by Janis / 2 comments - Orginally published:5th January 2021

Locations to kick-start your travels for a positive year ahead

Well, what a crazy year 2020 was!
I’m hoping that my travel recommendations for 2021 will be a little more useful than the locations I compiled for you to visit in 2020. However, our 2020 suggestions are certainly worth taking another peek at too.
Like so many of you, our passports never saw the light of day in 2020.

Gary and I live in the UK; therefore, our tempting ‘near’ locations are UK based. We’ve selected some old favourites from afar, with a mixture of road trips, mini breaks and adventures.

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A small fishing trawler, with the identifier RX142, on the single beach at Hastings on the East Sussex coast
A fishing boat on Hastings Beach in Sussex, UK

Our near locations

For those of you in two minds as to whether you want to venture overseas, we’ve compiled some suggestions for you that are closer to home.
You can choose from scenic road trips, days out, weekend breaks and jumping aboard a canal boat to discover the UK’s meandering waterways.

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First, we start in our home county of Kent and one of our favourite types of getaways, and that’s a road-trip around the ‘Garden of England’.

We have created a little YouTube video of our first Kent road trip. Why not take a look?

Also, why not subscribe to our YouTube channel and get the latest clips as we post them?

The whole picturesque circular road trip is only around 38 miles (62km) and included 10 locations. However, you’ll want to keep jumping out of your car to investigate these stunning towns and villages closer.
A typical Tudor era cloth hall half-timbered house alongside another symbol of Kent, the white topped oast houses in the village of Rolvenden, Kent
Cloth hall & Oast Houses

It’s not until you scratch the surface of these beautiful places that you discover some fascinating history within them. Keep an eye out for the synonymous oast houses that are dotted across the Kent countryside. You may also recognise the scenery from the heartwarming ‘Darling Buds of May’ TV series.
We’ve compiled a couple of other Kent road trip itineraries in addition to our ‘Perfick’ trip here. Take a browse through our Kent coastal road trip and also one around the Kent Downs (AONB).

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.

Suppose there is one holiday guaranteed to make you slow down and appreciate the surrounding countryside. In that case it has to be Canal Boating, the perfect post lockdown UK holiday.
Heading off on a narrowboat with your family truly ensures you drop down a gear and you begin to embrace the tranquil pace of life.

Travelling behind another wide beam canal boat on the Kennet and Avon Canal as it enters a lock.
The beauty of a Canal Boating Holiday

There are picturesque waterways all over the UK, one of our favourite routes is along the Kennet and Avon Canal in Wiltshire.
What I particularly love about barging is that come rain or shine as soon as we got to a lock it was all hands-on deck. Everyone wants to get involved, and I’ll assure you whether you are young or old, you’ll really enjoy it.
Spend time planning your route and stopovers along the way. Don’t overestimate the pace you’ll be travelling; the locks and swing bridges may take you longer than you anticipate. You wouldn’t want to miss out on a local ale at one of the canal-side country pubs.

Handy to know

Take a peek at our post ’12 useful tips for your canal boat adventure’, it’s often the little details that make a holiday perfect.
The Canal River Trust website is particularly useful for planning your trip. It gives detailed information on the canals and the surrounding facilities.

Whether you are visiting from overseas or like me a Londoner, there is always something intriguing to uncover in London.
Every time Gary and I visit London, we pick different regions of this eclectic city and delve a little further under the skin. Very early in 2020, we headed to Spitalfields, which is now becoming slightly gentrified.

A view of the elegant Wilkes Street, Spitalfields, with its terraced 3 storey brick-built houses with shuttered windows, and cast iron bollards & lamp posts in a scene that hasn't changed since Dickensian times.
Elegant Georgian homes along Wilkes Street
However, head a little further away from the obvious haunts, and you’ll be amazed at how the architecture hasn’t changed in hundreds of years around the streets once frequented by Jack the Ripper.
The southern entrance to the historic Smithfield meat market in the east of London
Main Avenue in Smithfield Meat Market
Another region we visited in 2020 was Westminster and Camden, although one area that fascinates me is all around the City of London. I worked within the Financial Square Mile for 24 years, and there are still nooks and crannies that captivate me. Take Smithfield, for example, this district is so much more than a meat market. It’s here that William Wallace was executed in 1305.

We have a little book on our shelves that we sometimes delve into when we're about to hit an area of London.

Packed full of historical facts, and broken down into the different regions of London, it's a great resource to help you see what's hidden in plain sight.

Available in Kindle & Hardback editions, it's an excellent addition to anyone's collection who loves London.

The seaside is calling, and so are the freshly cooked fish and chips, caught by the local fishermen.

You could easily spend a long weekend in Hastings. The beach may not be golden and sandy. Still there’s something to be said about taking an evening promenade along a seafront and a pier.

Hasting’s tiny pedestrian lanes are full of unusual independent shops, charming old pubs and fascinating locals.

Once you’ve navigated the tiny narrow ‘Twittens’, stroll down to the Rock-a-Nore and weave your way around the lofty black weatherboarded net stores. Oh, yes, and they have two funiculars.

Well, what are you waiting for?  Why not take a look at our YouTube video of Hastings.

