Sweet dreams are made of this

It was a year of one des­ti­na­tion high­light after an­other

Life & Style Weekend - - TRAVEL - With Ann Rickard

THIS is the time of year to re­flect on trav­els over the past 12 months and en­joy them all over again in the mind. It is also time to think of plans for next year: where to go, where ap­peals, where is con­ve­nient?

More im­por­tantly, what works for the per­son (this one) who is an­other year older and has just one more decade left to travel with­out the hin­drance of aching knees jammed into tight seats down the back of the plane?

I need to get in as much travel as I can over the next 10 years. And I plan to.

My travel high­lights for 2016 were many and I’m grate­ful. A river cruise with Avalon Wa­ter­ways on board Im­agery II be­gan in Frank­furt, a city that charmed me, and led me to pic­turesque towns I would never have had the op­por­tu­nity to see if it was not for the ease of get­ting to them along the rivers. Stras­bourg with its half-tim­bered houses and one foot in Ger­many, the other in France, was favourite on this cruise.

Then there was the un­for­get­table cruise in Alaska aboard Nieuw Am­s­ter­dam. Those fron­tier towns – Juneau, Sk­ag­way, Ketchikan – were like some­thing

out of a Boy’s Own mag­a­zine. Whale, bear and moose spot­ting was some­thing to re­mem­ber for­ever, and cruis­ing the majesty of Glacier Bay was pinch-me-am-I-re­ally-here stuff.

Provence in June, al­ways mag­i­cal. To eat, drink and visit Proven­cal vil­lages and towns and en­joy sen­sory over­load at the mar­kets is some­thing I do ev­ery year (only 10 more left for me).

A leisurely cruise with Euro­pean Wa­ter­ways along the

Canal du Midi in south­ern France aboard And­jodi – the barge that Rick Stein filmed A French Odyssey on – was a high point of the year. Cruis­ing at such a slow pace along the canal flanked by leafy plane trees and green grapevines to the hori­zon while a crew of four doted on me was the stuff of dreams.

Switzer­land was a favourite. I’ll never for­get sit­ting in the mag­nif­i­cent KKL Theatre in Lucerne watch­ing the 21st Cen­tury Sym­phony Orches­tra play to The Gla­di­a­tor movie on a gi­ant screen above them. Rus­sell Crowe fight­ing li­ons with a 100-piece orches­tra back­ing him was sim­ply spine-tin­gling. Then the next day board­ing a pad­dle-steamer to cruise Lake Lucerne, stop­ping at im­pos­si­bly pretty vil­lages dot­ted around the lake, made me de­ter­mined to get back to Switzer­land again (10 more times, I hope).

Our favourite white-washed vil­las at Soula Rooms on the beach in Mykonos call us ev­ery year. The vil­las, run by Soula and her daugh­ters, are mod­estly priced yet are right among all the glit­terati at the small bay where bil­lion­aires an­chor their yachts. We have been go­ing to Soula Rooms an­nu­ally for 12 years now and con­sider Soula and her daugh­ters like fam­ily. Some things you never tire of.

PNG was a charm­ing dis­cov­ery this year. Now that P&O cruises to PNG’s Con­flict Is­lands it’s pos­si­ble to get to th­ese un­spoilt utopias where the lo­cals come down from the hills to greet the ships and show off their hand-crafted tim­ber prod­ucts and dance with the chil­dren.

Ai­tu­taki’s la­goon in the Cook Is­lands was per­haps my most awe-in­spir­ing rev­e­la­tion this year. The pierc­ing blue of the la­goon con­trast­ing with the white sand on the beaches is a mir­a­cle of na­ture ev­ery­one should see.

I re­alise I’ve just done a heck of a lot of name-drop­ping here, but I present th­ese high­lights to you in the hope you will go forth and visit some of th­ese places – be­fore your knees get too creaky to be jammed into a seat down the back of the plane.

PHOTO: PURESTOCK

A moose wades in Won­der Lake in Alaska’s De­nali Na­tional Park and, in­set, houses in Pe­tite France, a his­toric quar­ter of the city of Stras­bourg.

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