This one is a subjective game. My long haul trips are to come, so what I’m doing is assessing the places I’ve flown to since February. Yes, Stonehenge, Settle to Carlisle Railway, Whitby, Snowden and the like are bucket list stuff but I’ve excluded my Great Britain trips here.
Subjectivity comes into play because it depends on where in a particular country I travelled, when I was there, how good the weather was, the mood I was in at the time, my health at the time and what I uncovered. Notwithstanding my preference for natural beauty over man made cities.
My travels so far have all been European. New England, Chile and Australia are booked. South West USA to be added. And I may sneak in an additional big trip somewhere eastern or African. Riyadh and Kigali are current thoughts. But thoughts come and go. Vesuvius remains a nearer must do.
So the countdown …
7. Slovakia. Visited in February. Public transport. Weather was mild and damp at a time when there should have been snows. Stayed in Bratislava and did a day trip to Vienna by train. In the summer months a hydrofoil up the Danube would have been an option. The old town and the castle are great, the latter providing impressive views. The urban sprawl beyond the old town loses points compared to the much smaller Ljublana. I suspect the summer sun would have shunted this much higher up the list.
6. Malta. Visited in February. My first destination after deciding to dedicate what’s left of my life to travel. I hired a car for peanuts but the roads were very busy. This place has a decent bus network though which might have been easier. The weather was kind for two days. Valletta was beautiful, with an impressive history. The hour long bus journey from my hotel to Valletta less kind to my assessment of the island, exposing me to an urban sprawl that I’d never anticipated. I enjoyed the trip. Just not as much as other places.
5. Netherlands. Visited in May. Public transport. Amsterdam and Utrecht were impressive highlights, offset a little by staying in Eindhoven, a city where war wiped out much of its history. Although it was an enjoyable trip I found the lack of natural beauty (it’s just a bit flat) a little dull. But for those who love a city break Amsterdam and Utrecht are wonderful.
4. Northern Ireland. Visited in May. Hired a car. The plan was to visit Giants Causeway and look around aimlessly. The result was time on the Mourne Coast and the Antrim Coast in glorious sunshine. Both amazing stretches with latter providing stunning views, impressive beaches and a series of castles. Also a helpful backdrop of “Game of Thrones” filming locations. Stayed in the middle of nowhere. Which was great!
3. Montenegro. Visited in April. Hired a car. Returned it with one wing mirror. The Bay of Kotor is simply a sensational view. I’d never heard of it. I stayed there by random selection. I loved the tranquil Adriatic Sea lapping up on a pebbly beach yards from my front door. The weather was sunny without being overly warm. I suspect if the infrastructure, specifically the roads, had been better this would have moved up the list.
2. Slovenia. Visited in March. Public transport. Ljublana and Lake Bled were the two places I visited and both highs. Chilled city full of relaxed bars and a wonderful rural setting well served by comfortable buses. The countryside is beautiful but the small capital city captures the architecture of several centuries and the castle in the centre offers amazing Alpine views. Very good weather. Stayed in Ljublana. Gorgeous.
1. Iceland. Visited in March. Hired a car. The Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon were high points. Lack of Northern Lights a minor disappointment and Reykjavik didn’t really do it for me. But the feel of the island, the natural beauty and the kind weather made this a winner. Stayed in Grindavik. Nothing special, but cost effective in the most ridiculously priced destination! Even so, worth shelling out for.
There hasn’t been anywhere where I’ve felt unhappy or wondered what on earth I’ve done by visiting a particular destination. Ryanair, Easyjet (subsidised with Nectar points), Wizzair and Flybe (earning Avios) have been my airlines. My favourite airport lounge has been Manchester T1 Aspire with the least impressive being LJublana. Or Eindhoven for not letting me use a lounge! Or TIvat in Montenegro where I took the wrong security lane and missed the lounge!
There will be more European destinations to come. I’ll head to Boston next week with a smile and might just sneak in somewhere before Chile. I can also default to Anglesey for a few days if needed.