What we managed to see and do on this Oxford and Cotswolds road trip was incredible, considering it was only 5-nights.
The Radcliffe Camera with the spire of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin in the background.
The Classical Oxford view

We started by visiting Henley-on-Thames for a couple of hours then off to the beautiful Cotswolds village of Castle Combe in Wiltshire. Basing ourselves in Oxford for 3-nights, one day we enjoyed touring more Cotswolds towns and villages. Our second full day we spent in the ancient city of Oxford.

From Oxford we visited the British Motor Museum, prior to heading on to Stratford-upon-Avon for 2-nights. Stratford-upon-Avon is renowned for William Shakespeare and is so picturesque, you’ll have plenty to see here.

Need a car?

The open roads await, pop in your location details, then Rental Cars will search well-known car hire brands and discover the deals that suit you the best.
A wide-beam cnalboat navigating on the River Avon between other boats in front of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on a beautiful sunny summers day.
The Royal Shakespeare theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Before heading home to Kent, we detoured to Bletchley Park the home of decoders and intrigue

Map, guides and more

When you’re nurturing the seed of a road trip, plotting your destinations across a paper map just brings the adventure to life. Whether it’s the touchy-feely aspect of the map or the rustling sound of mastering the art of origami while trying to fold it away, I’m not too sure. Nonetheless, the good old Ordnance Survey guys and gals always come up trumps.

Take a look at the vast array of maps you can choose from.

We’ve visited the Medieval Market town of Faversham on quite a few occasions, often strolling familiar streets or visiting local stores. However, this time we headed off in a different direction along Abbey Street, lined with quaint homes and half-timbered buildings dating from centuries ago.

It was at the end of Abbey Street that we discovered Standard Quay. A fascinating area on the banks of Faversham Creek, for over 500 years this has been a bustling maritime quay.

Times have undoubtedly moved on; however, the old sailing barges, Monk’s Granary and Victorian warehouses still remain. Now converted into stores and barns for local producers, cafés and antique rooms.

Faversham is also renowned for being the home of Britain’s oldest brewery; Shepherd Neame, since 1698. Take a stroll around the cobbled lanes of Faversham, and you’ll be stumbling upon ancient pubs and ales houses dating from the 14th and 15th-centuries wherever you wander.

If you’ve decided to spend more time in England this year, why not grab an English Heritage card. We’ve visited so many magnificent historical sites in the southeast.
We are so lucky with the number of castles we have in this region. However, given our location from mainland Europe, it isn’t surprising, I suppose.

Looking up at the Keep of Rochester Castle from the now dried out moat that surrounds it.
Rochester Castle, Kent
With Dover Castle being the jewel of English Heritage, there is also Deal, Walmer and Rochester Castles to visit. If you head across the county line into Sussex, you can also stroll the thought-provoking grounds and battlefield of the ‘Battle of Hastings’.

Our far locations

So, here’s hoping that we are able to travel more freely in 2021, let’s dust off those passports and venture further afield.
Once again, I’ve chosen a selection of incredible road trips, an annual floral display like no other in the Netherlands and few other treats from Spain, Italy, Germany and France.

One of my beloved regions of France is Provence and its enchanting towns and villages. If it wasn’t for the heat of the summers (I am English by the way), I would have been sorely tempted to move there.
A view of the hillside town of Gordes captured in the glow of the evening sun.
The town of Gordes, Provence, France

Instead, I cheerfully reminisce, and dream of the stunning ochre hilltop villages perched high above. Rows and rows of olive groves stretching far into the distance of the hazy French sunshine and a crisp glass of Provencal rosé wine with a selection of local cheeses.

With so many stunning locations to choose from you are spoilt for choice, from Avignon’s historic city and its neighbouring aqueduct the Pont du Gard to the village of Cucuron where the captivating pondside movie scene from ‘A Good Year’ was filmed.

For anyone that knows me, I am unable to speak of Provence without my mentioning Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

I absolutely adore this town, charming local cafés flowing onto the streets, tranquil courtyards with pastel-shaded shutters thrown open to the sunshine and fresh produce from the local markets.

We have created a little YouTube video of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence if you'd like a look?

Au revoir, I’m off to Provence.
A visit to see the magnificent floral displays at Keukenhof Gardens in spring had been on my wish list for a while. So, this could only mean one thing, we headed off to the Netherlands for a 9-day ‘Tulips and Cheese’ road trip.
A soft-focus view of densely planted tulips in light pinks, purples, reds set in a woodland scene
A dreamlike Keukenhof in the Netherlands

In 2021 Keukenhof Gardens throws open its doors from the 20th March until 9th May and adheres to the local Covid-19 guidelines. Your tickets and parking can all be booked online.

For 2020 at very short notice, Keukenhof managed to hold the annual event virtually, which was such a credit to all their hard work over the winter months.

