A Wonderful Year of Travel

I feel very fortunate that I was able to travel as much as I did in 2011.

I reached new destinations, revisited favorite cities, explored my local area, took a sentimental road trip, met fellow travel bloggers in Vancouver, left a few stories in Vegas, and fell in love with a country!

Heidelberg, Germany

Many thanks to Norbert Figueroa of Globotreks for nominating me to share some of those experiences in the Best of Travel 2011 series. This blogging project was created by Jeremy Branham of Budget Travel Adventures who chose the topics below.

Best Domestic Travel Destination

New York City is always a winner for me with something new to see and experience each time I’m there. In March, I spent a week taking in different museums, restaurants and neighborhoods that I had not visited before. I also don’t tire of my favorite activities and places, such as walking in Central Park or along Fifth Avenue, hanging out at Rockefeller Center and seeing a Broadway play. On this trip, I saw Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones starring in Driving Miss Daisy.

New York City

Best Travel Experience

I have to cheat and list two experiences. One was a solo desert road trip and the other a magical time in Prague that I was able to share with my husband.

Kelbaker Road, Mojave Desert

My solo drive to Phoenix in October was in many respects a sentimental journey for me. Even when I was a child on road trips with my family, I loved the desert — the heat, the silence, the mystery of it all. As an adult, I’d also taken a few road trips through the same parts of the California and Arizona deserts with my father en route to visit family in Phoenix.

Christmas Market from the tower of Old Town Hall, Prague

Ah, Prague! This city had been on my list of new cities to see for many years — long before it became a popular tourist destination. My first night there really felt magical. By chance, we were at the National Museum on Wenceslas Square as a performance by the Prague String Soloists’ Chamber Ensemble was beginning on the landing of the grand marble staircase. From there, we strolled through the Christmas Market at Old Town Square sipping hot mulled wine, eating a pastry called “trdelník”and listening to traditional Czech carols. Surrounded by sparkling decorations and Old Town’s Gothic and Baroque buildings, everyone seemed filled with the holiday spirit.

Best International Destination

Germany! Until 2011, I’d only seen Germany from inside Frankfurt Main Airport while catching connecting flights and from airplane windows. Now I’ve had two separate trips there and can’t wait to go back. I might possibly be in love, actually.

Hamburg, Germany

I’ve now visited Cologne, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Berlin, Heidelberg, Lübeck and a few other cities along the Deutsche Bahn railway system, each place with its own appeal. But I felt a special affection for beautiful Hamburg on my first trip in June and was excited to return in December. I met friendly people; enjoyed festive Christmas Markets; had my favorite dinner in Germany (roast duck and potato dumplimg at Restaurant Franziskaner), walked many miles along the canals, Binnenalster (Inner Alster lake) and the Elbe River; and visited fun and interesting museums such as Miniatur Wunderland.

Worst Travel Experience

I can’t say that I’ve had any really terrible experiences in 2011. Of course, there have been flight delays, some below average food experiences, minor disappointments and a few unpleasant people along the way. But there was nothing that tarnished the travel experience for me. In fact, it was one of my best travel years ever. Here’s hoping I can say the same at the end of 2012!

Most Embarrassing Travel Moment

Although I’m no stranger to embarrassment, in 2011 I avoided any major incidents. However, the topic has brought to mind a couple of stories. The first involves my meandering through the streets of Amsterdam in June without a guide book or map. I kept accidentally finding myself on the same street of brothels with red awnings in the red light district. I eventually bought a map.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

The second is one of those embarrassing moments that I’d like to forget and actually am reluctant to admit. I was in a bit of a panic at the Hamburg airport when I thought I had lost my purse. I drew some attention to myself as I frantically searched for the missing bag until I finally remembered that I had already consolidated it into my carry-on. I was glad to find the purse, but embarrassed nonetheless by causing a stir. In my defense, it was extremely early in the morning — before coffee.

Best Local Destination

Now this is difficult to nail down to one destination. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and there are so many options — scenery, food, wine, history, hiking and more — and this year I took advantage of many of them. But the wine country of Napa and Sonoma counties has a special place in my heart. I had a great day traveling around Napa with Dave Thompson of Dave’s Travel Corner in May and getting a rare insider’s look at a small, but exceptional winery, Tedeschi Family Vineyards. Here I “helped out” in the vineyard by tucking the vines and enjoyed tasting wines with owner, Emil Tedeschi.

