Sweet dreams are made of this
It was a year of one destination highlight after another
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.
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.