I realise that we’re already well into 2017 and it’s only just now that I’m getting around to wrapping up 2016, but I figure, better late than never.
Despite everything that was happening around us (Brexit, Trump, losing Bowie, etc.), 2016 was a pretty great year for Dave and I. We made the most of our time in Europe by visiting as many corners as possible, and in the end we were able to explore 36 cities in 15 countries across three continents. It’s pretty crazy when you think back on all that we’ve done, seen and eaten in these last 12 months.
Let’s take a quick look back on the year that was 2016.
We kicked off 2016 in Helsinki, where we explored Suomenlinna and took in the World Junior Hockey Championships. It was a super Canadian reason for a holiday, but one that we really enjoyed — despite the horrifically cold temperatures.
From Helsinki, we hopped on the ferry to Tallinn, Estonia, where we spent just over 24 hours wandering throughout the old city centre, basking in the sunshine and braving the -20C temperatures. Tallinn was one of my favourite trips of the year; I had no expectations for the city and was blown away at every turn. The food was delicious, the people were amazing, and the city was beautiful. It only further peaked my interest in the Baltic states and I can’t wait to explore a few more this year.
Our final trip of the month came in the form of a day trip to Segovia, a small but historic town approx. one hour north of Madrid, which is famous for its gigantic aqueduct. Although the day was colder than we anticipated (apparently that was a theme for the month) we enjoyed wandering throughout the Spanish town.
February was the calm between travel storms. We spent the entire month in Madrid, doing a bit of wandering, but nothing overly noteworthy.
But, life and travel wouldn’t be quiet for long. I kicked off March with a whirlwind trip to Brussels, where it rained nearly every second I was there. Despite the downpours, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the sights, eating the waffles, and practising my oh-so-rusty French.
No more than 24 hours after getting home, one of my best friends arrived in Madrid for a visit. We spent a couple of days exploring the city before we hopped on the slowest train in history, and spent two days in Valencia, where we biked, ate paella, and drank the most delicious orange juice.
Again, there was no rest for the wicked. Just hours after getting home and unpacking, I was busy re-packing my bags as Dave and I were headed to Marrakech. It was the first time either of us had been in Africa, and while we were excited, we were both a wee bit nervous. Marrakech was an assault on the senses; at first, I wasn’t a fan, but as the weekend wore on I found myself falling more and more in love with the city, and hope to have the opportunity to explore more of Morocco.
After our city break to Marrakech, we had a week at home before jetting off once again. Dave had a week off towards the end of the month, so we decided to take advantage of it and explore Central Europe, visiting Prague, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest. It was a lot of travel for eight days, but it was definitely one of the most fun trips we went on.
Our travels slowed down in April, but only slightly. After our fantastic trip through Central Europe, we were inspired to keep going and wasted no time getting back out on the road. Our very first weekend back in Spain we hopped on the train and spent two days exploring two smaller towns north of Madrid: Avila and Salamanca. After spending so much time out of the country, it was nice to visit a few more areas of Spain.
After a busy few weeks, we were in search of some sunshine and relaxation, and we found both in Palma de Mallorca. Mallorca (and certainly Magaluf) wasn’t high on our list, but when we came across an insane deal on Expedia, we just couldn’t pass it up. Mid-month we jetted off to the Mediterranean where we biked, relaxed and soaked up some sunshine (and I got a wicked sunburn).
To end the month, Dave and I travelled to the south of Italy where we spent four days on the island of Sicily. We split our time between the stunning (and slightly terrifying) town of Taormina, and the shabby chic capital of Catania. Both cities couldn’t have been more different, but they complimented each other so well and gave me a great introduction to Italy.
May saw us staying close to home. As I type this I can’t remember why: maybe there were no deals, or Dave’s school was busy, but either way, we spent our days in Madrid enjoying the weather, the siestas and the vino tinto de verano.
Our travels in June started off with a very last-minute trip to Manchester and Leeds. It was our first introduction to the city we now call home and although we were only there for a day and a half (and did absolutely no exploring), I immediately liked it.
Mid-month, Dave found himself with another week off, so as usual, we took advantage of it and booked a cheap flight to Belgium. Over the next week, we travelled overland to Bruges and Ghent before heading north and visiting Rotterdam and Amsterdam. While the weather wasn’t the greatest for our trip — it poured rain a good portion of the time — the day we spent in Amsterdam was amazing, and we often talk about when we can go back.
July was a bit of a crazy month. Dave was busy finishing up school, we were trying to sort out our apartment and prepare for our upcoming move, and we travelled to Stockholm, where I attended the TBEX Europe conference.
Stockholm is one of my favourite cities and I was so pleased to have the opportunity to go back, visit a few of my favourite places, and explore a few new ones.
Following the conference, we hopped on the train and made the approx. five-hour journey to Copenhagen where we feasted on herring, took a wonderful boat tour, and wandered throughout the city until we absolutely had to leave to catch our flight.
Just one week later, we were saying goodbye to the city and country we’d called home for the past nine months. While I was sad to leave Madrid and Spain, I was so excited for the adventure that lay ahead of us.
Our plan all along was to spend August and part of September exploring Eastern Europe and the Balkans, but after Dave was offered a job in Leeds, we decided to scrap those plans and instead we flew back to Canada to sort out our visas and spend time with family and friends.
For five weeks we split our time between Toronto and Ottawa, eating, laughing, relaxing and seeing as many of our favourite people and places as possible. As with most trips, it flew by and before I knew it we were back at Pearson, and setting off on our next adventure.
September was a month devoted to settling in and trying to sort out life in Leeds. If you’ve visited this blog at all in the last few months, you’ll know that trying to get set-up was fraught with frustrations, hurdles and paperwork, which caused us to put travel on the back burner. Thankfully, all of that is behind us, although it took far too long to sort out.
October saw us start exploring again. We ventured beyond Leeds to the nearby town of York, where we spent an afternoon taking in the sights, and we spent a weekend in Leigh-on-Sea, visiting a friend and being introduced to Essex. After so many weeks at home in the North, it was fantastic to get out and see other parts of England — and I can’t tell you how excited I am to see more of it!
November was another quiet month for travel. I started working and school picked up for Dave, so we found ourselves quite tired on the weekends. So, we just gave ourselves a break and spent our downtime relaxing and exploring a few places close to home.
But, as usual, this trend wouldn’t last long. December saw us taking a few day trips to towns near Leeds. First up was Knaresborough, a small town with a stunning aqueduct and river, and at just 45 minutes from Leeds, it was the perfect afternoon trip.
The following weekend we set off to the coast to visit the famous town of Scarborough where we walked on the beach, climbed up to the castle and indulged in delicious fish and chips.
Mid-month, I had a few days off from work and found a great deal, so one cloudy Wednesday I hopped on the bus and went west to Liverpool. While the weather wasn’t the best I still enjoyed exploring the town, dining on Chinese food in the oldest establish Chinatown in Europe and seeing all of the iconic sights associated with Liverpool’s most famous residents, the Beatles.
And finally, we closed out a fantastic year of travel by heading home to spend the holidays with our families, where we drank wine, watched hockey and enjoyed a good ‘ol Canadian winter.
2016 was an incredible year for us: we travelled far and wide, ate some weird and amazing foods, and made so many memories. It’s a year I won’t quickly forget, for all the right reasons.
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