As stated last year in December, it is nice to lay on paper (ok, not really paper) all the places I have visited in the year that has passed, and all the adventures I had along with friends of the family.
For me, 2018 was as beautiful as 2017, filled with trips and experiences. A year when I’ve managed to tick a lot of places off my list places that I wished to see for a long time now, and finally got to see.
The year has started on a very positive note, with one of the most spectacular trips there is, on one of the most picturesque islands in the South Eastern Asia region: Sri Lanka.
We’ve spent 3 weeks out of February touring the island and letting ourselves impressed by its beauty and richness. After staying in 5 locations, experiencing the train ride (definitely one of the most amazing in the world), seeing how tea it’s done, and slaking on the tropical beaches, I can say Sri Lanka is the perfect destination!
In mid-April, I’ve finally reached the Cinque Terre – a place nobody should ever miss! Since April is not the most touristic month for this region, we were lucky to get some days without the usual crowds one might get after May towards September.
Along the way we spend one night in Genoa, returning to the old port city after 5 years from my first visit, and let me say a stop here for one day it’s worth it! The city is not so touristic, thus you won’t have to stay in line in order to visit the top local attractions (maybe this is not applicable to the aquarium though), and you will get a taste and feel of the local life.
On a constant climb in Cinque Terre, compensating by having the most amazing Italian meals (misto fritto – need I say more?), savoring Italian wine, hopping on and off boats and trains, somehow we managed to see al the 5 little towns and one more (Portovenere was actually one of my favorites and I totally recommend you see it or even book a stay here!).
In early May, I took a break from all the flower-filled gardens and streets in Bucharest and headed to Stockholm with my mother. This was not a trip planned long ahead of time, but the Nordic capital made a good impression, maybe because the beginning of May is when the best weather is and when all the gardens are in bloom.
Even though I did not get a lot of sleep while there (since the sun was up for most of the day and night), I loved the good vibes I got from this cosmopolitan town. Loved the colorful Gamla Stan (old town), loved the impressive Royal Palace, but maybe most of all I loved the trip to Drottningholm Palace and its luxuriant gardens.
There are still places I haven’t gotten to see and I promised I’ll be back someday and have a slower kind of trip in this European Capital.
Last year I’ve tried to plan a visit to the lavender fields somewhere, but this year is when that plan took life and it was no longer a plan but a trip. In late June is when together with some close friends, I took a trip to Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria.
We chased those lavender fields for some hours and did not really find something satisfactory, thus we decided to make the best out of the beauty Veliko Tarnovo has to offer, along with the delicious Bulgarian food and wine. But once again, fate showed me that all good things happen when we least expect them and that plans don’t always happen as we have them in our mind, but even better!
Later on, towards the end of June, we went on our first cruise experience exploring the Mediterranean Sea ( Civitavecchia, Savona, Marseilles, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca and back to Rome).
While we had one day to explore Rome, there is so little one can see and do in just one day. I’ve spent almost 3 months in the beautiful capital and still did not get to see all, that’s why I come back every now and then but somehow get to do the same things over and over: the Vatican, the center, Fontana di Trevi, Colosseum, Fori Imperiali.
Going back to the cruise, did I enjoy it? Will I consider another one?
A cruise experience is something else. Something I would not see everyone doing. It has, of course, its pros and cons, and while you don’t really get to see and do a lot on location, I would definitely consider it once again, especially for exploring more islands in the Carribean.
August is when people usually go on vacation, and that’s when we usually avoid traveling. Somehow the last two years we did not try very hard and ended up in Greece: Santorini in 2017 and Monemvasia in 2018.
A 3 hours drive from Athens, in the Peloponnese Peninsula, Monemvasia is such a charming little town where we got to live the true Greek experience, by visiting some Greek friends. The pristine beaches, spending the day at the beach with the locals with a Greek iced coffee in hand, where everyone knew each other, enjoying never-ending lunches, this is what a true holiday should be made of.
Later on, in October we took a day trip on the Prahova county wine road. We stopped and visited several places I had no idea existed before, a wine museum, 2 impressive mansions, wine fields. And here is where we had one of the lunches I’ll always remember and we will look back at and laugh. Not because it was good, or in an impressive place.
October found me in Budapest. I must admit Hungary’s capital is the most romantic town I’ve ever visited. Go during Autumn and you will be charmed as well, even though Spring sounds good as well.
The vibes this city shares are amazing: the romantic architecture, the boat trips on the Danube River, delicious brunches and hearty dinners, so many amazing attractions. I’ll always come back here with an open heart.
The last trip of this year was in style and to one of the places I’ve wanted to see for so long: Lisbon. I’ve read so much about it before going, and it seemed that everyone had been there except me. I liked it so much I’m planning to go back to Portugal sooner than later and explore many more places by the Ocean, and not only.
What I liked most and I will surely look for in my future trips (not all of them, of course): pristine places, not packed with tourists, beaches like the ones in Sri Lanka (Bentota) where we were almost the only ones on that remote beach.
What I dislike but cannot avoid? The crowds. Places filled with people, where you have to wait in line in order to take a picture, where the local feel was lost because wherever you look there are only tourists. Unfortunately, in Europe, we have lots of those and we cannot avoid it. But mixing them up is a good idea.
All in all, what we are left with and what I look back to whenever a year ends are the moments I had together with the people closest to me: my boyfriend, my mother, my closest friends.
That wild and fun drunk night on a beach in Sri Lanka, those days in a deserted town without food or drinks in the highlands of Sri Lanka, those cheeky monkeys that stole and broke my boyfriend’s phone while he was bathing in a waterfall, the train that we almost lost in Milan, that other train that never came in Riomaggiore, the glass of wine we drank with friends in “Geneva” while a bad singer was screaming in the background, the guide speaking Italian and English with such a very French accent in Marseilles. All these are the reasons I travel, the things I’ll always take with me wherever I go.
So here’s to a great 2019! Wish you all a lot of great adventures ahead! Go and make wonderful memories! I sure will 🙂