Exploring near and far…
So 2017 was the first year Janis, and I, was in it together, our first full year of blogging and guess what – we didn’t kill each other!
It was a year when we continued to explore at our own pace, to our agenda and see the places we wanted to see.
The first adventure was on our doorsteps on a crisp winter’s day.
Rye, East Sussex
This wonderfully charming little town is almost frozen in time. Visiting Rye in January requires a few layers but what a beautiful place.
Steeped in history, and one of the Cinque Ports, it’s streets & lanes echo with whispers of bygone times.
Still not wandering too far from home, we had a day trip to an amazing wilderness that is Dungeness.
If you’re in the south-east of the UK and you’re on a road trip, then you must visit. Wrap up warmly if it’s a winter’s day though!
Lisbon had long been a place we’d wanted to discover, and could this be our chance to feel a little warmth on our skin? Well sadly not, although the taxi driver from the airport was kind enough to mention it was in the mid 20’s (77f) the days before and his family has spent the time by the beach.
However, the cooling of the temperatures did not spoil our enjoyment.
We had a lovely few days in Portugal’s capital. I fell in love with Pastéis de Nata, and we both fell in love with Portugal for that matter.
We explored the seven hills (I am still demanding a recount!)
A day trip to the Palaces of Sintra
And spend some time exploring Belém, the tower, the Monastery and of course the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém.
So is Lisbon on your wish list for 2018?
What better way than to enjoy spring than see a spectacle of tulips, daffodils & hyacinths in full bloom. So we headed to the capital of spring colour and Keukenhof in the Netherlands.
To make the most of our time in the country we created our little road trip, using Haarlem as our base for Keukenhof.
We then headed north to Alkmaar, and it’s cheese markets.
The County of Norfolk, England
So we chose a county in the UK, and this one appealed to us. Sometimes viewed as a bit of a backwater as there’s no motorway’s running through it, and it sits on the eastern edge of the country.
However, it was terrific. The Cathedral City of Norwich was vibrant, historical and oh so beautiful.
The nostalgic seaside resort of Great Yarmouth took us back to our childhoods.
Cromer, on the north Norfolk coastline, was charming. Wonderful to promenade along its elegant pier, and tuck into a fish ‘n’ chip supper.
It was also our base for the North Norfolk road trip, taking in sights such as Sheringham, Wells-next-the-Sea and Old Hunstanton.
Have you visited the country of Norfolk? Why not? What are you waiting for?
Eltham Palace, London.
Who knew there was an Art Deco mansion, with a medieval banqueting hall hiding in the suburbs of south-east London? In fact, sitting in the gardens on a lovely summers day transported you to another world. Eltham Palace is full of suprises.
A stroll around the magnificent home, crafted by the Courtauld’s, takes you into the world of Agatha Christie’s world of Hercule Poirot.
We make no secret of our love of France. Its food, its culture and its charm.
With Normandy linked in so many ways to British, and world history, it was a no-brainer for our choice of region to explore.
We then headed on and picking up Beuvron-en-Auge, part of the regions famous Cider Route en-route to Caen.
Caen was our base to explore the Normandy Landing beaches that played so much of a pivotal role in bringing the war in Europe to an end. It was also our chance to set off an explore the iconic Mont-Saint-Michel.
Heading further south, and following the Route Suisse-Normande we visited Alençon and explored this charming, and underrated town.
Then one final destination. Sneaked in by Janis, she loves Honfleur. We both do. So we had to return.
Being close to us, an easy day out. Also, being close to us, taken for granted. So we set about exploring with travellers eyes and picked our top ten attractions.
This trip has been sitting on the bucket list for a while, and it has been booted around, so time to firm up those plans.
The planning went something like how much to fly and hire a nice car, or how much to drive from the UK and have our Audi convertible at our disposal?
Guess what won?
So we drove across France to the Alsace region on the Eastern edge of the county with Obernai as our selected stopover. A chance to rediscover this part of France.
Then onto Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart. We knew one night would be nowhere near enough, so we also decided to stop on the way back.
We passed through Slovenia, now this looks like a country we want to explore more, but time was not on our side. Our first stop was going to be Plitvice, and it’s incredible lakes.
Heading further south, we skipped Split, for now, instead choosing its close neighbour, Trogir. Again we loved it. Croatia was growing on us.
The next stop south was Dubrovnik, and wow. Yes, the cruise ships do make it busy during the day, but it quietens a little in the evening.
We also used Dubrovnik as our base as we headed into Bosnia & Herzegovina to visit the iconic city of Mostar.
Heading back, we stopped at a vineyard to pick up a case or two of the local wine. One of the benefits of a road trip. Then onward to Split.
Now the journey home started, revisiting Salzburg, before heading onto Baden-Baden. Like so many of our other trips, this has become a multi-part break, allowing us to sample many cultures and many cuisines along the route. It leaves you wanting more.
There’s an annual tradition in the UK which we’d heard about, even living in the south-east of the country, and that was the Blackpool Illuminations. So this year we decided to see what all the fuss was about. Luckily I had a former colleague who lived a few miles up the road so he gave us some good local advice and we set off exploring the town.
Heading onto Kent’s Coast, we selected two more castles. The beautiful Walmer castle, official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
A short distance along the coast at Deal we visited Deal Castle. Another of Henry VIII’s defences against the French.
The Christmas Markets
We returned to Strasbourg after nine years. Strasbourg is the self-proclaimed Capitale de Noël. How did it shape up?
Next stop was the Bavarian heart of Munich. Snow added to the experience, and we got to experience a Brauhaus ( or two or …)
Next on the route was Frankfurt’s Market. You could call it one, but in reality, it is several all linked together that take you through the town. There were plenty of regional differences that made the experience, different but similar.
London at Christmas
So we end 2017 as we ended 2016. With a few more hours in London. This time we head west from the City of London, towards Somerset House and it’s ice rink, before hitting the West End.
So that’s it – That was our 2017 Year of Travels. We hope you have all had a fantastic year, and 2018 is good to you. Hopefully, something in our travels had inspired you to try something different. Travel can be so rewarding.
Janis & Gary