"MY BEST TRAVEL MEMORY FROM EUROPE" -   part 1.

To help us get through the COVID-19 long lockdown, we asked the travel experts to share with us their best travel memory of 2019 / 2020.  So here they are!

A PICTURE PERFECT DAY IN THE SWISS ALPS

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At "So Many Places! So Little Time," we just love Switzerland, but because we live in New Zealand it is a major trip for us. We had been raving, since our last trip in 2018, to the family and anyone else who would listen about how amazing our winter in Switzerland was.

 

One of our adult daughters decided she would come with us on this trip but we were just a little anxious that maybe she wouldn't find Switzerland as stunning as we did and be disappointed.

 

One of our favorite places to visit is the beautiful mountain village of Murren high up in the  Bernese Oberland area of the Swiss Alps. From Murren, a cable car takes you up to Birg which has a great viewing deck and cafe and the very exciting Thrill Walk!  We were looking forward to returning there. 

We left Interlaken early in the morning and the weather was cloudy and unsettled. As we traveled closer to Murren the weather got better and better, By the time we hopped off the cable car at the top of the mountain the weather had totally cleared and the views were picture postcard perfect. The Thrill Walk was great fun and the lunch superb. Our daughter was so impressed! Phew!

A family Oktoberfest celebration

By Ryan from The Nutty Trekkers 

 

2019 was a huge year for Sami and I, as we had quit our corporate America jobs, sold most of our possessions and headed out of the country for a twelve-month backpacking trip. However, of all the world exploration we did, the one memory that really sticks out is when my parents met us in Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest. 

 

Germany has a special place in our heart because we (my family) lived there for three years, as ex-pats when I was very young. However, memories of that time evade me and I have only been back to Germany a few times after we left. So the best I’ve been able to do is piece together that time in our lives through stories that resurface at random moments. Well, Oktoberfest was the perfect setting for this resurgence.

 

Lubricated with free-flowing beer, plates of spaetzle and Bavarian music blasting in the Festhalls, I became acutely aware of my parent’s comfortability in the setting. Their fluency of German resurfaced and conversations with strangers seemingly effortless. Their smiles and laughter echoing as they remembered dressing me in lederhosen as a child, and attending a kindergarten. And a swelling of personal pride grew within them that day as they re-remembered the immense challenges they faced building a life for themselves in a new country, with a newborn, on their own. 

 

I viscerally remember just sitting in that jovial atmosphere, pumped with a sense of pride and connection to my parents and Germany that I hadn’t felt before. Thank you, Oktoberfest.

All alone on stac pollaidh mountain in scotland

By Susanne Arbuckle from "Adventures Around Scotland"

 

On a beautiful warm May morning near Ullapool in Scotland last year, I finally ticked climbing Stac Pollaidh off my bucket list.  I arrived at the base of the iconic mountain before 7 am and amazingly there were no other cars in the car park.  This is a popular hike so the thought of having it all to myself felt amazing. Clear skies and a gentle breeze meant the conditions were perfect.  At just over 1600 ft, it is far from the highest mountain in Scotland but its location makes it one of the most rewarding to climb. 

 

As the path curved around the mountain, I was constantly clicking on my camera as the views opened up and changed. From mountains to lochs, to rocky terrain filled with countess pools of water, to the Summer Isles off the west coast.  The weather was so clear that I could see for miles in every direction and every direction had the wow factor which is why this is a popular walk.


After 90 minutes I congratulated myself as I reached the summit.  I enjoyed some brunch in solitude, taking in the stunning views and the sounds of nature. Far below I could spot little ant-sized people just starting their hike.  By the time I reached the bottom, there was a steady stream of people heading up and the car park was full.  I felt quite smug that I had spent a few hours alone on the mountain on such a perfect day.

family trip to provence

By Keri Baugh from "Bon Voyage With Kids"

My favorite travel memory from 2019 is our family trip to Provence, and particularly a day we spent at the Lac De St. Croix. The near-perfect lake at the base of the Gorges du Verdon is the most glorious color blue. 

 

It was a perfect way to spend a hot day in Provence, and vacation like the French.  Family-sized paddle boats with slides are available for rent, and we happily took advantage of this experience.  After grabbing a takeaway Croque monsieur, pizzas, and coffees, we enjoyed the day snacking on our boat, swimming and paddling the lake and spending time as a family. 

 

It was memorable not just for its joyful simplicity, but also because of the glorious water and landscape surrounding us. Then returning to our gite, which was walking distance to the incredible town of Lourmarin, we picked up a baguette from a boulangerie to enjoy a lovely French meal on the patio. 

 

It was such an amazing way to live like the French while enjoying all that Provence has to offer families on vacation.

Saint Petersburg- i Didn't Want To Leave.

By Coni from "Experiencing the Globe"

I visited Moscow many years ago, and although the architecture is remarkable, I wasn’t too impressed with the vibe of the country. In August 2019, on a trip across the Baltic countries, I took a bit of a detour to quickly visit Saint Petersburg. I had no expectations. I thought I’d spend a couple of days and I’d move on.

