in May 1969Credit: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy

Montreal and Amsterdam

By 1969 John and Yoko were the most famous couple in the world.

Marrying in Gibraltar, they spurned a ­traditional honeymoon in favour of two “bed-ins” — at the Hilton in Amsterdam in March and the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal in May — which they described as “advertising campaigns for peace”.

John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam

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John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, at the Hilton Hotel in AmsterdamCredit: EPA

They invited hundreds of journalists into their suites and Lennon also recorded Give Peace A Chance while still in his Canadian bed. Today, their Dutch room, now called the John and Yoko Suite, has the all-white look the couple adored.

The John Lennon Yoko Ono suite in Montreal (the hotel is now a Fairmont) has made much more of an effort.

Here “Hair Peace” and “Bed Peace” posters adorn the windows and there’s a collection of John’s favourite books, including Edgar Allan Poe and Alice In Wonderland.

Plus there is a rotary telephone and retro TV. Lift the receiver or switch on the box and you can see and hear interviews with John and Yoko from the time of their stay.

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John and Yoko in 1980 - the year Lennon died

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John and Yoko in 1980 – the year Lennon died

Sleeping with your hero won’t be cheap though.

The John and Yoko Suite at the ­Hilton Amsterdam is from £1,807 per night, see hilton.com, while at the Fairmont Montreal suite, a night’s stay is from £1,575, see fairmont.com.

Cape Town, South Africa

In the final couple of years of his life, John was less reclusive than you might imagine.

Instructed by his numerologist Takashi Yoshikawa, who would tell him in which direction to travel to maintain good fortune, the ex-Beatle went on random solo trips around the globe.

Mount Nelson hotel's planet bar in Cape Town, South Africa

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Mount Nelson hotel’s planet bar in Cape Town, South AfricaCredit: Tegular Ridley

In May 1980 John flew from New York to Cape Town, checking into the sumptuous Mount Nelson hotel as “Mr Greenwood”.

There, a guest complained about what they mistook for a vagrant sitting on the lawn.

In fact it was Lennon doing a yoga routine. Only two photos have been found showing John in South Africa, though it is believed he climbed Table Mountain.

The Mount Nelson, meanwhile, claims he was an exceptionally tidy guest, even making his own bed each morning.

Doubles at the Mount Nelson are from £245 (belmond.com).

Karuirzawa, Japan

When Lennon hung up his guitar in 1975 to to help bring up his newborn son Sean, he didn’t retreat entirely behind the walls of the Dakota apartment building in New York, where he was later gunned down on the steps outside.

Over consecutive summers from 1977 to 1979, he and Yoko embarked on lengthy trips to her home country of Japan, often staying in Karuizawa, a resort town an hour’s train ride from Tokyo.

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Autumn at Kumoba Pond in Karuizawa, Japan

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Autumn at Kumoba Pond in Karuizawa, JapanCredit: Getty Images – Getty

They stayed in room 128 at the Mampei Hotel on one trip. The hotel still stands today and there is a resolutely traditional feel to its half-timbered lodgings.

The town has easy access to golf courses and ski slopes but back in the Seventies, the attraction that beguiled the Lennons was the “garden” of lava in nearby Onioshidashi, created by Mount Asana blowing its top in 1783.

Today you will find a series of thin paths tapering towards a gorgeous temple devoted to a female incarnation of Buddha known as Kannon.

Doubles at the Mampei are from £236 per night, B&B. See mampei.co.jp.

Bermuda

By the early summer of 1980, Lennon’s creative mojo had started to return.

The ­couple sailed to Bermuda from Rhode Island on a yacht, nearly dying in ferocious storms en route.

A cruise ship departing Bermuda as it sails past the Royal Naval Dockyard

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A cruise ship departing Bermuda as it sails past the Royal Naval DockyardCredit: Getty – Contributor

John adored the Englishness of this overseas territory.

It was there he completed most of the songs that would make up his comeback record Double Fantasy and even the name of the album is inspired by a ­Bermudian flower.

Today, visitors can tour the Masterworks Art Gallery where there is a sculpture dedicated to Lennon created by local artist Graham Foster.

Then they can stroll past the bars and clubs of Front Street where, in the summer of 1980, the sounds of band The B-52s blaring from the speakers inspired John to believe he could still teach the younger generation a thing or two about how to write a smash hit.

Read more about Lennon’s Bermuda at gotobermuda.co.uk.

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