Tedeschi Winery - Courtesy of D. Thompson

Best Travel Lesson

Be careful about being over-confident. As a frequent traveler, I enjoy serendipitous excursions and taking walks in random directions. I often ride the public transit systems, sometimes without a particular destination in mind. However, there are occasions when it just makes sense to do a little basic planning. If I had read the S-Bahn system map in Berlin, I wouldn’t have casually jumped off the train mistakenly thinking I must be fairly close to my destination and would walk the rest of the way. It was dark, I was alone and I was much further away than I thought. Since I needed to be somewhere at a particular time, this was a foolish thing to do. In some circumstances, it might have even been unsafe. Luckily, I did encounter very nice people (always a fun part of traveling) as they tried to point me in the right direction. Nevertheless, I was relieved when I finally came in sight of the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz near my hotel.

Sony Center, Berlin

2011 was filled with many great travel memories for me. I hope you’ll spend some time on my site to read more about them and come back again to follow my travels and share your perspectives in 2012. Happy New Year!

Now it’s my turn to nominate a few of my favorite bloggers to share their stories in the Best of Travel 2011 series.

Angela of Chasing the Unexpected
Sabrina of Country Skipper
Leigh of Hike Bike Travel
Abby of The Jungle Princess
John of The French Way Blog

Here is a link to the rules for the Best of Travel 2011 series.


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47 thoughts on “A Wonderful Year of Travel

  1. Adrian B.

    You had a lot of wonderful travel experiences in 2011, Cathy – I’m happy for you and I hope that 2012 will exceed your expectations. Have a happy, healthy and awesome new year!

  2. Jeremy Branham

    Christmas markets in Prague – how fun that must have been! Believe it or not, I’ve not spent much time in Napa. When it comes to local destinations, I need to explore that are a little more although I prefer Sonoma over Napa. Great list of adventures and lessons learned this year Cathy! Thanks for participating and best of luck to more adventures in 2012!

    1. Cathy Post author

      Both Napa and Sonoma are awesome, but I have more sentimental attachment to Sonoma. It’s also got a whole different feel to it. Thanks for starting this project — I’ve been enjoying it.

  3. Linda

    Lovely to walk down your memory lane with you, Cathy. Thanks for sharing the experiences.

    Oddly, or perhaps not, I had just that same experience in Amsterdam, around 30 years ago – clearly nothing changes!

    1. Cathy Post author

      That is interesting about your Amsterdam experience. I was getting kind of worried that people would start thinking the wrong thing 🙂

  4. Abby

    I went to Heidelberg last year — I loved it! My mom went to the Prague Christmas market this year. I am so jealous. 🙂 And so, so happy you had a great time in NYC. 🙂

    1. Cathy Post author

      Heidelberg was a real treat. Loved visiting the schloss and taking a boat ride on the Neckar. I wonder if we might have come across your mom in Prague. 🙂 Such a great Christmas Market at Old Town Square.

  5. Gladys | ByahengBarok.com

    great read on your trips for 2011. i really, really wish i could go to New York. my son would love that. i smiled when i read about your embarrassing moment, causing a stir over a lost purse. i did something slightly similar to that when i also thought i also my bag in Thailand. LOL. happy new year!

  6. jade

    What an exciting travel year, indeed! I have always wanted to go to Prague, Bob has already been, and really love what you said about your time with your husband. I think getting too confident while traveling is a very important lesson, and I’ve actually put my purse into my carry on and my camera bag and thought I lost both one time… super embarrassing when I called the police over. Felt like an idiot!!

  7. Norbert

    Wow, you had such a great year in travel! New York, Prague, Germany, San Francisco, Amsterdam… you were a busy bee! Oh, and let’s not forget Vancouver!!!
    I actually laughed when reading about “losing” your purse… I know how that feels!

    1. Cathy Post author

      That’s right — I didn’t want to leave Vancouver out! And I’m looking forward to Keystone in June — hope to see you there.

  8. Turkey's For Life

    Glad Germany has stuck in your mind Cathy. I always feel it doesn’t get the attention it deserves – although that probably makes for a better travel experience for the foreign visitor. 🙂 We’ve been to a few places in Germany now and have always had a great time. Great to hear you had a good 2011. Hope your 2012 is as good!! 🙂

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