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.
The Grahams estate in the UNESCO regonised Douro Valley, Portual
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.
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.
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’.
During our Kent countryside adventure, we toured through haunted villages, ancient smugglers towns and strolled along lanes with charming half-timbered homes in Headcorn. We even visited a heritage steam railway in Tenterden.
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).
An interesting read
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.
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
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.
Elegant Georgian homes along Wilkes Street
Want to discover more than about London?
We've 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?
What we managed to see and do on this Oxford and Cotswolds road trip was incredible, considering it was only 5-nights.
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.
The Classical Oxford view
The Royal Shakespeare theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
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.
Rochester Castle, Kent
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.
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.
Au revoir, I’m off to Provence.
Heading off from the UK?
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.
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.
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.
A helpful guide
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.
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 Como, Lake 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.
The idyllic Lake Como
A helpful guide
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.
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.
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.
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 ebookers.com. 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 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
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 Rothenberg 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.
The entrance to Heinzelmännchen market, Cologne, Germany
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Inspired for 2021?
Pack your bags and follow your dreams.
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