Well it’s that time of the year when I look back, and am really grateful for all the exciting opportunities that came my way. It’s difficult to narrow it down to just 10, but here goes:
Spending St Patrick’s Day in Dublin, Ireland and meeting the Irish President.
I kicked off the year’s travels in Ireland which is slowly becoming one of my favourite countries… taking part in the madness that is St Patrick’s day, being part of a media contingent with even our own bus in the parade, meeting the Irish President for tea, and unearthing the offbeat side of Dublin like its Fashion Quarter. I also covered the picturesque Narnia trail in Northern Ireland driving through the Down Mountains and discovering small towns. I explored Belfast at leisure – both it’s sad past (and the murals) and how it’s transformed itself into a city buzzing with life!
Discovering Flower Power in GIrona, Spain and the ‘other side’ of Ibiza
On this repeat trip to Spain, I discovered Catalonia where the highlight for me was the Girona Flower Festival. This unique Festival with flower arrangements- both regular and quirky inside homes, offices, public buildings, even churches and ancient bath houses was something spectacular. Girona is now firmly on my list of places to re-visit! I also enjoyed the Salvador Dali Trail, especially his home in Port Lligat on the coast and the spectacular Dali Museum in Figueres. Ibiza was a revelation- not just a party island but also saw a different side- small villages with pretty churches, village fiestas and a rich history!
Seeing Victoria Falls from the ‘other side’
Zimbabwe was the glimpse into ‘raw Africa’ driving hundreds of miles through the country, covering mystical sights like the Great Zimbabwe ruins, experiencing the cultural richness of the second largest city, Bulawayo and the stark beauty of Matobo National Park with its bizarre rock formations. The omnipresent motif were the friendly people everywhere, which really defines a country for me. A country that has suffered but not lost hope. I felt incredibly blessed to see the Vic Falls for the second year in a row from the Zimbabwean side (the last time was from the Zambian side). Last time I did a micro light flight over the Falls and a walk on the rim…this time I walked through sixteen viewing points and got a truly magnificent view of the Falls (again). A property that I absolutely loved was the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge overlooking the Vic Falls National Park and a waterhole, built like a tree house. One of the most memorable things that I did here was the walk with the lions that made me realise that courage is truly one more moment of fear:)
Being blown away by the mistral in Provence
A delayed flight, a missed connection and arriving at the cusp of winter with the fierce mistral blowing- this was certainly an adventurous trip! A surprise was discovering the port city Marseille with its brilliant street art and architecture. I have loved Van Gogh for years and revered his work. Following his trail through Arles and St Remy was an amazing experience- especially the hospital of St Paul. I visited the places that he had painted, felt his pain and saw glimpses of his genius at every point! Visiting Provence in the winter made me determined to make a repeat trip in the summer- sigh! one more on my list of places to re-visit!
Walking to an active volcano on Reunion island
Landing on Reunion Island, was a ‘Jurassic Park ‘moment for me… Lush greenery, cirques streaked with waterfalls, Creole architecture, the colourful open air market in St Paul where shop keepers hawked goods from all over Africa, the island was a totally unique destination. The crowning glory of my experience was the walk to the Piton De Fournaise, an active volcano that has erupted several times in the past! It was otherworldly like something out of a sci fi film, and unforgettable.
Chilling on the beaches of Sri Lanka
Quite often, being a travel writer cuts the ‘slow time’ out of travel. A sojourn at Tangalle in Southern Sri Lanka (albeit short) with my partner, was my way of recharging my batteries-long walks on the beach, time spent at the pool and some wonderful Sri Lankan cuisine which hit the spot like nothing else did. I also loved the atmospheric Galle Fort and a stay at the luxurious Amangalla inside the Fort, exploring some lovely Boutiques, cafes and heritage buildings. The beaches of southern Sri Lanka are REALLY under-rated, take it from me, and head there before the droves!
Discovering the beauty of the Austrian Alps
I have always loved the mountains and find they anchor me and nourish me.. St Anton in the Austrian Alps was the quaintest town with just one main street and the nicest people. An Alpine trek spotting rare flowers, walking the slopes and getting panoramic views from chair lifts and funiculars- great summer fun in this winter resort. I treasure the time spent at the surreal Aqua Dome Spa Resort against the magnificent setting of the Otztal Alps- where the most strenuous thing I did was luxuriating in their giant sauna and steam complex.
Turtle watching in Oman
Oman was my ‘surprise destination’ of the year- an absolutely beautiful Middle Eastern destination with stunning architecture, a beguiling culture, great food, and an incredible diversity of places within a short distance. Picturesque Sur on the coast, turtle watching in Ras Al Jinz on a moonlit night and the desert experience at Wahiba Sands staying at a tented property, as well as exploring the lush wadis… Would love to go back to this country and explore places like Musandam.
Walking in the Garden of Eden
The minute I set foot on Mauritius, I knew it was something incredibly special- the lush vegetation and the palette of colours of the ocean.. What fascinated me was how similar it was to India and how different at the same time.. I explored its cultural diversity, saw the Giant lilies at Pamplemousses, went back in time at a Creole mansion, saw a rainbow under my feet (yeah at Chamarel) and enjoyed the luxury of two gorgeous properties. One island destination that is highly recommended by me!
Being a child again in Germany
I closed the year with a bang with a trip to Germany visiting the Christmas Markets in Dresden, Nuremberg and Munich. I have never seen such festive cheer before (or braved such freezing temperatures!). Mulled wine, festive goodies, a cake baking session, trying my hand at making wooden toys, and picking up hand carved beauties- what’s not to love? The best part of the trip? A visit to Seiffen, an entire village devoted to toymaking and Christmas decorations.
2013 was also significant for the number of trips that I turned down…I am learning to say no to many things that are not in line with my overall perspective and plan..And that’s a good thing! For everyone reading, I have to say that it’s powerful to write a list like this for yourself and reflect back on everything you’ve done in the past year (not confined to travel) that’s brought you great happiness. Happy travels in 2014!
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