Wow, does time ever fly! As I was putting together this list of adventures I had in 2014, it was hard to believe I went on some of the trips just months ago—it feels like forever since I was in the Galapagos Islands! On that note, here’s a look back at the year that was, and what’s in store for 2015.
Since I travelled through Peru and Bolivia at the end of 2013, my first trip of the year wasn’t until March, when my husband and I went back to South America to cross off a bucket list item: the Galapagos Islands. We visited Quito and Guayaquil in Ecuador first, even staying the night in a hotel perched on a crater!
From Guayaquil we flew to the Galapagos, where we spent a week on one of Ecoventura’s yachts cruising through the different islands. It was nothing short of spectacular, and simply incredible to see the wildlife up close.
Of course, waking up to find ourselves on a new island each day wasn’t bad either.
After reluctantly getting on the plane back to the mainland, we hightailed it to another South American hotspot: Colombia. First up was Cartagena, and I was absolutely blown away by the historic city. The colourful colonial buildings are perfectly preserved, and the entire city feels like a beach resort!
After four days there (not long enough) we headed to the capital of Bogota, which is where my dad lives. It was nice to have a ‘tour guide’ to show us around the city—even if he was always getting lost— and we also took a couple of day trips to spots like a salt cathedral, and Jaime Duque Parque which has a life-sized replica of the Taj Mahal.
Fortunately I didn’t have to wait too long for the next jaunt thanks to a great seat sale, which led to me and two girlfriends buying tickets to New York City.
We were all basically ‘NYC virgins’ so we spent the whole four-day trip rushing around trying to see all the main sights—man is there ever a lot to see. We visited landmarks such as the High Line (my favourite), the Empire State building, Times Square and the new 9/11 Memorial Museum, and spent a lovely afternoon cycling through Central Park.
Our trip happened to coincide with the Stanley Cup Finals, and since the New York Rangers had a home game we checked out the action at Madison Square Garden, then watched the game in a nearby bar. To offset that, we did the girliest thing we could think of the next day: booking a Sex and the City tour!
Despite packing in as much as possible during our trip, we all agreed we still have lots to see, and can’t wait to get back to New York ASAP.
Since July and August are basically the only months that it doesn’t snow where I live, I tend to stick close to home. So, summer getaways were mostly day-trips to the Rocky Mountains which are only an hour away. One of those trips was out to Kananaskis with my husband and our two bulldogs, where we explored Barrier Lake.
As there was a family reunion in northern Alberta, we spent a weekend ripping around on ATVs before spending a peaceful day at Narrow Lake.
Our wedding anniversary falls on Labour Day weekend, so this year we decided to celebrate it with a few days in Canmore. On the agenda this time was tackling the Legacy Trail, a bike ride between Canmore and Banff that takes about 1 to 1 1/2 hours each way—our legs were jelly by the end of it!
Fortunately the spectacular scenery along the route was well worth the grind—and burning off a few extra calories never hurt anyone.
Later that month, we set off on another big vacation: a European road trip. One of my best friends was getting married in Kassel, Germany, so we decided to make a trip of it and explore central Europe for about two weeks.
The best part? It was an Indian wedding, which just so happened to also be on my bucket list! It was an incredibly busy, fun weekend, capped off with a dance party that went until about 6 a.m.—not many people made their hotel checkout time the next day!
From there we set off to the gorgeous medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which is now one of my favourite places ever. Seriously, don’t miss it if you find yourself in Germany (or France, as it’s near the border).
Then it was off to Oktoberfest which had just gotten underway (lucky timing!) and we were joined by my cousin and her husband who live in Germany. Not only was it wonderful to spend the day with them, but it was also handy to navigate the tents with people who speak German. Oh, and they just so happened to have some lederhosen for us!
Fortunately our hangovers weren’t too bad and we headed for Switzerland the next day. I was so excited to start off in Bern, as I just KNEW I had to visit after seeing a picture of it once—and it did not disappoint.
Wanting to check out some of the scenery that Switzerland is so famous for, we also booked a day-long ‘Cheese Route Tour.’ We hopped on E-Bikes in the beautiful town of Burgdorf and spent the day cycling through the lush countryside, making a pit stop at a show dairy that produces that famous Emmentaler cheese and sampling fondue—so delicious!
Lucerne was also on the itinerary, and we were captivated by the incredible view from our hotel room balcony of the famous bridge—it doesn’t get much better than that.
In an undying quest to get as many passport stamps as possible, we made a pit stop in the tiny neighbouring country of Liechtenstein, and spent an afternoon touring the capital city of Vaduz and hiking up to the castle where the royal family lives.
After passing through Austria, we drove into Slovenia, and immediately fell in love with the country. Not only is the scenery spectacular pretty much everywhere, but there is so much to do! We started off at Lake Bled, and were thrilled when we found out we were going to be ‘glamping.’
We completely lucked out with the weather (they had a rainy summer) and enjoyed nothing but blue skies as we toured around Lake Bled, checking out the castle and the famous view of the church on an island in the middle of the lake.
The capital Ljubljana was up next (I still can’t figure out how to pronounce it!) and we loved how laid-back the city is. Not only was it the perfect place to just hang out, enjoy a coffee and people watch, but the old town is also beautiful.
We also made a quick stop at the Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle–talk about incredible!
Our sojourn through Slovenia ended in Potoroz, where we stayed at the most incredible hotel (Kempinski Palace Portoroz, in case you ever go) and walked around nearby Piran which is basically the closest you can get to Dubrovnik. I highly recommend it, as long as you travel during summer as there isn’t a lot going on during the low or shoulder seasons.
My husband flew home from Slovenia to get back to work while I took advantage of cheap European flights, and headed to Amsterdam. The best part? One of my best friends who lives in Australia who I hadn’t seen for two years met me there!
We had such a blast exploring the city (which is now one of my favourites), and made sure to take a canal tour, visit the Heineken brewery and shop (of course!). I was so taken with how much Amsterdam has to offer that I’m now relentlessly recommending it to everyone I know!
Sadly my friend had to continue onto France after only a couple of days, so I made the most of my last day in Europe and hopped on a bus to adorable Zaanse Schaans. The community is less than an hour from Amsterdam and is sort of a ‘living museum’ of Dutch history.
The main draw is the windmills, but the clog museum, bakeries, chocolate shops and cheese stores are also a hit. The relaxing day there was the perfect way to end a whirlwind trip.
So what’s planned for 2015? Well, I’m going to hit continent #5 and country #40 when I visit Australia in February! Melbourne, Sydney and the incredible Whitsundays are on the itinerary so far. If anyone has any recommendations, please leave them in the comments below! All the best to you and yours in the New Year, and happy travels!