As is the norm as around this time of year, travel reflection and anticipation are the order of the day.
So did 2016 live up to travel expectations? Well I did not get any further than Europe, but count myself satisfied in the wanderlust department even though I have a burning desire to go further afield very soon.
My first travels of the year took me to my second ‘home’ of Athens. We were joined by a friend, so I felt it my duty to show him the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora. Although I had been several times before, I still loved my latest visit. The January day had glorious clear blue skies affording a great view of the city and right out into the Aegean.
Next up were two very short solo breaks to Riga and Bratislava in February and March respectively. Cheap flights & accommodation and both great value for the duration.
I particularly loved Riga with its fabulous old town. Particular highlights were the free old town walking tour, a visit to the delightful Art Deco (Jugendstil) District, the top level ice hockey match between Riga and Dynamo Moscow and the fabulous views from the cathedral bell tower.
I really liked Bratislava too. The small capital of Slovakia had plenty to entertain me for my 36 hour visit and was great for strolling its medieval streets, climbing up to the imposing castle, traversing the paths along the Danube and looking out for the intriguing statues that are dotted about.
These two short visits also registered two new countries for me – just three to go in Europe now (Malta, Liechtenstein & Andorra).
March also saw us in France again, with me taking Le Shuttle for the third time. Our main destination was Troyes, but we also stopped off in Reims en route.
The cathedral in Reims is superb, a fine example of a Gothic church. We also lingered for a lovely lunch before heading out of the Champagne region a little further east to Troyes.
We had a great time there with in my opinion an even nicer cathedral and several beautiful churches. We stayed in a very nice and good value apartment near the railway station and just a short hop to the old town with its half-timbered buildings and atmospheric nooks & crannies.
April saw the first of two visits to Spain in the year. Segovia was the main destination with a night in Madrid thrown in too.
Segovia had been recommended to me by fellow blogger Andrew Petcher who has travelled extensively in the country.
What a great choice it was too with its incredibly well preserved aqueduct and fascinating alcazar. The main square on which we stayed was a beauty and the cathedral one of the best. The weather was wonderful too, bright sunshine and powder blue skies providing a perfect frame for the snowy Sierra de Guadarrama mountains and allowing us some lovely picturesque walks around the old town and down by the river.
The highlight of Madrid was our evening meal at the age old tapas bar and restaurant called Taberna Malaspina. We had to wait sat at the bar duty bound to drink three glasses of red wine each for a table to become vacant – a terrible inconvenience of course! The food was as good as the top notch ambience.
I have written extensively on this blog about our main holiday of the year, two weeks in Northern Italy and Switzerland with train being our main way of getting around, including journeys on two of the world’s most famous expresses – the Bernina and the Glacier.
The Bologna to Venice to Verona to Como to St Moritz to Zermatt to Zurich itinerary was ambitious but ran like clockwork. A magnificent seven locations, all very different but equally brilliant.
As is the norm, July & August were confined to the UK with visits to Devon & Bristol only as we enjoyed a pretty decent English summer. As we had a friend from Greece staying however we visited London a few times, including a trip to the Sky Garden followed by a sunny lunch in nearby St Catherine’s Dock.
September saw a one night visit to Paris for our wedding anniversary where we stayed near the Eiffel Tower. Always romantic and baking hot this time too as we strolled along ‘La Plage Par La Seine’ and zigzagged along the great river on the batobus.
During Halloween we had a brilliant four day trip to Bilbao, most notable for the riverside walk, the pintxos & Rioga and the Athletic Bilbao v Osasuna football match.
November saw my last foreign sojourn of the year, flying to Amsterdam, taking the train to Düsseldorf for a couple of nights to include the Borussia Monchengladbach v Manchester City Champions League match and finally a few hours in Cologne for the magnificent cathedral and the Christmas markets.
All in all a satisfying travel year. So what of 2017?
Four trips booked so far – Cuba in January for Mrs Wilbur’s birthday, a two night February solo jaunt to Ljubljana, March in Edinburgh to visit a great friend and lastly May in Lille to see Depeche Mode.
Other plans include a June tour of the Peloponnese and an October city break in Porto. There will be a few others I hope, most likely in the bargain break category.
Whatever your travel plans are (or for anything else for that matter) for the new year, I wish you an exciting, rewarding and safe time and hope the year brings everything you wish for.