I’m sure you’ll agree that 2016 has been a pretty awful year in many ways – from Brexit and Trump to saying goodbye to screen and music legends. However for me, in terms of travel, it has been an amazing year and I am truly grateful to be able to see the world. I know that visiting other countries, and experiencing their culture, opens my mind and hopefully is shaping me into a better person – more tolerant and culturally aware.
I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store but before that, I’d like to reflect on 2016 and the wonderful places I was lucky enough to travel to with my husband.
We started 2016 by ringing in the New Year in Munich. It’s actually a tradition of ours to go away for New Year and I love starting a new year in a different country. Having only been to Berlin before, it was exciting to see another part of Germany – and one that’s quite different. I enjoyed the architecture of Munich and also the Old Town, which had many beautiful old buildings – the Altes Rathaus being one and the old gates to the city, pictured below. Unfortunately on New Year’s Eve there was a terrorist attack scare in the main train station, Hauptbahnhof, and our hotel was next door which meant we had to stay out until it was safe to go back. That was rather scary, however it didn’t deter us from enjoying our time in Munich.
In February my husband took me to Florence for my birthday. I absolutely fell in love with Florence! I cannot describe the beauty of this city… it took my breath away. The art, the sculptures, the Duomo… the food! If you’re planning a trip to Italy next year, please do put Florence on your list – you won’t regret it. It was made extra special by the fact that we stayed in the Four Seasons, which is made up of two buildings – the 15th century Palazzo della Gherardesca and the Conventino, which was a 16th century convent. It is magnificent and our room was simply stunning. It was a perfect birthday present!
As with New Year, we tend to always take advantage of the long weekend and go away for Easter. This year we decided on Spain’s capital city, Madrid. For a city break, it’s a fun place to explore – there’s lots to do and see and the food was wonderful. On one day it was even warm enough to just wear a t-shirt so of course we took advantage and had some sangria sat outside, watching the world go by.
In May I went back home to my hometown, Durban, for a week to see family and friends. I’d not been for three years so it was lovely to go back and see what’s changed in that time. Durban is on the east coast and has the most fabulous beach – it’s just over 11km long. I always enjoy going home – sea, sunshine, good food and wine and of course fabulous company. If you visit Durban, be sure to do a tour of the Moses Mabhida stadium which was built for the FIFA 2010 World Cup – you get to go in to the changing rooms where there are lots of signed football shirts. And if you’re an adrenaline junkie, you can bunjee jump off the stadium!
In June we spent a wonderful five days in Tropea – well, apart from waking up on our first morning to the Brexit result of ‘leave’. Tropea is a relatively tourist-free seaside town in Calabria, Italy. The colour of the sea is just spectacular and it was our first swim of the year! Although it was almost the end of June, the water was quite cold but once you just dived in, you soon warmed up. It’s such a lovely, tranquil town… we loved it.
We’ve been to Ischia twice before but hadn’t been for a while so for our summer holiday we chose to spend it split between Ischia and Capri as they are only a ferry ride away from each other. Ischia is hands-down one of my favourite islands – I just love it. It’s fairly big so there are lots of parts of the island to explore, however the old town where you will find Castello Aragonese is my favourite.
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Capri… it’s a stunningly beautiful island but it’s full of rich, usually rather pretentious people who just want to be seen. And that can be tiresome. Apart from that, it is fabulous. Hire a scooter and explore Anacapri, where you’ll find a different side to the island (it’s also where you’ll find most of the locals). Don’t forget to see the iconic faraglioni – either by boat or by foot.
If Tropea, Ischia and Capri weren’t enough we had to have one last swim of the year so we decided on Olbia in Sardinia. We’d never been to Sardinia before, although it has the best beaches in Italy. Cala Brandinchi, the second beach pictured below, is nicknamed Little Tahiti…. it’s not hard to see why! Olbia is a lovely part of Sardinia, with a cute old town and lots of stunning beaches to explore. You will need to hire a car or scooter to get around though as it’s such a big island.
It’s been a dream of mine to visit Japan so I was so delighted we spent two weeks in this beautiful country in October/November. It’s like nowhere I’ve ever visited before…. Tokyo was a mix of old and new, with modern skyscrapers and centuries old temples. Kyoto was amazing – and we even spotted Geisha! I wish we’d had more time in Japan so we could have seen more of it but I guess it’s a good excuse to return.
My husband is from Bologna so we have been many, many times over the years. Apart from being the culinary capital of Italy, Bologna has so much to offer. It has the oldest university in Europe, for one, as well as lots of medieval buildings and the iconic twin towers. If you’re heading to Italy, be sure to put Bologna on your list!
I’ve loved every place we visited this year – many of which were new to us. We do like to go back to places we loved and try to see different sides to it. This New Year we are off to New York – it’ll be our fourth time but this year I’m determined to explore parts of NYC we’ve never seen. New York Blog post coming soon!