16 Travel Highlights from 2016
2016 will go down in history as bad year for many reasons, but from a personal perspective, it was probably the best year i’ve had yet. I travelled to over 30 countries and went on a 4 months long honeymoon. It was hard to pick my top 16 travel experiences but I had fun reminiscing over the past year which has me all the more excited for the year to come.
So there they are, the 16 best in chronological order...
1. New Years Eve in Mo’orea
I brought in the new year with friends and family in the French Polynesian paradise of Moorea. The week was filled with fresh fish curries, snorkling, reading, laughing and froclicking in the shallow waters and watching the fireworks explode over the reef. It was helluva way to start the year.
2. Easter in Portsea
Andy and I have started a ritual of going to Portsea at Easter most years and making a road trip out of it. The summer crowds have died down a bit by then, but if you’re lucky there is still a chance of a hot beach day here and there. It is one of my favourite places to do pretty much nothing but walk on the beach with my dog, eat amazing food, drink Melbourne-quality coffee and watch incredible sunsets over the back beach.
3. Chilling in Ipanema, Rio
After many years of yearning, I finally made it South America! My favourite highlight from my trip was the days in Rio de Janeiro staying at the uber trendy Ipanema beach. We also had an incredible afternoon hanging out with a lovely local, Filipe, who showed us his secret spot overlooking the beach on top of the favela.
4. Exploring Tel Aviv
Israel is in the news a lot for all the wrong reasons. I had heard little about it other than their conflict with Palestine but when we visited Tel Aviv the whole city seemed unfazed by the political climate. Instead, there was a trove of peaceful, friendly young people who seemed to love the beach and food as much as I do.
5. Driving through the Baltics
I had been to Estonia briefly many years ago, but this year I got to explore the Baltic countries properly. It was like travelling back in time with the remnants of the Soviet era left behind. Dirt roads, quiet people and insanely beautiful landscape everywhere not to mention the cutest cabins in the middle of nowhere.
6. Stay in Montmartre, Paris
The last time I went to Paris I was an 18 year old beer drinking back packer on the tourist trail. This time around I strayed off the well trodden path and stayed in a cute little studio in Montmartre overlooking the city below and the Eiffel Tower. Most days we found a local haunts that had no english menus to enjoy a bottle of red and some stinky cheese. The morning ritual of coffee and croissant wasn’t too shabby either.
7. Eating my way through Copenhagen
I have had a fascination with Scandinavia for as long as I can remember and have ticked off every country now. But Copenhagen has taken the cake for my favourite northern city, helped by the fact it is one of the best food destinations in Europe. AND, I finally got to tick off a huge bucket list item of eating at Noma, the best restaurant in the world. It was nothing short of amazing.
8. Campervanning through the Norwegian Fjords
I have been asked what was the highlight of the honeymoon about a million times and my answer is usually camper vanning in Norway. I loved every second. The scenery is magical, with soaring snow capped mountains dropping into deep blue water with little gingerbread houses dotted along the edge of the fjords. I have never been more relaxed.
9. Discovering Porto
I had never heard of Porto before visiting. It was one of those destinations we decided to visit based on looking at a map and heading that direction. After arriving into the city at night after a particularly long, hot and frustrating journey to a windowless room that smelt like burnt hair, I had grave concerns. But in the morning we were met with one of the most beautiful cities with some of the best beaches I have ever been to.
8. Walking through Lisbon
From the colourful tiles, multi coloured trams chugging up the steep hills, flowers dangling from the street lamps and cobblestone streets, Lisbon is a delicious feast for the eyes. But what I love about it is that it is still a little rough around the edges, with people hanging their laundry over the narrow streets and street parties taking places on the footpaths well into the early hours of the morning.
10. Sailing along the Amalfi Coast
Andy had been alone for about 2.5 months by the time we got to Positano and we were well and truly ready to see some familiar faces. We spent the day cruising along the Amalfi coast with friends, eating caprese salad, freshly shaved prosciutto, drinking Italian rose and jumping off the boat into crystal clear water. It was pure heaven!
11. 0km Sicilian Dinner
Our last minute booking in the Sicilian countryside at an Airbnb happened to coincide with "0km dinner". About 70 of the local residents from the village (none of whom spoke any English) came to the farm house and enjoyed an 8 course dinner with matching wines until 3am. That wasn't even including our pre dinner snack of olives, cheese, rosé and house baked bread. All of the wine and produce was sourced within 1km of the house, hand picked that day. It was priceless.... and by priceless I mean €25.
12. Visiting Valletta
Thanks to the internet and the endless content on social media, it is hard to be surprised by travel anymore. Normally you visit a place because you have been a photo on instagram or you created a board on Pinterest. But I had never done research on Malta before visiting which made arriving and exploring the little island nation incredibly fun. The water was some of the more beautiful I have ever seen, but the real highlight was the tiny little capital city, Valletta. It was built in the 1500s and is only a tiny 0.8km in size. It literally felt like I was walking on a movie set.
13. Staying at the Chedi in Oman
After travelling for 3.5 months staying mostly in accommodation that could be classified as “OK”, the 6 star luxury of the Chedi in Oman was a welcomed change of pace and quality. Some very generous friends of ours bought us a night there for our wedding gift. We lapped up every minute of it. We barely left the four walls of the hotel, instead opting for cheese burgers by the pool, movies wearing our fluffy robes and cocktails at sunset. It is without a doubt one of the best hotels I have ever been to.
14. Celebrating my birthday on an African Safari
I don’t usually get to excited about Birthdays, normally, they are just another day for me. But in 2016 I had one I will never forget. We woke up before the crack of dawn and made our way into the bush. We saw two lionesses with four cubs stalking warthogs, leopards lazing in the sun and giraffe which was the best way to spend the last day on our honeymoon.
15. Driving from Byron Bay to Burleigh
I have been to Byron Bay a million times and used to live on the Gold Coast so I know Burleigh quite well. But sometimes seeing a familiar place from a different angle is just as exciting as travelling to an entire new destination. We spent a day driving between the two without going on the main highway. Instead we opted for passing through little towns like Federal where we had lunch at the amazing Doma, Newrybar and Bangalow and then taking a dip in Brunswick Heads and Cabarita before finishing the day off with a cocktail at Rick Shores.
16. Christmas in Carrickalinga
Despite having travelled all over the world this year, Carrickalinga remains one of my favourite spots in the entire world. It is a tiny little town about an hour south of Adelaide with crystal clear water, a great cafe near by and nothing else to do by relax, swim, eat, drink and nap. There is no better place to end the year and prepare for the next.