We’re now into the fourth month of 2016, and I still haven’t finished telling you about where I went in 2015. Apologies that I’ve been so slack, but the year is literally flying by. I’ve spent a total of 26 hours in the air on trips to the Czech Republic, Barcelona and Puerto Rico so far. And I’m currently prepping for my fourth trip (and fourth country) of the year: India.
India has been on my bucket list for quite some time; but in just over a week I’ll be there, seeing it, experiencing it for myself. I can’t wait to explore the cities of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, steeped in colour and rich in culture. This is going to be the trip of a lifetime, and a trip of many firsts:
- It’ll be the first time I’ve been to Asia, let alone India
- It’ll be the furthest I’ve ever flown
- It’ll be the first time I’ve gone away with my Grandma.
Yep, that’s right – I’m taking my 75-year-old Grandma halfway around the world to India. She likes to travel just as much as I do (in fact, she’s actually just got back from a Caribbean cruise with my Grandpa), and she shares my love of discovering new places – especially those that are a little less mainstream.
“Gma” (as she signs off her emails, because she’s cool like that) and I were chatting last summer and both said we’d love to travel to India at some point. Because I’m the kind of impulsive person who has to do something as soon as I’ve got it in my head that I want to do it, I immediately started looking for a suitable package for us.
As it happened, I was actually in Colombia when an email from Travelzoo came through which had the perfect deal: a 7-night Golden Triangle trip, on an organised tour booked through The Holiday Place. It was just what we were looking for, and at only £750 each, a bargain. When I booked it back in August it seemed so far away, but now it’s getting closer, I’m really getting excited. I’ve had my jabs and sorted our visas, and this weekend I’ll be mostly packing.
But before I embark on my next adventure, here are the final four countries I visited in 2015:
Last September, as soon as I got back from nearly four weeks in Colombia, I was itching to get away again. I had been well and truly bitten by the travel bug. So when my new found travel companion Eddy suggested a weekend away together, I jumped at the chance and scoured the web for a trip to somewhere neither of us had been. We settled for a break away to the Turkish city of Istanbul.
Arriving late on the Friday, we spent the evening in a tavern, drinking cold Efes beer, eating Adana kebab and Börek, and chatting mindlessly. Bliss.
After being woken at 5am by prayer calls from a nearby mosque, Saturday was a day of exploration. There was a lot of walking, a lot more Efes and a couple of shisha pipes. It was so nice to just hang out somewhere different, and the sun was shining the whole day, which is always a welcome change from the October drizzle back home in the UK. Sunday came though and it was time to go home.
I’d love to go back soon to explore more – our time there was so short. Take a look at some of my favourite Instagram snaps of Istanbul for a sneak peek on what we did manage to see while roaming the city. The standout thing for me was the Blue Mosque. It’s a beautiful building – definitely something not to miss if you’re visiting the city. Here’s a photo I took at night to whet your appetite:
My trip to Denmark in October was perhaps the most sporadic and impulsive trip of last year. Chatting with a couple of girls from work, we realised that it was cheaper to get return flights to somewhere abroad than it was to get a return rail ticket to somewhere in the UK. So we decided to go on a day trip to Denmark, for just £60 return. The hashtag #DenmarkInADay was born, and we spent just six hours in the country’s capital, Copenhagen.
Considering we were only there for such a short space of time, we managed to tick off most of the city’s main attractions, including a visit to the 19th Century amusement park in Tivoli Gardens (where we spent most of our time in the funhouse, making stupid videos like this). We ate an amazing lunch in a restaurant on the waterfront in Nyhavn, photographed Edvard Eriksen’s Little Mermaid statue and walked through the Kastellet fortress and ramparts. Oh, and we even had time for a walk down the highstreet, where we watched street performers like the one in this video.
The only thing we didn’t do, which I’d love to go back for, was to hire a bike. Bikes are everywhere – if you’re not on one, be careful where you walk, as you may get hit by one (like I did).
When I saw a picture of the Chouara tannery in the Moroccon city of Fez on Instagram, I just knew I had to go there to see it for myself. So I did.
In November last year I carefully planned a solo trip to Morocco, flying into Fez from Stanstead airport, and flying back from Marrakech to Gatwick. In between the two cities I planned an overnight train, leaving Fez at 2am and arriving in Marrakech at 11.30am. I booked riads in both cities via Booking.com, and planned what I wanted to see and where I wanted to go (including the Chouara tannery). It was probably my most thoroughly planned solo trip, but all the hours of research paid off – it meant I got to experience two beautiful Moroccan cities in just four days.
There’s so much more to Morocco than just Marrakech and Fez though, and I’d love to head back there. It’s a dangerous thing, Instagram, because now I’m lusting over pictures of the blue city of Chefchaouen… Maybe I could make a little trip over there this summer?
Can you believe, I’d reached the ripe old age of 28, and still hadn’t been to Amsterdam? In December I finally ticked it off the list, making The Netherlands the last country I visited in 2015 (and the first of 2016, technically).
Bored of celebrating New Year at home, my friend TJ and I decided to get away just after Christmas, taking a trip over to Amsterdam to welcome in 2016. We stayed in the picturesque town of Zaandam, which we affectionately nicknamed “Toytown”, because, well, that’s what it looked like.
After realising that transport was going to be an issue if we wanted to party large in the city centre, we headed out to Zaandam’s town centre, in search of a pub/bar/club where we could celebrate. Luck would have it that there was a party at Cafe Noire, and for only 35€ we would get admission to the party plus unlimited drinks all night. Result.
As with all my travels, we were quick to make new friends, and when the clock struck midnight and the New Year came in, we danced the night away with our fellow party-goers, Anke, Gwyneth and Mylena. And what a party it was. Champagne was poured, sparklers were lit and fireworks literally exploded on our heads (check out this video for a stray firecracker that ended up singeing my hair).
Once the party was over, and we’d shifted our hangovers, there was more exploring to do. We ventured out to the Amsterdam Sex Museum, the Red Light District, Vondelpark, and the Kattenkabinet, and took a city bus tour, stopping at all the main attractions. Then we stuffed our faces with traditional Dutch food, before walking it off up and down the canals at night, admiring the beautiful installations for the Amsterdam Light Festival.
There was still so much of the city we didn’t explore though, and I’d love to go back – perhaps in the summer months, I’ll pop over and hire a bike – it seemed that was the only way to get about this beautiful city.
So there you have it, all 12 countries that I visited in 2015 (check out 12 in 12: part 1 and part 2 for the full list). I’m not sure whether I’m going to manage to achieve the same travel goal this year, but I am aiming to complete a little 30 before 30 challenge before I enter my third decade. Still got another 15 months for the deadline of that one, though.
Where’s next in 2016?
As I already mentioned, I’m off to India next. I think this will be my big trip for 2016. I also have plans to go to Poland in August for a friends wedding, which I am very excited about. I’ve never been to Poland before, and I’ve never been to a Polish wedding, so it should be an interesting experience.
What about you? What travel plans have you got for the rest of 2016? Drop me a comment below, I’d love to hear from you (and maybe even get some inspiration for the other seven months of the year).