I’ve definitely been procrastinating this, because it’s not easy to pick favourites. But it’s the second last day of 2010, so I figure I should man up and make my selections. So, here we go – my ten favourite travel moments of 2010.
10. The Okanagan
After being invited (and agreeing) to be a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding in the Okanagan of BC in August, the reality of my timeline began to sink in. The wedding was 21 August, and I was due to arrive in BC a few days before that. However, my Master’s dissertation was due to the printers by 2 September. As I worked back from my due date, I realised that my submission to my tutor and final rough draft needed to be in while I was away. Knowing that I had to bump everything up by a couple weeks was a frightening prospect, considering the massive amount of work I had to do. But I knew the wedding would be worth it, so I worked hard, and was thankful it paid off. Spending time in the Okanagan was amazing, since it’s one of the prettiest places in the country. My favourite bit (aside from the wedding, obviously) was the part of the bachelorette when we spent the afternoon swimming and boating in Lake Okanagan. England hadn’t provided much summer weather, so this was just brilliant.
9. Exploring England
I moved to England to do my Master’s, and because I’d always wanted to live in what I called my ‘fatherland’. My dad left England in 1970, but a lot of my family still lives there, so we’ve visited very often throughout my life, but mostly only saw areas near my family (with a couple exceptions). This time I was determined not only to explore Europe, but to stay a little more local and explore my native country. I loved venturing to different places, including some I’d been to as a toddler, like Bath and Brighton, and some totally new places like Cambridge, Manchester, and the south coast (Hastings, Rye, etc). It was also really cool to start to feel ever so slightly like a Londoner (although no matter how long I live there, I’ll never really be a Londoner).
8. Rolling Maple Syrup in Québec
On our Toronto > Québec City > Montrèal > Ottawa road trip in April, we stopped outside Québec City at an érablière (sugar shack) to taste some of Canada’s world famous maple syrup. Maple syrup is one of those travel clichés that I don’t mind reinforcing, because maple syrup is a) so delicious and b) almost entirely unique to Canada. We went to Le Chemin du Roy and got a chance to roll/pull (“tirer”) fresh maple syrup off ice and snow with wooden sticks. It was so sweet that even my sweet-toothed boyfriend could only handle a couple! We loved this little side trip, and it was the best way to introduce him to the stuff Canadian legends are made of. For more great winter ideas in Québec, check out my post on Travel With a Mate.
7. Great Food in Finland and Old Times in Tallinn
I’d always heard good things about Estonia from my friends who have relatives there, so I was really excited when my Finnish friend invited me not only to see her in Finland, but to go to Estonia for a couple nights and hang out at her family’s house. Both Helsinki and Tallinn exceeded my expectations, and I think that’s mostly due to the fact that I was there with a local. The food in Finland was fantastic (read about it here), and I completely fell in love with Tallinn’s old world charm, which you can read about here. I definitely look forward to another trip back to that part of the world.
6. Ash, ash everywhere
Mum and I were supposed to spend two weeks in London, Prague, Vienna, and St. Petersburg. What we really ended up doing was spending two weeks in London, Prague, Vienna, and then scrambling back through Munich, Strasbourg, and Paris because of the ash cloud. Although I was really disappointed to miss St. Petersburg, Mum and I still had so much fun trundling through Europe, taking trains with suitcases that were meant for planes, booking accommodation and travel on a whim, and being happily surprised by Strasbourg’s old world charm. Mum loved the impromptu two nights in Paris, and we really lucked out at the Radisson Blu Opera, where they upgraded us into a recently refurbished large room that was absolutely stunning. Fortunately for us, the chaos had subsided by the time we took the Eurostar back to London, and we’re promising ourselves that a re-do on Russia will happen by 2012.
For my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary they took my brother and I to Bermuda for a few days in September. Having never been, the island and it’s people soon claimed my heart and loyalty as my favourite Caribbean (sorta) island. The beaches are stunning and shimmer with a touch of pink sand, the water was enticingly warm, and the food was outstanding. I haven’t done a ‘beach vacation’ in a long time, since I tend to shy away from those kinds of trips, but this was not all-inclusive, and we didn’t spend the entire time on the beach. We played golf, explored Hamilton (the capital), and did plenty of swimming. I’m just hoping my parents will want to go back for their 31st anniversary!
4. Surprise! Brussels!
I like to give good, thoughtful presents, so for my boyfriend’s birthday (the first one of our relationship), I wanted to do something really awesome. Since his birthday was set to fall just after a UK Bank Holiday weekend in May, I thought we could go away for a night. Realising that the Eurostar has made Brussels only a 2 hour journey, I scrambled onto the site as soon as the tickets were released so I could get a great deal, used Aeroplan points for the hotel room, and kept the surprise for four months! Needless to say, we had an amazing time, indulging in beer, mussels, waffles, chocolate, and frites. You can read all about Brussels in my guest post for Travel With a Mate.
3. Impromptu Late Night in Dubrovnik
One of my recent daily photos is from a great evening in Dubrovnik in the summer. My friend and I ran into a friend of hers in the square and we ended up having a blast that evening. After watching a World Cup match in the old town, we made our way to another part of the old town that’s littered with bars. Somehow we discovered cheap towers of beer, and the evening went from there. By two in the morning we were among only a few people left on the streets of the old town, and it was so cool to see it nearly deserted. I often find that the times when I have the most fun are the times when I least expect to, and this was definitely one of those nights.
2. French Picnic in Champagne
While in Reims, France, we had a spare day to explore the region. Having already been thoroughly impressed by two champagne houses, we decided to be très French and rent bicycles, head for the countryside, and picnic to our heart’s content. The weather was gorgeous – sunny and warm, and our picnic was simply perfect. We spent about €8 and got a bottle of red wine, two apples, a roll of camembert, cured ham, fresh country pâté, and a warm baguette. Perfect! If you want to read more about the experience, read this post.
Having wanted to go to Iceland for years, I finally took advantage of my living situation and went. We found a great deal with Icelandair for a 3 nights 4 days Northern Lights City Break that included airfare, 3* accommodation, and a northern lights tour for only £275. Bargain! Pair that with a still-weak Icelandic economy and we found ourselves in Iceland at one of the best times in history. We explored Reykjavik inside and out, checked out the view from Perlan, marveled at Hallgrimskirkja, and, of course, spent a day at the Blue Lagoon. I completely fell in love with Iceland and cannot wait to go back and explore more of the country, including driving the Ring Road and checking out the natural beauty everywhere. Oh, and hopefully we’ll see the Northern Lights this time!