by Janis / 0 comments - Orginally published:3rd January 2020

Locations to inspire your desire to travel in this new decade

So, here we are, a new exciting decade has arrived, and you have a holiday calendar waiting to be jam-packed with some incredible destinations.

Gary and I know how treasured your annual leave is every year, and you certainly don’t want to waste a day. Therefore, squeezing in a mini-break here and there is one way to stretch those days further. Although for those of you that love the open highway, then a 2-week road trip may be on the cards.

Together Gary and I have visited some magnificent places over recent years and would love to give you an inspiration for your travels in 2020.

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Looking across the water to the futuristic Hemisfèric In the City of Arts and Science. It is said that reflected image is meant to represent the human eye.
The Hemisfèric in the City of Arts and Sciences in the centre of Valencia, Spain
We’ve shortlisted 14 favourites, some near, some far, and a mixture of road trips and mini-breaks. Do let us know if they are on your wish list?

Our Destinations for 2020

We’ve visited the Alsace region of France on several occasions. It’s a beautiful part of France and overflowing with incredible food and drink.
A family group enjoying a boat trip on the canals around Colmar in the Alsace region of France on a bright sunny summers day
The canals of Colmar

I love the German influences that can be seen throughout many towns and villages. The colourful half-timbered homes were just brimming with vibrant flowers, tumbling down from the window boxes.

We embarked on a road trip through the region, weaving our way around the patchwork of terraced vineyards, it was a truly pleasurable way to experience Alsace.

Janis holding a glass of pinot noir wine in Obernai, France. As is tradition in the region the wine glass has a green glass stem and a clear top. She is overlooking the town square including the town hall displaying the French tricolore.
A Pinot Noir in those glasses, Obernai, France

During recent trips across mainland Europe, we’ve also stopped over in Obernai and Molsheim.

And how could we forget those Christmas visits to Strasbourg?

If like us, you love visiting different regions of France then this Michelin guide will definitely assist in your planning.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our eastern France road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.

If you are a UK dweller then a location little closer to home to visit, is Kent. Situated in the southeast of the UK, this county is also known as ‘The Garden of England’.

However, on this occasion, it isn’t the rolling countryside to be lured by. It’s the incredible number of quintessentially English, seaside towns there are dotted around the shoreline.

The Harbour at Margate on a bright day at low tide. Some boats are stranded on the sand banks and others partially floated. You can see the Harbour arm leading to the lighthouse at the tip of the Harbour’s edge.
The little harbour in Margate, Kent

Time and investment are being spent on these iconic towns, and the rejuvenation can be seen in buckets and spades.

Beautiful sandy bays and bustling harbours are now welcoming back the young and old. You may have heard of Margate and Broadstairs or even the pebbly shores of Deal. However, add Folkestone to your list, particularly if you enjoy urban contemporary art, by the likes of Antony Gormley or Yoko Ono.

The Old High Street in Folkestone lined with brightly coloured, quirky shops and boutiques.
The Old High Street, Folkestone
Looking from behind the Antony Gormley installation "Another Time XVIII” in the harbour arm onto the water and the white cliffs.
Another Time XVIII by Antony Gormley
And of course, where better to enjoy good ’ol fish and chips, than beside the seaside.

By Rail

You can catch a direct High-Speed train from London St Pancras International to many of these coastal towns.

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

When you think of northern Portugal, the meandering Douro Valley or the openhearted city of Porto may spring to mind. However, there is so much more to discover in this region.
A lit square after dark in Guimarães, Portugal where diners sit at restaurants lining the square and others walkthrough the historical old town.
Praça de Santiago at night, Guimarães, Portugal

During our road trip around the north, we based ourselves in a couple of locations. One of which was the charming town of Guimarães and is considered to be the birthplace of Portugal. Its whole historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Northern Portugal is so incredibly captivating and unspoilt, there are some remarkable landmarks throughout the region. Bom Jesus do Monte just outside Braga and Our Lady of Remedies in Lamego, cannot be missed.

