In the traditional spirit of looking back as the year draws to a close, I wanted to revisit some of the best moments I enjoyed on my travels in 2016. I hope these will serve as a welcome recollection for those of you that travelled as well, and as an inspiration for those that perhaps did not have the time, opportunity or energy in the past 365 days.
Although 2016 was undoubtedly marked by some global political controversy, soured by the passing of great legends, and by the no less saddening deaths of innocents in terror attacks, I would like to reminisce about the good and exciting things that happened. I visited some brilliant destinations this year and I am optimistic about the future of international travel, about meeting new people, interacting with new cultures, and learning a lot in the process. After all, if we all learn more about each other, we would hopefully understand and respect each other more, which are all necessary conditions for peaceful coexistence in our shared world.
Here’s to a(n) (even) more enriching, curious, adventurous, and a happier 2017!
1. Binging on medieval history in Dublin
The Long Room in the Trinity College Library had been on my radar for ages. It tops a range of lists for must-see libraries in the world, and it certainly lived up to those high expectations. My personal association was the library from Beauty and the Beast, that has been feeding some of my most passionate dreams since I was a child – to have a library with enough books to last me a lifetime! Dublin has lots more to offer in terms of cultural experiences, as well as other fun attractions – see for yourself in the full post!
2. Taking in the views in sunny Capri
I feel like this picture does not need any commentary. It captures the essence of Capri, a paradise of greens and blues glimmering playfully in the sunshine, perfumed with the scent of lemons and fragrant flowers. You can see it all in one day, but you could easily find yourself not wanting to leave that little sunny island… ever!
3. Exploring the quaint streets of Sorrento
I learned about Sorrento through a friend whose mom had moved there. She was telling me how it’s not necessarily a big tourism hit like Sicily (or Capri for that matter), but its quaint little streets hold all the charm you could possibly want from an old little town in Southern Italy. Exquisite food and exceptional wine is a given! See the full post for more.
4. Enjoying life in luxury in Palm Desert
A sneak peak into what had seemed absolutely unattainable, and by far my most luxurious stay this year, complete with stunning pool views, sweeping golf courses, and all that against the backdrop of the picturesque ridges of Palm Desert. Read more about it here.
5. Watching the sun set over Sunset Boulevard
Sunset Boulevard at sunset. It doesn’t get better than that. Well, perhaps it does, if you’re driving on it. But walking had its perks – I could stop for snaps whenever I felt like it, and it added a bit of grit to my otherwise stellar trip to LA!
6. Tracing the steps of the stars in Hollywood
I mean that literally. You can see the footprints and handprints of film stars in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre. Another top attraction in Hollywood is the Dolby Theatre, which has hosted a number of Academy Award ceremonies. Conveniently, it is also one of the top spots to offer a view of the Hollywood sign without having to drive all the way there (LA is a sprawling monster of a city!). Read the full post for a super quick tour of the unmissable sites if you’re only in town for a short while.
7. Cycling from Ghirardelli Square to the Golden Gate Bridge
This was one of my most favourite moments this year, and the pictures really don’t do it justice. In true San Francisco fashion, the Bay was foggy and somewhat drizzly, but this did not take away from the experience one bit! The city is so versatile in what it offers that I felt absolutely dazed at the end of my daytrip there. I am determined to return to San Francisco and give it the time it deserves to reveal all of its beauty.
8. Listening to the rowdy sea lions on the dock by Pier 39
Another thing I really enjoyed about San Francisco was how close you could get to nature, even in the heart of the city. These adorable fellas were just enjoying life on the dock, giving a very vocal performance for the passing tourists in the process. If you want to hear the show in video and read more from my exploration of the marine life in the Aquarium by the Bay, have a look at the full post here.
9. Touching down in Vegas baby!
The sheer anticipation and the blinding lights of this adult theme park of a city made this moment truly memorable. I will never forget the sensation I felt when I realised I was actually going there, of flying into this fantastic fairytale-land that I had seen represented in so many films and stories. The sheer size of each hotel and the literal brain overload caused by new impressions made my head fuzzy. It’s an absolute must, regardless of whether you are a gambler or just a curious explorer!
10. Touring the Strip in Las Vegas
A truly out-of-this-world experience that crams so much in a mere 7km strip. What I loved most about visiting hotels was the opportunity to transport yourself from Venice to Paris to New York just by crossing a (large) boulevard, and the abundance of attractions in each hotel vying for the attention of the crowd of tourists. It’s a very different experience from, say, a quiet walk in the mountains, but the sheer excess, grandeur, and opulence are truly staggering and definitely make Vegas worth the visit. Check out all the other things I saw here!
11. Marvelling at the force of nature in Grand Canyon
Once again I had found myself at a loss for words (which does not usually happen!)… My holiday in the US reached its proverbial and literal zenith on this one day trip to Grand Canyon. It was an incredibly satisfying tick in a box on my Travel To Do List as it is something I had wanted to see since I first learned about it watching a Discovery Channel programme as a child, but a place I never really thought I would get to see, or at least not so early in life! It was an absolute blessing getting a chance to witness this wonder with my own eyes, and it is hard to describe the emotion that overcomes you when you stand on the edge of a rock looking 2 kilometers down into the massive gorge drilled by the sheer force of the Colorado river.
12. Uncovering the secrets of Paris
It’s always a good feeling, revisiting an old favourite, but it feels absolutely great when you discover something you hadn’t seen before. That was the case when I went to Paris for the 5th time, just to realise I don’t know it that well at all! We strolled in these hidden covered passages full of antiques stores, old bookshops and cosy little cafes in perfect vintage Paris style! Find out where to go here.
13. Indulging in a punt in Cambridge
This was another case of rediscovery. I had been to Cambridge twice, and the beauty of the historic college buildings kept me coming back. But the change of perspective when laying your eyes on those same buildings from the river is a refreshing feeling, and an especially welcome experience on a sunny summer day! Have a look at the full story.
14. Looking into the Eyes of God
A far more obscure phenomenon than the Grand Canyon, but similarly stunning and humbling. The Eyes of God cave is located in the Motherland, and as soon as I lay my eyes on it, I was amazed that I hadn’t heard about it until very recently. It is an epitome for all of Bulgaria’s natural beauty – you might not have heard of it, but it will surprise and delight you if you take a chance on visiting! As for this particular place – you can read a bit more about it in the full post.
15. Winding down on an (almost) empty beach in Olympiada
I enjoyed a brief late summer break in mainland Greece this year, which could have easily been an exotic island escape. With white sands and bright blue waters, you wonder how Olympiada has kept its relative serenity and anonimity. It could be something to do with tourists flocking to the iconic Greek islands of Santorini and Mykonos, or maybe with it being tucked away in a bit of a hidden cove. Regardless, it was a welcome respite from the everyday hustle and bustle of London, and I urge you to help yourselves to some tips on visiting it as soon as possible!
16. Squeezing one last sunny trip out of 2016 in Northern Ireland
This was one of those surprisingly great trips that absolutely exceed your expectations, and a fantastic finish to my travels in 2016. The weather was brilliant and the sun brought out the striking beauty of the green-blue landscapes on the coast of Northern Ireland. Have a look at my weekend itinerary if you need more reasons to visit!
So that was me for 2016. Here’s what my travels look like on a map:
According to the online routing tool I have covered an astounding 25,464.109 kilometers in 2016, and I hope I can match that in 2017, or maybe go even further!
What was your best travel moment this year? I’m dying to know, so please feel free to include a link to your posts in the comments, I’d love to get some inspiration for the coming year!