Oh, how mistaken I was! I ended up staying for 9 days, and I didn’t want to leave! It’s one of the most beautiful cities on earth, with nothing to envy to any European capital. Known as the Venice of the North, Saint Petersburg was built to be the capital of the Russian Empire, which is obvious when you wander around this grand city.

In every corner you can see it was made for the royal family, starting by its main landmark: The Winter Palace. This notorious mint green building nowadays houses the Hermitage museum, with an impressive collection of Russian and European art. This site is reason alone to travel to Saint Petersburg. It was my absolute favorite place in an absolutely gorgeous destination!

Heavenly sunset from das loft in vienna

By Samantha Karen from "Sam Sees World"

 

Vienna, Austria is a magical city in Europe that is full of opulence and beauty. Almost every part of the city has something stunning and majestic to see but there is one place in the city that has given me one of my most special travel memories in Europe. Atop a huge building in the middle of the city is a sky bar called Das Loft that offers 360-degree views of the city in all its glory.

 

Every day the views are beautiful but on the evening I went, something amazing happened. The day was coming to an end and the sun started to set, which created one of the most beautiful cotton candy skies I’ve ever seen. This was the type of sunset you see in movies, where the whole sky turns pink and there is not a cloud in the way. Viewing this from the huge glass windows as the city of Vienna sparkled below was heavenly and is a memory I will not soon forget. 

THE FRIENDLY LOCALS IN KOSOVO

By Cass Baillie from "Cassie the Hag"

My best recent travel memory from Europe was when I was solo travelling in Kosovo. Although I backpacked the Balkans for four weeks, something about my four-day stint in Kosovo always stood out to me. From its countryside, beautiful mosques and statues, as the newest country in Europe (Kosovo only claimed independence in 2008), this small country has a lot to offer. But nothing more than how friendly the locals are.


As I sat down to enjoy a coffee in one of the many surprisingly trendy cafes around Pristina, the country’s capital, a friendly local engaged me in conversation. Firstly, I was asked about my travels. Next, the local proceeded to tell me about the history of his country, his hopes for the future and explained that ‘Tonibler’ is now a real first-name there, due to the part the ex-prime minister played in ending the conflict.

 

American and English visitors may be particularly welcomed due to the part Bill Clinton and Tony Blair played in easing the tensions during the Kosovo war. It was fascinating exploring this quirky capital, where alongside a library voted ‘the ugliest building in the world’, you can also go and see the huge Bill Clinton statue!

Crossing a river in ireland to stay in a castle

By Cath from "Travel Around Ireland"

At the intersection of two counties in Ireland, along the River Suir, just before it intersects with the River Barrow, lies an island with a special secret. It is home to a place in which we stayed in August 2019 after the sudden death of my mother.

We had thought about canceling our three-night stay in Waterford Castle but knew it was something my mother wouldn’t have wanted us to do. So, two days after her funeral, we made our way from Dublin to Waterford to stay on the grounds of Waterford Castle. And it was a mini-break we were glad of after the previously fraught five weeks.

Waterford Castle lies on an island in the middle of the River Suir and the only way to access it is by ferry. Guests and visitors embark and cross the river, before disembarking and driving alongside the driving range of the golf course before coming up to the castle. It’s a pretty unique way to arrive at your hotel accommodation. And what a beautiful castle it is. It is now a hotel and there are lodges on the island ideal for families.

Waterford Castle is one of a handful of castles that you can stay in Ireland and is a 4-star resort with a golf course, driving range and beautiful grounds for walks. You might even be lucky enough to spot some of the resident deer. Our stay was just what we needed and is one of our best travel memories of 2019.

A cultural and spiritual experience on the CAMINO DE SANTIAGO

By Alya from "Stingy Nomads"

 

Walking the Camino Frances one of the most popular routes of the Camino de Santiago was definitely the highlight of 2019 for us. We’d completed several Camino route before that, but the French Way had been on our bucket list for a long time.

 

The Camino starts in a small French town of St.Jean Pied de Port on the border with Spain and finishes 700km later in Santiago de Compostela. The route crosses four Spanish regions; Navarra, La Rioja, Castile and Leon, and Galicia.

 

The most famous part of the Camino Frances is La Meseta, a vast sparsely populated area covered with wheat fields. For many, including myself, It’s the most challenging part of the Camino. For the entire week, you walk on a gravel road that crosses the plains and the wheat fields. Challenging doesn’t always mean bad, for many pilgrims La Meseta is their favorite part of the Camino. They enjoy the tranquility of the area. It’s a great place for self-reflection and observation.

 

I walked the Camino alone and was very lucky with the people I met on the way. I had some very interesting discussions with people I had just met on the way. It was a very enriching cultural and spiritual experience for me. You meet people from all over the world; Japan, Africa, the USA, Australia, Brazil, Russia, etc. Every person has a story to tell and memories to share. These conversations and meetings contributed a lot to turning my Camino into one of the brightest travel memories of the last year.

