2016 has been an incredible year filled with both blogging and travel highlights where we got to tick off some top travel wish list moments and had unique experiences we won’t ever forget. I’m all about the experience – collecting memories not things! It’s been a tough year too with family illness and times when I just wanted to stay close to home. But we’ve pulled through and have a lot to be grateful for.
Whilst on the subject of grateful, I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who’s read my blog, liked on Facebook, retweeted a tweet, left a comment, watched a video or interacted in any way. You’ve all been amazing and it means so much. Thank you.
Travel Highlights 2016
2016 saw 26 flights, two epic train journeys and visits to nine different countries including two new destinations. In the year that the blog turned five I was delighted to win a journalism award and see a feature I’d written in print for the first time.
My first trip of 2016 was to Filzmoos ski resort in Austria with Inghams. I’ve only ever skied in the French Alps in Portes du Soleil so it was good to see how the Austrian ski resorts compared. Filzmoos is a small resort and perfect for family ski trips. Filzmoos is known as the Balloon Village and the highlight of our stay was the Balloon Festival. During the day dozens of balloons take part in a race and in the evening they light up in a choreographed display to music. Austrian Mountain food is winner too and I sampled everything from Gröstl to Käsespäetzle!
After returning from Filzmoos we took ourselves off for a few days to Tenerife to soak up some sun and have a mini tennis tournament with friends. It seems this has become a tradition and we’re doing the same again next year!
A trip to Dubai in February but this was a work trip. Mr Jones and I run a business organising corporate group travel and events and we took 55 couples to Dubai for four nights. I don’t usually write about work trips so there are no posts up but you can check out some other Dubai posts that I’ve written for Dubai Tourism. Of course the fact that it was a work trip didn’t stop me Instagramming away!
March arrived and saw our annual ski trip with friends to Morzine Avoriaz. We packed up the car and drove down to the French Alps for some fun in the snow. Avoriaz is great for skiing because it’s so high up and snow is pretty much guaranteed.
There were moments of discovery in April with a visit to St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean – a new country for me and one of my top two trips of the year. I was delighted to be chosen to represent St Kitts as a Brand Ambassador in 2016 and part of the brief was to visit the island. I loved it! St Kitts has managed to retain a lot of it’s authenticity and charm and hasn’t become over-commercialised. There’s so much to see and do on the island apart from just lazing on the beautiful beaches. There’s adventure activities, history and heritage, water sports, a fabulous food scene and of course a luxury list you’d be mad to miss. I fulfilled a travel wish in St Kitts when I swam with turtles in the wild.
May saw a visit to a new island but somewhere closer to home this time. The Isle of Man is a little stunner! We had a long weekend during the Isle of Man TT practice week. Quite by coincidence as we’re not petrol heads but it did make for an exciting few days. I fell in love with the island, there’s so much natural beauty and stunning scenery. There were a few places we didn’t get around to seeing so we’ll definitely be heading back to the island.
This month I headed back to one of my favourite European cities. Porto in Portugal. Again, this was a work trip which Jonesy and I had organised. I was accompanying some top performing sales people on a five star trip to Porto and the Douro Valley. We actually flew by private jet which was a first for me and has now shoved any other type of flying into touch. During the trip we took a steam train ride through the Douro Valley which was spectacular. Check out my YouTube Channel where you’ll find added wanderlust inspiration not on the blog – subscribe if you like what you see.
There’s nowhere better, in my opinion, than the UK in summer so I gave my home country some love during the good weather. I’ve always wanted to visit the lavender fields in France but then I found out that the UK has fields of its own all over the place. I visited Mayfield Lavender in Surrey to check out the gorgeous purple fields. I also put together a list of lavender fields in England so if you fancy visiting yourself you’ll be able to find the nearest one to you.
July also took us to Rathfinny one of south east England’s biggest vineyards. The state of the art vineyard is all set to start producing Sussex Sparkling in 2017. I can’t wait to try it. Rathfinny does wine tours and lunches at the vineyard which makes a lovely day out along with a visit to the nearby village of Alfriston.
August saw the opening of the BA i360 in Brighton and I was invited along to the press opening. It was a pretty cloudy day and by the time we got to the top we were enveloped in mist. It was still a great experience and I’ll be going back again in the summer on a bright day to get the best of the views. BA i360 offers a free return visit if the weather’s not good on your ‘flight’ which is good to know. Have you been? Would you? Check out my video…
We also explored more of Sussex in August with a Weekend break in Rye, one of my favourite Sussex towns.
Peru beckoned in September and we had an amazing two week holiday in this gem of a country. We spent time in colourful Cusco in two wonderful Belmond hotels and took the fabulous Hiram Bingham luxury train to Machu Picchu where we explored the Inca ruins. Next we flew North to Iquitos in the north for a treehouse stay in the Amazon Jungle. We loved the adventure and wildlife in the Amazon Jungle – seeing pink dolphins, a giant river otter and holding a sloth were some of the highlights. We finished off our stay with a few nights in Lima exploring the city and all the Peruvian food with Da Taste of Peru. Stay tuned for posts to come on Peru in January.
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Maccu Picchu means 'old mountain' in Quechua which was Peru's original language before it was conquered by the Spanish. This is one of my favourite shots from our visit where we took a moment to enjoy the views of old mountain and soak up the atmosphere of the ancient Incan city. #peru #maccupicchu #hirambingham
There was a big event in my home town of Battle in October. The 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings when William the Conquerer and his army defeated King Harold in one hell of a fight and changed the course of English history forever. Read about how the town commemorated the occasion in Battles and Bonfires in 1066 Country.
In November I won an award! I was pretty pleased just to be nominated and then shortlisted in The Caribbean Tourism Journalism Awards 2016. But I went along to the awards evening which took place in London after the first day of World Travel Market and I actually won my category. I couldn’t have been more surprised!
My award was for ‘Best Blog Feature’ for my post Hello St Kitts. Here’s me in total shock picking up my award!
Travelwise, I’ve been getting withdrawal symptoms from Italy with no visits for a couple of years. To put this right we had a weekend in Rome in November. We stuffed ourselves silly on a fabulous food tour with The Roman Food Tour and enjoyed walking it off by exploring the city.
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Cannolo means 'little tube' – and they're a Sicilian favourite. The biscuit tube is deep-fried and filled with sweetened ricotta cheese. The plural is Cannoli – We tried these on @The_Roman_Food_Tour in Rome last month. Delicious so long as you don't think about the calories….! #romeandyou #foodtour #romanfoodtour #travelbunny
November also saw another kind of food tour. As part of WTM I was invited on a Luxe London Dessert Tour with Urban Adventures. A tour of London’s iconic neighbourhoods to seek out the city’s sweet treats was the perfect antidote to a wet winter’s afternoon.
December came and work featured heavily with a conference in Tenerife for 320 people at the newly opened Hard Rock Hotel which had an exciting buzz around it. This was followed shortly after by a site inspection to Athens checking out hotels for an upcoming sales incentive.
I also saw my work in print for the first time this year. I wrote a ‘Lifestyle Resolutions‘ piece for James Villas about keeping that holiday feeling alive all year long. It was published in the James Villa magazine which is full of travel inspiration and also on their website. I love how they’ve styled it. What do you think?
So that was 2016, a year of amazing adventures in some stunning destinations and lots of memories made. Hopefully 2017 will be filled with just as many – we’ve already started planning!
Here’s wishing you a very happy New Year with lots of exciting travels along the way.