Namibia as a holiday is a little different (to say the least) and somewhat further afield. However, a 3-week self-drive safari around some of the world’s most incredibly diverse landscape will leave you lost for words.
The Milky Way and night sky from our safari lodge at Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch, Namibia
The night sky from our safari lodge, Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch, Namibia

This is truly a trip of a lifetime, with desolate golden sand dunes undulating as far as the eye can see, magnificent African wildlife crossing your path and night skies like no other.
If adventure is what you are after and a change from your usual trip, I highly recommend this self-drive safari. If you wish to camp out under the stars you can; alternatively, there are some stunning luxury lodges in locations so remote, you’ll feel like the only ones on earth.

Tracks through the beautiful dunes of Walvis Bay just outside Swakopmund, Namibia
The beautiful dunes of Walvis bay, Namibia
Not only will you be free to pull up near remote watering-holes and admire lions and elephants, but you can also escape to the harsh, unforgiving Atlantic shores along the Skeleton Coast.

If you're considering a road trip through Namibia, 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.

If the Italian Lakes are tempting you, I can easily understand why. It’s only in recent years that we’ve visited this spectacular part of northern Italy. The scenery is absolutely breath-taking, shimmering opal tinted lakes and the snowy mountainous peaks, piercing through the billowing clouds.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the local restaurants with their delightful home-made pasta. I assumed the lakeside eateries would be expensive; however, the few that we dined in were fairly reasonable and the dishes were delicious.
Whichever of the lakes takes your fancy; whether it’s Lake ComoLake Maggiore or Lake Orta I don’t think you can go wrong. Although if you have decided upon Lake Garda, I would definitely stay in the mountainous northern region. Watching the evening sunset across the peaks is magical.

If you want to feel like a movie star, hire a speed boat for the day and cruise amongst the opulent Italian Villas and enchanting lakeside bays.
Shot taken from a boat on Lake Como where the light fluffy clouds in a blue sky are reflected in the water of the slightly rippling Lake. The vista is set against the mountainous backdrop and a small town on the right hand side edges into the Lake.
The idyllic Lake Como

If you're hooked like us and want to tour around the beautiful Italian Lakes in northern Italy, then take a look at this DK Eyewitness book.

This Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide is invaluable, I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

During our two-week circular road trip around Portugal, we visited some incredible places. Many of which were UNESCO World Heritage sites and significant to Portugal’s rich heritage.
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, Guimarães

We headed to nine UNESCO sites in total. The historic city of Guimaraes in the north, which appears to be a much-loved secret by the locals and reasonably close to the Douro Valley, UNESCO site.
We followed in the Knights Templar’s footsteps in the Convent of Christ in Tomar, onto the imposing monasteries of Batalha and Alcobaça. Then further south onto the colourful palaces in the lush hillside of Sintra.

The multi-coloured, ornate fusion, of the Romanticist castle of the Pena Palace at Sintra, just a short train ride away from Central Lisbon.
A view of the Palace of Pena, Sintra, Portugal

We certainly couldn’t forget Lisbon and Porto, which make an ideal mini-break of their own and the little-known ancient city of Évora.

Touring the beautiful countryside of Portugal was amazing and a country I can’t wait to return to.

Start planning

We embarked on our Portuguese road trip from the UK, catching a Brittany Ferry to Santander.
However, there are regular flights to Porto and Lisbon, take a look at Then pop in your location details and Rental Cars will search well-known car hire brands and discover the deals that suit you the best.

In western Spain, this ancient city of Salamanca is one town that you need to add to your Spanish list if you enjoy visiting historic locations.
Gary and I loved Salamanca. It felt as though the locals kept a firm grip on their traditions and culture, and tourism was just on the periphery. It was a pleasure to sit a café or tapas bar, and everyone around you was Spanish.

The view Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, illuminated at night, from a table of a bar.
Plaza Mayor, Salamanca, Spain

The Old City of Salamanca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, You can truly understand why, when you stroll amongst the magnificent architecture. Salamanca has two Cathedrals, a university that dates from 1134 and a Roman Bridge just for starters.
However, the crème de la crème for me is, without doubt, the Plaza Mayor, it is stunning. When the sun begins to set, and the colonnades and intricate balconies illuminate for the evening, it is transformed into a Spanish wonder.

More Spanish delights

If you’re heading to Salamanca take a peek at some other wonderful places to visit in central Spain, there are some true gems here.
In my opinion, it’s never too early to start planning your visit to the German Christmas Markets. They are extremely popular, and with the Christmas that we have all experienced for 2020, I think more people will want to add an extra sprinkle of sparkle to the festive season in 2021.
The illuminated Rathaus in Bremen after the sun has gone down.
The Rathaus in Marktplatz, Bremen, Germany

We’ve visited Germany so many times at Christmas. We never tire of it. It is just magical and really puts us in the Christmas spirit.

If you fancy heading to Bavaria, we can highly recommend Munich and Rothenburg ob der Tauber. However, if you’re like us and what to bring home Christmas treats and gifts for family and friends, then why not head to Germany on a road trip.

An ornate temporary Christmas themed arch to the Heinzelmännchen market in Cologne
The entrance to Heinzelmännchen market, Cologne, Germany
We’ve put together a comprehensive German Christmas market itinerary, that takes you to Düsseldorf, Bremen, Hamburg and Cologne. It includes useful driving tips, the markets to visit, places to stay and other fascinating places to see beyond the markets.

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