Monday, October 3, 2022

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My travel highlights of 2021

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2021 started off on a quiet note. Like most parts of the world, the Netherlands remained in lockdown. Restrictions were gradually lifted in early-spring, and as the months passed, we were soon able to travel again. I stayed put for much of the first half of the year. My lockdown routine consisted mainly of working on this blog, trying new recipes, long walks and binge-watching. I was especially thankful for the excitement provided by the Euro (football/soccer) Championships and the Tokyo Olympics!

When restaurants, cafés and shops were allowed to operate again, I went on various trips around the Netherlands. After being fully inoculated, I went on my first cross-border trip (to France) in August. This was followed by several trips to some of my favourite countries in Europe, including Spain and Italy. So, despite the pandemic, I’m grateful I got to travel! Here are some of my favourite travel experiences from 2021:





I sure missed these views! This is Mallorca, Spain.

A snowy winter in Amsterdam

This was my highlight of the first few months of 2021! A cold front from Siberia resulted in snowfall and freezing temperatures in Amsterdam. The city, covered in snow, looked absolutely magical. A week later, the canals were sufficiently frozen for everyone to venture out onto the ice. It truly was special to see Amsterdam in the snow!


winter scenes in amsterdam


Amsterdam in the snow.




Ice-skaters on the frozen Prinsengracht canal.

Netherlands road trips

I planned several road trips in the Netherlands as soon as restaurants, museums and attractions were open again. One of the regions I explored was in central Netherlands around the Delta of the Great Rivers. This beautiful region, with its gorgeous riverine scenery, medieval towns, castles and nature parks, is one I can absolutely recommend for any visitor to the Netherlands.


grote-rivieren-netherlands-road-trip


Slot Loevestein (Loevestein Castle) is one of the most famous medieval castles in the Netherlands.

Another part of the Netherlands I visited was Friesland in the north. I spent a week exploring Friesland, a province of endless meadows, lakes and historic towns.


best places to visit in friesland


Hindeloopen is one of the Frisian Eleven Cities.

Another noteworthy place I visited was Giethoorn, one of the most beautiful villages in the Netherlands. Normally crowded with tourists and daytrippers, Giethoorn was wonderfully serene due to the pandemic.


things to do in giethoorn


Giethoorn is a village of canals and thatched roof houses.

I also went on a nature getaway one weekend. Less than an hour away from Amsterdam lies the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, an area of low hills and thick forests. I spent the weekend hiking in the forests of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug and visiting numerous historic attractions such as Europe’s largest pyramid!


nature park near amsterdam


Sand dunes in the centre of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug forest.

Montpellier

As soon as I knew when I would receive my second jab, I scoured the Mediterranean coast in search of a summer holiday destination. I chose Montpellier, a wonderful city in the south of France. Close to the hills (and vineyards) of the Languedoc, and the lagoons and wild beaches of the Camargue, Montpellier was the perfect base from which to explore the region. Read more about things to do in Montpellier.


what to see in montpellier


Beautiful architecture in Montpellier at the Place de Comédie.

Sitges

This lovely beach town south of Barcelona is one of my favourite summer getaways. Aside from the beaches, Sitges has great restaurants, a gorgeous old town with its maze of streets and beautiful Art Nouveau buildings, and a vibrant nightlife. I celebrated my birthday there with my best friend who was visiting from Canada – a long weekend of terrific food, leisurely walks along the promenade and fun on the beach! Read about things to do in Sitges


things to do in sitges catalonia


Passeig Maritim, the beach promenade extends for several kilometers in Sitges.

Southern Germany road trip

This one-week road trip in southern Germany was another of my favourite travel experiences in 2021! I started in Munich and made my way south to the Alps, continued along the foothills of the Alps before reaching Lake Constance. From there, I headed north to Stuttgart. Along the way, I passed numerous medieval towns, stunning Alpine scenery, and countless castles and fortresses. Among the highlights of this trip were the castles of King Ludwig II of Bavaria: Neuschwanstein and Linderhof; the fascinating columns of STOA 169; and Tübingen, a wonderfully photogenic medieval town.





Neuschwanstein castle




The ornate Linderhof Palace and Gardens.




Tübingen

Rhône River cruise

October was my busiest travel month of the year, with two amazing back-to-back trips. I started with a return to France, this time to Lyon, where I embarked on a one-week Rhône River cruise with the Avalon Poetry II.


avalon-poetry-ii-rhone


The Avalon Poetry II

This river cruise in the south of France brought us past some of the most beautiful places in the region such as the Beaujolais, Ardeche Gorge, Avignon, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and the Camargue. It was a blissful week of great food and wines, stunning landscapes, fascinating places, and unforgettable experiences with my blogger friends.





Enjoying a cool glass of rosé from the Rhône Valley on the Avalon Poetry II in Avignon at sunset.

chateauneuf-du-pape-france-photo


The famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine region with the Rhône River in the distance.

ardeche-gorge-kayak-photo


Kayaking in the stunning Ardeche Gorge.

Emilia-Romagna Art Cities road trip

My second trip in October took me back to Emilia-Romagna, Italy. My assignment was to cover the eleven Art Cities of Emilia-Romagna on an eight-day road trip. As if eleven cities weren’t enough, I decided to also explore the medieval villages and hill towns along the way! It turned out to be an epic Emilia-Romagna road trip, one I won’t easily forget!


brisighella beautiful medieval village italy


A panoramic view of Brisighella.

Palma de Mallorca

At the very last minute, I decided to attend a conference in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. It was great to see many of my blogger friends again, and explore Palma, an absolutely wonderful city! I took some time off from the conference to walk around Palma and discover the city’s beautiful architecture.


things to see in mallorca


Stunning Modernist architecture at Plaça Mercat, Palma de Mallorca

On to 2022

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, I made it through 2021 safely and in good health, and I’m really thankful that I got to travel again! The only thing I didn’t get to do was visit my family in Malaysia, something I hope to do in the new year.

The Netherlands is currently back in a lockdown. I hope it won’t last as long as the previous one! It’s anyone’s guess what 2022 will bring, though I’m sure the pandemic will continue to dominate the news. I’m celebrating a special personal milestone in 2022 so I hope I’ll be able to do that with few restrictions. 😉

To all my readers, a big thank you for continuing to visit my blog! I wish you a new year full of love, good health, success and fabulous travel experiences!



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