2018 was always going to be one that we spent close to home. We wanted to do work on the house and start on the long road to adoption. Therefore, at the beginning of the year, we made the conscious decision that we would not venture outside of Europe and instead have one ‘big’ summer holiday and a few smaller city breaks and a spattering of staycations. Needless to say, we didn’t stick to the plan and instead ended up taking at least one trip per month. Although we didn’t venture outside of Europe our travel itinerary soon filled up with lovely long weekends and short breaks on the continent. Looking back now, I genuinely don’t know how we fitted it all in, especially as we both work full time too – but we did and we loved every minute.
2018 saw us visit 13 different countries (6 new ones), taking 18 flights, 6 ferries and countless train, bus and car journeys. Here’s a quick rundown of 2018 – the places we visited and the top three things to do in each place.
We started the new year in Basel, Switzerland. It was our first visit to lovely Switzerland and we very much doubt it will be our last. We already have a list of other cities we want to visit. We wandered along the Rhine and admired the beautiful architecture. With numerous museums, shops, bars and restaurants there was more than enough to keep us occupied for 5 days. If you plan to visit for New Year’s Eve it’s important to remember that the celebratory fireworks are not set off until 12.30am with the best views across the city being from the Basel Munster (Minster).
Next up was another new country for us – Poland. We visited Gdańsk in the early new year when the last of the winter snow was still on the ground. We enjoyed learning about the history of the city and how it was completely destroyed during and subsequently rebuilt after World War II. With their colourful facades, the buildings are beautiful, as are the numerous churches that are dotted around the city. Also, as it was a new country for us we took the opportunity to try a number of delicious local Polish delicacies especially Pierogi (little dumplings) – yum!
Gouda, The Netherlands
After a cancelled trip to Lithuania in February because of the ill health of a close relative, in March we headed back to one of our most visited countries – The Netherlands. This time we headed to the great little town of Gouda. As lovers of stroopwafels, visiting the home of their origin and seeing how they are made was a personal highlight. However, no visit to Gouda would be complete without indulging in a big Gouda fondue – it is the stuff dreams are made of. Unfortunately, we missed out on the cheese market which is open between April and October.
At the beginning of May, we headed north to Bonny Scotland, Edinburgh to be precise. Even though we have both been to Edinburgh numerous times we have never really done the touristy thing. Therefore, during this visit, we hit the Grassmarket, Royal Mile, Princess Street and Holyrood Park to name but a few. We admired Edinburgh Castle and we indulged in mid-afternoon ice cream. Edinburgh is great and we are glad that we got the opportunity to visit, especially as we were staying at one of, if not the best luxury hotel in the city complete with in-room hot tub – the Nira Caledonia.
Every year we visit somewhere different for our birthdays. May saw Mr ESLT take Vicky to Turin in Italy. As Italy is our favourite countries it was great to return and visit a new city. We were lucky to have great weather (the majority of the time), see some great buildings and architecture, eat amazing authentic food and Mr ESLT even got to visit the Allianz Stadium – home of Juventus. Turin is also a chocolate lovers haven and we took a chocolate tour – visiting a number of chocolate shops in the city including Café Al Bicerin famous for selling the yummy chocolate, coffee and cream drink.
In June we visited Oslo in Norway (a new country for Vicky and a new Norwegian city for Mr ESLT) to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary. We really enjoyed our visit to Oslo, especially the walking tour we did around the bohemian neighbourhood of Grünerløkka and the city walking tour, at least until Vicky fell and twisted her ankle! Oslo is an expensive city (as is the majority of Scandinavia) where you receive very little change from a tenner for a pint. Therefore, if you are planning on visiting, it’s important to budget accordingly. However, there are a few free things to see and do too.
The Hague, The Netherlands
At the end of June, Vicky headed for the second time in 2018 to The Netherlands – this time to The Hague. She had the pleasure of watching the end of the Volvo Ocean Race in the harbour at Scheveningen (the seaside side of the city) from a press rib. It was one of the scariest yet most exhilarating experiences ever. Scheveningen is a lovely place, especially during the summer months when the seafront bars are up and open for business. Vicky only got to spend a few hours in the city side of The Hague and would love to return very soon with Mr ESLT in tow.
