The past twelve months have been packed full of adventures, both great and small. I visited the number one location on my bucket list, explored areas closer to home and enjoyed a relaxing holiday in the sun for the first time in years. Detailed below are my four most memorable trips of the year, but I also made the effort to discover places closer to home, including first-time visits to Edinburgh and Whitby, hikes in the Lakes and the Peaks, and swims in the sea in Brighton.
It's difficult to sum up my experiences in Iceland in just one short paragraph. I finally visited the country that has been at the top of my list for many years, and it didn't disappoint. Ten days of circumnavigating the Ring Road beneath the midnight sun, the scenery becoming more and more dramatic the further away from Reykjavik we drove. Running along black sand beaches, climbing behind towering waterfalls, submerging ourselves in geothermal hot pots, encountering wild Icelandic ponies, standing at the precipice of canyons, admiring gigantic chunks of ice breaking away from glaciers and slowly bobbing across lagoons .... the list goes on. Every day, we awoke to a peacefulness that you can only find in a country so scarcely populated; before driving for miles among majestic scenery that we never tired of admiring as it constantly changed. Highlights included sailing during a perpetual sunset, watching whales leap out from beneath the waves only to splash back down below, sitting on the edge of one of the country's largest waterfalls during the 1am daylight with no-one else around, and spending a night in the picturesque fjord village of Seydisfjordur.
I always like to squeeze in a city break just before Christmas, this year taking a break from Copenhagen to visit Holland's capital for the first time. Despite being famed for its Red Light District and stoner culture, there's much more to Amsterdam than initially meets the eye. Rather than residing ourselves to museums and galleries to escape the biting cold, we wrapped up warm, stuck on the fitbit and racked up a crazy amount of miles by spending four days wandering around the city. I got my fix of ceramics and plants by visiting a handful of beautifully curated shops, as well as fitting in a selection of delectable eateries such as the overwhelming indoor street-food market and the incredible Coffee & Coconuts (a four-story cafe housed in an old Art Deco cinema). We strolled around Vondelpark, got lost in the maze of streets surrounding the canals, warmed up inside the botanical gardens, and hopped on the free ferry over to Noord to visit two incredible DIY bars - Pllek, constructed from shipping containers and Noorderlicht, housed inside a greenhouse. You can't visit Amsterdam without taking to the water, so we hopped on two canal boat trips; one showing us the city by day and the other touring the Light Festival at night,
Looking to get away somewhere that we could take the dog, we hopped in the car and set off on the long drive to south Wales to celebrate my birthday. We spent five days camping close to the sea, discovering the local area by day and curling up by a campfire at night. The sun shone (as it tends to do around my birthday in early August), allowing for jaunts to an array of beaches that measured up to any that I have visited in far-flung destinations. Highlights included spending my birthday marveling at the beautiful beach of Marloes Sands (clear waters, yellow sand and rocky), watching those braver than us leap into the freezing sea at Little Haven, wandering down the estuary at low tide in Solva, and visiting the Blue Lagoon. Evie (our puppy) loved the seal spotting boat trip around Ramsey Island just as much as we did, and she relished in our early morning cliff top walks near the campsite. In the evenings, we watched my annual birthday meteors (the Perseids) shoot across the dark clear skies.
I'm not normally one for beach holidays, loving the heat but getting itchy feet at the mere mention of spending a week horizontal beside a pool. Santorini was therefore a pleasant surprise, as I actually enjoyed the slow pace of life for a week on the idyllic Greek island with family. We stayed in a beautifully minimal villa with its own infinity pool overlooking the sea, a path leading down to the cliff at the end of the beach where the boys liked to leap into the waves below. I spend most of my time swimming, either in the pool or the sea, reigniting a love for beach holidays. In the evenings, we strolled along the promenade, seeking out the best seafood to sample that evening. After our exhilarating adventure around Iceland, this week in the sun was just what I needed to recharge my batteries.
Coming soon ... travel plans & wishes for 2017 ...