A church with its Bell tower in the backstreets of Ponte de Lima in northern Portugal
The Church Ponte de Lima, Portugal
Looking along a tree lined square to the staircase that leads to Our Lady of Remedies chapel on the hillside of Lamego, Portugal
Looking up to Our Lady of Remedies

I loved the fact that while we were touring around, you still saw local folk out and about on a horse and carts tending to their daily chores. Ladies dressed in their housecoats laughing and chatting with each other while scrubbing their clothes in the open-air washstands.

And come on, who doesn’t love a crisp glass of the effervescent Vinho Verde?

Portugal by Ferry

We embarked on our Portuguese road trip from the UK, catching a Brittany Ferry to Santander.

However, there are regular flights to Porto take a look on and then pick up a car from, Rental Cars who cover all budgets.

Our recent new found love is Portugal, it is such a beautiful country. While planning our trip, I used the DK Eyewitness books. I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our north to south Portuguese road trip, now you can grab the revised copy.

Ahh, this is another location that just screams out for a road trip. Cruising the winding lanes through the land of magical castles and enchanting Brother’s Grimm towns and villages.

It does feel a little surreal at times, that some of these captivating German towns have managed to stand the test of time.

Traditional Barbarian half-timbered buildings decorated with flowering hanging baskets and Ivy growing over the buildings.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, Germany

There’s a well-known touring route the ‘Romantic Road’ that takes you through the heart of Bavaria. All along the trail are beautiful chocolate-box towns that you just can’t help stopping at to discover further.

The route runs from Würzburg to Füssen or vice versa, it’s your choice, or even just handpick a few. The entire distance is around 285 miles (460km).

The magnificent Schloss Neuschwanstein set in deep Bavaria, dwarfed by the mountains behind it.
Schloss Neuschwanstein nestled in the mountains
Gary and I have visited a number of the picturesque cities and towns en-route and here are a few of our favourites.

You may have already heard of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Dinkelsbühl or Füssen, where you can visit the fairy-tale castles of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau.

However, I’d also consider adding Nördlingen and Augsburg to your list.

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It isn’t just the hills that are alive with the sound of music, so are the captivating streets in the city of Salzburg. All through this UNESCO alpine city are references and tributes to its world-famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The Mirabell Palace Gardens in Salzburg with brightly coloured flower beds and fountain. In the distance, high on the hill, you can see the city's Castle.
The Mirabell Palace Gardens
Salzburg is incredibly picturesque, with the Hohensalzburg Castle keeping a watchful eye from the hillside above. The city embraces its culture and heritage with style and elegance.
The Mirabell Palace Gardens in Salzburg with brightly coloured flower beds and fountain. In the distance, high on the hill, you can see the city's Castle.
Mozarts birthplace
Walking along shopping street in central Salzburg, Each shop displays its own shop sign from an wrought iron sign holder.
Strolling along Getreidegasse

All along the cobbled streets in the Altstadt are colourful shopfronts tempting you with their local delicacies and delicious chocolates.

What I found so appealing, was that even though a few of the shops were chain stores, they were disguised so well the intricately wrought-iron signs.

If you want a safari like no other, then I suggest you visit Zimbabwe. On nearly every occasion that we jumped in the back of a safari truck, for an experience of a lifetime, we were the only couple in the truck.
The eyes and ears on the top of the head of a lone hippo in the waters of Lake Lariba in Zimbabwe.
A lone Hippo in Lake Kariba
Whether we were on the perimeters of Hwange National Park or deep in the heart of Lake Kariba, the whole experience was breath-taking.
A shot of Janis with a rock formation in the background at Matobo National Park.
Me in Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is such a beautiful country and full of so many welcoming people. Don’t be fooled that Zim is all about the majestic Victoria Falls (which are incredible) it has so much more to offer. Head further afield and sample more of its delights.

If you're considering an adventure around Zimbabwe, then your in for a holiday of a lifetime. I always find it incredibly useful to plan our trips with the help of a guide book.

Take a look at this informative Bradt guide, it will give you great tips and advice.

Whisk me away to Valencia, the birthplace of paella and home to the elusive Holy Grail. Shhh, now don’t tell anybody but, I actually preferred Valencia over Barcelona.
The Plaza de la Virgen in Valencia with the Neptune fountain taking centre stage with the city’s historic cathedral in the background.
The Plaza de la Virgen

Valencia has such a diverse mix of architecture, tranquil little plazas and a culture I could easily slip into.

