Tour du Mont Blanc

2017 Travel Highlights

I had a bumper year of travel highlights in 2017, visiting three continents and nine countries: Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Switzerland, Croatia, Italy and France.  I was lucky to not only to explore so many new destinations, but also revisit some old favourites.  It was easy to rediscover the beauty, charm and adventure of the world during the year.  So it is pretty hard to limit this list to only ten, but here goes: My favourite 10 travel experiences from the last 12 months.

1. Hiking New Zealand’s forests

In between all the Christmas and New Year madness, one of my favourite things was being able to escape into the lush rich green New Zealand forest and enjoy the beauty.  I was reminded that there’s no place like home, and New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world.  How lucky we are! We had stunning weather, and it was gorgeous in the bush, just us and the birds.  The perfect antidote for the silly season.

Old Coach Road, New Zealand

Coming through the forest…

2. Luang Prabang

I was completely charmed by this small town in Laos.  I loved the quiet little village with its Royal Palace and gold painted temples.  Being able to visit somewhere that had long been on my wish list was very exciting.  Rising before dawn to walk the quiet streets of Luang Prabang and watch the monks as they quietly collected alms at sunrise was very special.  It was a great way to start the new year.  The delicious food was an added bonus!

Luang Prabang

Monks collecting alms. Dog looking for whatever he can!

3. Sunrise over Bagan

Bagan is an amazing place all by itself – hundreds and hundreds of temples make a beautiful sight.  Most nights we would climb a temple and watch the sun set, while the sky turned the most amazing colours – every shade from pink, to purple, yellow, orange and even deep blue.  However the highlight was definitely a sunrise balloon ride.  Even a 4.30am wake up call didn’t detract from my excitement.  Floating peacefully above the temples, looking down at the villages below while the sun came up was absolutely gorgeous.

Bagan, Myanmar

Magnificent sunset

4. Inle Lake

At first it seemed like a sleepy little lakeside village, but after a few days exploring it became clear that this was a buzzing network of communities.  We visited the market which gave us an insight into the many diverse ethnic groups who gather here to sell their products and stock up for the week ahead.  Then we visited some of the industrious artisan villages – silver makers, weavers, boat builders, cigar makers to name but a few.  At the end of each busy day, it felt luxurious to relax by the pool with a cocktail in hand at our sumptuous accommodation.  My time at Inle Lake was a definite highlight!

Inle Lake

Fisherman, Inle Lake

5. Kalaw hiking

We were blessed with perfect weather – sunny and mild – which make this short hike in Kalaw even more memorable.  However weather aside, the stunning views and the ability to get a behind the scenes glimpse into rural life in Myanmar as we walked through the villages made this a hike to remember.  Experiencing the culture and diversity of these friendly Burmese people, including an overnight stay in a monastery, was very special.

Kalaw, Myanmar

Trekking views….amazing!

6. Rome

I just love this city.  Around every corner in Rome is a surprise – a gracious plaza, crumbling buildings, a beautiful aristocratic house with a wall of ivy, or a majestic church or monument,.  It oozes atmosphere.  Careening around the city and seeing it all from the back of a scooter was exhilerating.  I had so much fun in this wonderful city!

Ancient Rome

7. Dubrovnik

Back in 1998 I was on my way to visit Croatia and Dubrovnik in a van as we travelled around Europe.  However our plans went awry after our pasports were stolen and we instead had to get to Rome for replacements.  Yet getting to Dubrovnik and seeing the beautifully preserved walled city for myself has always remained on my wish list.  I was delighted to finally make it there!  I was blown away by this gorgeous city, not to mention the brilliant cerulean sea, the lush emerald green islands…..and did I mention the wineries?

Dubrovnik

Magnificent views over Dubrovnik

8. The Tour du Mont Blanc

The Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the world’s great hikes, and having completed this for myself it’s not hard to understand why.  The views are absolutely stunning, and it is magical walking with the Mont Blanc massif looming above us.  There was also a satisfying sense of achievement at the end of each day’s hike.  No matter how challenging it had been, it felt fantastic.  I met some wonderful people, enjoyed spectacular views, and I loved every minute of it.

Tour du Mont Blanc

Happy at the top on the final day!

9. Lucerne

How pretty is Lake Lucerne! The lake, the mountains, and the old town centre made this a very easy place to spend a few days and recuperate after the hike.  I went for a run along the shores of the lake, got lost in the cobbled streets, and explored the beautiful old buildings – the old wooden bridges like the Kapellbrücke built around 1365, the Musegg wall and towers which form part of the ramparts built in the 14th century to protect the city.  And then when I needed a break I sat on the balcony in my gorgeous hotel room, enjoying the views over the lake to the mountains.  Life sure is good!

Lucerne Switzerland

Views from my balcony over Lake Lucerne

10. The Vatican & St Peter’s

Visiting the Vatican, and in particular seeing a number of beautiful art works that I had studied many years ago at school was very special.  In particular Raphael’s School of Athens was stunning to see for myself.  The colours were bright and vivid, and my memories of art history lessons came flooding back.

However it was La Pieta in St Peter’s Basilica that truly took my breath away.  The famous Michelangelo sculpture was completed when he was just 24 years old, and depicts a young Virgin Mary with the body of Christ after his crucifixion. I’ve always thought it is one of the most beautiful pieces ever.  I’ll leave you with the description of La Pieta by the art historian and biographer, Vasari: “It is certainly a miracle that a formless block of stone could ever have been reduced to a perfection that nature is scarcely able to create in the flesh.”

Vatican City

La Pieta, by Michelangelo

So that was it, a busy year in every way. I feel extraordinarily lucky to have experienced and travelled so far. I am reminded of all time favourite quote:

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharlal Nehru

Here’s to many more adventures and a happy and prosperous 2018 to everyone!

Comments
2 Responses to “2017 Travel Highlights”
  1. Looks like it has been a great year. I have to say that Luang Prabang is just a fantastic place and I’ve been there a couple times and was really lucky to have gone there quite early before the tourism explosion has hit the town. Back then it so quiet and serene it was the perfect place to spend a quiet week to recharge the batteries.

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