EVening walks Through the streets of prague

By Adriana Plotzerová  from "Czech the World" 

If you are a fan of history and medieval cities as I am, you will surely enjoy Prague - one of Europe’s most fascinating cities. Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic and it’s known as a city of hundred spires (actually, there are much more than one hundred).

 

It’s a charming city full of cobblestone streets with Gothic and Renaissance buildings where you can find lovely cafes or pubs and enjoy world-famous beer. Czech beer isn’t just great, it’s also very cheap (less than 2 Euros for half a liter of draft beer).

My best memories of 2019 are taking the evening walks where you can see all these old-school lantern-street lamps. I start the walk at the Prague Castle - the largest historical Castle complex in Europe, then continue to Kampa and the famous Charles Bridge, with impressive Gothic Bridge towers  I start the walk at the Prague Castle - the largest historical Castle complex in Europe, then continue to Kampa and the famous Charles Bridge, with impressive Gothic Bridge towers. I think the view from the Old Town Bridge Tower is one of the most beautiful in Prague. From Charles Bridge, it’s also a very nice stroll to the Old Town Square where you can see the “show” of the ancient astronomical clock.

 

Prague itself is not the only beautiful place worth visiting. Get some inspiration and check also other amazing places to visit in the Czech Republic.

chasing pigeons in krakow, poland

By Diana from "Travels in Poland"

 

The City Center in Krakow, Poland is the largest in all of Europe.  The center of the city has a massive central building which used to be known as a cloth hall.  Today, the cloth hall, known as Sukiennice, is a marketplace for vendors and tourists. Items such as Polish amber, traditional polish dresses, and jewelry as well as common tourist items are sold there daily.  Right outside of the cloth hall is the massic town square, surrounded by hundreds of cafes and restaurants.

If there is one thing that is abundant in the square, it is pigeons.  They are everywhere in the square and they are used to people feeding them and trying to play with them.  These pigeons are not afraid of people. If you have children, chasing the pigeons is delightful, as is throwing seeds at them. 

 

We were in the town square for several hours, letting the kids feed them. A note of caution for those with very young children, pigeons will go after them if they have seeds in their hands.  A flock of 50 pigeons chasing a 2-year-old may look funny, but remain cautious as that 2 year old can quickly become terrified and end up screaming.

cycling through Austria’s Wachau Valley

By Lauren from "The Planet Edit"

 

My best travel memory of 2019 has to be my bike tour across Europe. Starting in London, I used nothing but my bicycle (okay, and a ferry across the English Channel!) to make my way to Istanbul. It was a summer packed with adventure, but my favourite part of that journey has to be cycling through Austria’s Wachau Valley.

 

Known for its picturesque vineyards, quaint villages and magnificent fortresses, Wachau Valley is impossibly beautiful. The region is also famous for its wine. A cycle tour through the valley would not be complete without stopping to sample some - and its famous apricot liqueur - which of course, I did.

 

A highlight for me was visiting Melk Abbey, an opulent Benedictine abbey perched on the hill above the town of Melk. Glimmering gold and overlooking the Danube river, this magnificent piece of architecture really took my breath away.

 

This section of my bike tour was so memorable for me because the entire valley is peppered with so much to see. I couldn’t resist stopping in all the colourful villages for a cup of coffee or relaxing by the river to enjoy the sun.

BarcelonA to bruges- family christmas road trip

By Lauren from "The Expat Chronicle." 


Being an American expat family living abroad in Barcelona, we are privileged to do tons of traveling around Europe! In just two short years we’ve experienced the majestic beauty of such European cities as Vienna, Prague, Rome, and London plus more than ten different medieval villages in Spain.

It’s really difficult to choose just ONE trip or experience that tops all the rest. But when I reflect back on the countless memories of 2019, the images that continue to flood my mind are from our 12-day road trip from Barcelona to Brugge, Belgium for Christmas time.

We have three young children and really had our sights set on an unforgettable and magical Christmas experience for them. And while Europe is filled with gorgeous Christmas markets and villages, nothing captures the spirit of the season quite like Brugge, Belgium.

Twinkling lights, steaming cups of rich hot chocolate, horse and carriage rides, festive music in the air and storefronts decorated with garland. The sights, smells, and sounds of Christmas in Brugge were things you only read about in fairytales from long ago. It was an experience of a lifetime, something we will always treasure as a family! 

venice with a friend

By Laura Otero from "Laura No Esta"

 

My best travel memory of 2019 was my trip to Venice. I went there with one of my best friends. We spent two amazing days in Venice and we enjoyed every moment. 

This was a different trip because it was the first I made with her- just the two of us without boyfriends or family. Also, it was her first time in Venice so I was able to show her the things that I love the most about the city I met 10 years ago.

One of the most memorable things about this journey was that it happened just a few weeks after the famous 'Acqua Alta" (Venice flooding and tide peaks) of November, so the city was quite empty. It was mostly locals in the streets and was nice and surprising to see Piazza San Marco not crowded.

They say Venice is a perfect city for couples. I would say it's an amazing place to enjoy while you walk around with a friend!

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