The now dry River Turia has been transformed into a beautiful park leading effortlessly into the City of Arts and Sciences.

A beautifully ornate church in central Valencia distinguished with a triangular Bell tower, topped with statues of Saints on a golden spring day.
The Església de Sant Joan del Mercat

The Mercado in Valencia is a must to see, not only for the ornate structure that it is housed in but for the abundance of fresh, colourful food on display through its bustling aisles.

Be warned ‘mind your backs’.

To be, or not to be, that is the question. If you’re contemplating whether to visit Stratford-upon-Avon or not, I would most definitely say go for it.
Shakespeare's house in the centre of Stratford upon Avon. The beige coloured half-timbered Tudor home stands now was a museum to the playwright's legacy.
Shakespeares Birthplace

Gary and I were taken aback at how pretty it was.

Not just for the picturesque riverside location but, the beautiful half-timbered dwellings that hold so many stories to the life of William Shakespeare.

A view of the River Avon with ducks and geese floating on the water surface and canal boats moored along the leafy banks of the river’s edge.
A view of the River Avon at Stratford-upon-Avon
Keep your plans clear for the evening and pop into the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre and secure yourself a discounted ticket for an evening performance.

Too close to miss

Stratford-upon-Avon is just short hop away from the beautiful Cotswolds, why not stay for a few nights.
A weekend break to the Côte d'Azur that sounds idyllic and an ideal location for some spring sunshine.
Beautiful blue waters leading up to the beach of Nice in southern France with holiday makers making the last of the autumn sunshine.
The shoreline at Nice

Sweeping palm tree-lined beaches, old bustling, tiny lanes with French blue shutters thrown open above you.

Balconies teetering on the edge of ancient pastel coloured homes and locals sharing a tale or two across open windows. This is Nice.

A fountain in a square in central Nice, surrounded by tables and chairs covered by parasols, Flanked on all sides by brightly coloured residential buildings.
Place Rossetti, Nice

And trust me here, I don’t mind if it’s warm or chilly, I love an ice-cream any time of the year, and Nice has some mighty fine ice-cream parlours.

What’s not to love about the French Riviera?

Why not?

Start creating your own Côte d'Azur adventure through, the local international airport is only a short taxi ride to the city centre.
Now I have to be perfectly honest, I hadn’t heard of Trento prior to us heading there for a travel conference. Perhaps as there are so many other charming Italian cities within this northern part of Italy, that it has become overshadowed slightly.
A view from Piazza Duomo of Palazzo Pretorio, the Neptune fountain and the Cattedrale di San Vigilio.
A view from Piazza Duomo

However, this characterful city deserves a piece all on its own. The architecture is striking, its location south of the Dolomite mountains is stunning, and it has such diverse ancient history that makes it so appealing.
For many years it formed part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and only around 100 years ago was annexed back to Italy.

A view from the back of the central courtyard of the castle looking over the view beyond.
Inside the Castle
It’s such a pleasant little city to stroll around with so many lanes and alleys to discover. Ohh yes, it has some wonderful restaurants too.
I feel that so often people will arrive in the Netherlands and just visit Amsterdam. This country has so many other charming towns and cities to discover.
2 porters at Alkmaar’s cheese market dressed in white trousers with a white shirt and wearing a boater hat coloured with the yellow ribbons. They stand between a large tray that they have to carry containing 8 large rounds of orange skinned Dutch cheese.
Two porters, waiting to transfer their car of cheese. Alkmaar

If you love canals, quaint harbour towns, windmills, tulips and cheese, you’ll love it here. We’ve visited a few times, and it’s a wonderful country to embark on a road trip. It so easy to drive around, and we’ve always found the locals to be so welcoming.

The annual opening of Keukenhof gardens with their captivating flower displays is enchanting. The traditions of the cheese market in Alkmaar are great fun to watch. And if you are visiting the Netherlands at the end of April, then try to hang around for King’s Day. This day of celebration is such a memorable experience and remember to wear orange.

