2016 was an extremely good year in travel. Brilliant for adventure. I made it my business to always have my next trip booked and saved up for, and this sort of organisation and precision made it my most fulfilling year yet for travel.
I visited Eastern Europe, Italy, great European capitals and romantic bridges. Closer to home I piloted a boat down The Norfolk Broads (and learnt how to moor up), visited a Victorian Settlement and ate good food. There was scorching hot sun, a foot of snow and drizzle – so much drizzle. Art, fine wine and views that were indescribable.
Pulling this review together has made my heart soar with all the things I’ve been lucky enough to see and do this year – I wonder what next year will bring!
I’ve already covered my Oslo adventures extensively, but I started my travel year with a huge bang by heading to Oslo in the snow. This was a Christmas present for my long-suffering husband (possibly ill-advised as I hadn’t quite realised how cold it would be), and we spent 3 nights in thermals exploring this beautiful city. The sunrises over the harbour were sublime, the fjords were tranquil and the viking ships majestic. A full 10/10 for an amazing way to start the year.
In February I took the train up to Shropshire for a long weekend. Mr S works up here quite a lot and suggested we spent a weekend exploring so I could see all the things he does week in, week out. We stayed at the amazing The Haughmond, waking up to a view of The Wreakin and with the best food I’ve ever tasted. Their Haggis Scotch Egg is the stuff of dreams.
We hopped in the car and visited Ironbridge, somewhere that my husband had visited whilst at school but that I had never seen. We saw the actual Ironbridge, but spent much of the day at Blists Hill, a mocked up Victorian town which shows what life was like in those days. It was absolutely fantastic, and many of the shops were working so you could buy tradition fish and chips or sweets from “Victorian” traders.
It is on my list to return this year to actually walk up The Wreakin. Wish me luck!
March is the month of our birthdays (just two days apart) so we decided to start a new tradition and go on holiday. We chose a week travelling between Krakow and Prague (taking the sleeper train in-between) and started in this fascinating Polish city. We took a historical city tour and a Jewish Quarter walking tour which gave us a real understanding of how the city had such wonderful architecture (the oldest in Europe). We sampled a lot (yes, a lot) of vodka and Slivovitz, a traditional plum brandy that Mr S’s granddad used to drink.
We also spent a rather sombre but important day visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau. It’s very difficult to put that experience into words, but all I will say is that now more than ever it is extremely important that as many people as possible make this trip.
My full Krakow City Guide is available right here!
After a restless sleeper train journey, we hopped off and headed straight for the Charles Bridge just in time to catch the sunrise. Prague is an insanely beautiful and romantic city and is doing all it can to shrug off that stag do reputation.
That said it is extremely busy so I’m glad we visited in March and not the summer. Beer was plentiful (and really good – and I don’t even like beer!), dumplings came with everything and the castle was everything a Disney princess would want and more.
I’ve written a full Prague City Guide to give you loads more detail on what to see and do.
In April I took a rather special trip. My Mum and I had been planning a trip to Florence since I was 17 years old and became obsessed with the city after reading A Room With A View. I was determined not to take a trip to Italy until I had visited Florence, and so it happened that I got to my thirties without ever having had my own Italian adventure.
It was every bit as perfect as I had imagined, despite the torrential rain. We saw the Neptune Fountain, hunted down David’s, ate gelato, strolled across the Ponte Vecchio and spent an afternoon in a cute little bar drinking Prosecco. Florence has ignited my obsession with Italy, and I’ll be visiting Pisa, Rome and Naples this year.
Here’s my full Florence city break guide!
Later on in the year in June I spent a week quite literally lying horizontal and relaxing with my husband and family in Cyprus. I’ve visited Paphos three times now, and for an easy sun-soaked holiday with good food, friendly people and excellent archeology there is no better. We stayed at the luxurious Almyra Hotel, and whilst we ventured out little, we did go and see the Tomb of The Kings and Paphos Fort to give our legs a stretch.
A holiday that had been many years in the making, in August we spent a week on the water cruising The Norfolk Broads (just like Alan Partridge!) with our close friends. We crammed on to a tiny boat and with a tank full of fuel and a sketchy map headed out for a 7 night adventure in North Norfolk. Starting in Potter Heigham, we visited Ludham, Stalham, Wroxham and Horning and experienced some of the most beautiful scenery the UK has to offer.
Driving and mooring a big boat was challenging, and there was much to learn about life on the water but this was a completely different holiday which I’d recommend anyone visiting.
Here’s my full guide to boating on the Norfolk Broads.
My final trip of the year saw me head to Berlin just last month for a 2 night city break to explore Christmas markets and WWII history. I’ve adored Berlin since I studied German and visited as a teenager and couldn’t wait to visit again. It was absolutely freezing, but in our all too brief trip we managed to fit in three Christmas markets (and respective Gluhwein!), a walking tour of the major historical spots, the East End Gallery on the Berlin Wall, the Topographie of Terrors, an amazing beer hall, the Reichstag Building and a lot of sausage.
Want to visit Berlin yourself? Use my Berlin City Guide!
Where did you explore in 2016?