Montenegro, Albania & Croatia, The Balkans
July saw us head to The Balkans for two weeks. We spent time in Montenegro (especially Budva), Albania and Dubrovnik in Croatia. Montenegro and Albania were new countries for us both, Vicky had however visited Split in Croatia before. The weather everywhere was fantastic and we ensured that we factored in some (much needed) pool and relaxation time. We even met up with Mr ESLT’s brother in Dubrovnik which was great fun – we went up in the cable cars, we took a boat trip and walked the city walls. If you plan to visit in July, prepare yourself – it was bloody boiling!
Following August at home taking full advantage of England’s heatwave, we headed to Germany to celebrate Mr ESLT’s birthday. Vicky’s cousin joined us. The great weather had certainly followed us, as it was glorious the whole time we were in the city. We took a walking tour and a brewery tour, learning loads about Munich and the history of its beer along the way. As we visited the week before Oktoberfest, all the bars had the special 6.6% beer on tap. Needless to say, we certainly enjoyed a stein or ten (accompanied by local sausages) in between visiting the local fairytale castles.
Salzburg & Hallstatt, Austria
From Munich, we then jumped on the Flixbus and made the two-hour journey to the fairytale city of Salzburg in Austria (yet another new country). We spent three days exploring the beautiful city and yet again drinking quite a lot of beer. We took a boat trip and a hop on hop off bus tour together with visiting the castle which sits high above the city and offers wonderful views of the city below. While in Salzburg we also took an organised tour to the picture-perfect town of Hallstatt. We spent an afternoon gawping at the breathtaking scenery. We only wish we had stayed longer and would return in a heartbeat.
Genoa, Portofino & Cinque Terre, Italy
In October we returned to Italy and ticked somewhere off our bucket list that had been on there for a very long time – Cinque Terre. We flew into and out of the city of Genoa, a great city on the west coast of the country. We used it as a base to explore the local area. Using public transport we headed to Portofino – which is small but perfectly formed and as just mentioned – Cinque Terre. We spent the day hopping from one town to another by boat. Even though it was mid-October the weather was fantastic and it was great to get some late summer sun in preparation for a long cold winter.
Weimar, Dessau & Berlin, Germany
October was a busy month for Vicky as it also saw her visit Weimar for the Incoming and Brand Summit 2018 with the German National Tourist Office to learn all about how Germany will be celebrating 100 years of Bauhaus in 2019 and how the movement has influenced many products and buildings both in Germany and many other places around the world. Following Weimar, she also visited Dessau which is home to the iconic Bauhaus building followed by one of her favourite cities – Berlin. It was an opportunity for her to indulge in one of her passions architecture and design.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
December then saw Vicky head on an annual girl’s weekend to The Netherlands (her third visit of the year), this time to Amsterdam. Having visited Amsterdam ten times, she has done many of the touristy things that the city has to offer. Therefore, this visit was extremely chilled out. Considering it was December the weather was phenomenal and even allowed for al fresco afternoon beers. Amsterdam is a busy city and during the summer months it can be unbearable, therefore if you haven’t had the opportunity to visit Amsterdam yet we would recommend taking a winter break initially.
The last trip of the year was to Leuven in Belgium to celebrate Mr ESLT’s dad’s 75th birthday. Together with Mr ESLT’s brother, step mum and of course dad we bobbed across the North Sea on a P&O ferry from our hometown of Hull to see what the city had to offer. Famous for Stella Artois, we, of course, did a brewery tour and sampled some of the good stuff. As we visited in December we also visited the Christmas market and indulged in some Christmassy and local treats – sausages, waffles, Cecemel with Baileys etc. We all had a wonderful time and it was great hanging out with the family.
This year we also took a number of staycations closer to home. We love packing the car up and heading to somewhere wonderful in the UK. Here’s a rundown of the ones we took in 2018.
2019 – The Year Ahead
2019 is going to be a very different year for us as travel will not be our priority. Instead, starting a family will be. We started the road to adoption early in 2018 and have recently, after a number of twists and turns, been told that we will (hopefully) be attending the approval panel in April 2019. Therefore, we are currently prepping our house and our lives to welcome a little one into our lives. That’s not to say we won’t be travelling at all (we already have a trip to New York in January planned and hopefully a trip to Muscat in February on the cards). However, our foreign jaunts will more than likely be replaced by more staycations – which is fine by us – it’s all about priorities, right?
So how was your 2018? Where did you go? Also, do you have any plans for 2019 yet? We’d love to know where you are heading!
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