The Netherlands is also a location that Lonely Planet has chosen as one of their top countries to visit in 2020.
Looking across one of Rotterdam’s harbours towards the White House, a historic building that survived to city's destruction in World War 2
The Old Harbour, Rotterdam
The city that Gary and I really embraced was Rotterdam. It suffered heavily during WWII; however, in recent years it really has seen a revival. The mixture of different architecture blends so well together.

Did you know?

Rotterdam is the host of the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest in May. Book early, I think it may get a little busy.

If you're thinking of heading of to the land of tulips and cheese, then grab this DK Eyewitness guide to help with your planning.

I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

St Petersburg was a city I had wanted visit for years, to me it was so full of intrigue and mystique. The beautifully ornate palaces that you feel clasp a thousand stories.
The wonderfully ornate Church of the Saviour on spilled blood alongside the canal banks in Saint Petersburg Russia. It topped by brightly coloured onion domes of various styles.
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

The vibrant architecture on the churches and theatres is so eye-catching you just stop and stare.

It is an incredible city to stroll around and so different from other cities we’d recently visited.

The green and white exterior of the Hermitage Museum Palace Square with the Hermitage Museum, or Winter Palace, from across Palace Square in Saint Petersburg, Russia
Palace Square and the Hermitage Museum

For two centuries St Petersburg was the Imperial Capital of Russia and the opulence and magnificence can still be seen.

I loved visiting St Petersburg, and if you fancy visiting a city that has that little something special, I urge you to pack your bags and go.

If you've yet to discover the incredible history and architecture in St. Petersburg, you're in for a treat. I found this DK Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide invaluable, they're extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our St. Petersburg adventure, now you can grab the revised copy.

Perhaps Aachen is a city break that you hadn’t considered before; however, it is full of charm. Aachen is the westernmost city in Germany, and it sits in one of those rare spots where three countries meet. The other two are Belgium and the Netherlands.
3 brass statues that make up part of the ‘Circle of Money fountain in Aachen , Germany. The first figure is the banker taking money with one hand and transferring it out round his back with another, the second figure is taking that money in one hand and passing on to his wife with his other hand.
The Circle of Money Fountain

Aachen has so much history it is incredible. Emperor Charlemagne played a considerable part in Aachen’s past, along with the Romans and the discovery of ancient hot springs.

The old town has bundles of character, it’s lovely just strolling around spotting all the brass sculptures and fountains, each with their own tale to tell.

The altar in Aachen's Dom. Here you get a great view of the detail in the Cathedral and the light brought in by its vast stained glass windows.
Inside Aachen cathedral

The eye-catching Rathaus stands proud in the city although, there is one beautiful building you must pop into, and that is the 1st-century Cathedral.

It is unbelievably striking inside and not surprising it is no.3 on UNESCO World Heritage List.

Costa Rica in Central America is an incredible country and so enchanting. From the Caribbean Sea coastline of Tortuguero to the Pacific Ocean in Manuel Antonio.
A 3 toed Sloth hiding in the canopy of the bush in the grounds of our hotel in Manuel Antonio , Costa Rica
Our first Sloth in Costa Rica

I fell in love with Costa Rica from the moment we arrived, primarily when I spotted a sleepy sloth huddled in the arms of a tree in the wilds of a national park.

Costa Rica is an experience I will never forget, precariously crossing wooden bridges in a cloud forest to ziplining by a flock of toucans through a rainforest. Although what truly makes Costa Rica special are the local Ticos.

In the next couple of years, Costa Rica is hoping to become one of the few carbon-neutral countries in the world. Also, not surprisingly, it is on Lonely Planet’s top 10 countries to visit in 2020.
A view from the Sky tram platform in the Arenal Volcano National Park through the rain forest to Lake Arenal.
The cable line back to the Sky Tram base, Arenal

Not only may you see a parade of marching ants crossing your path, or the distinctive sound of Howler Monkeys swinging high above you. The vibrant and shocking colours of the vegetation stop you in your tracks.

You won’t regret a holiday to Costa Rica, believe me.

If your heading off on your own Costa Rican adventure, than grab a copy of this DK Eyewitness book.

I love planning trips and these guides are so helpful.

I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

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