2012 was a banner year of travel for Mr. TWS and me. Earlier I posted about some of the memorable people I met along the way in my Faces and Places 2012 post. Now, I thank Michael at Strux Travel for asking me to share my best travel experiences of the year in the categories he chose below. It was difficult to select one favorite out of so many memorable trips, local and far away, so I cheated a little. These selections are at least one of my favorites in each category of Best Travel 2012.
One of the Best International Destinations
Where else can you sip fine wines and munch on culinary delights prepared by the 2nd best restaurant in the world in a castle after being entertained by people creating human castles in the Catalan tradition? We were wined, dined, entertained and enlightened at the TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) Conference in Girona in September and hosted by Visit Costa Brava. After the conference, we got to enjoy even more of this beautiful region of northeast Spain for several more days, including some time in romantic Barcelona and on the Mediterranean coast in the land of Salvador Dali. It was our first time in Spain and it will not be the last.
One of the Best Domestic Destinations
That’s right! Milwaukee, the highly underrated city 80 miles north of Chicago. Of course, I’m not totally objective since I’ve got a sentimental reason to like Milwaukee — Mr. TWS and I met there. Back when I lived there it was a city with many strong points and now I find out that it’s gotten even better. Although we’ve spent some time in Milwaukee over the years as a quick stopover before heading from Chicago to my in-laws place in northern Wisconsin we got to spend a very fun night and day in June getting to know a few new things about Milwaukee and enjoying a few old favorite spots: Summer festivals on the lake (the most popular being Summerfest as well as many ethnic festivals); walks, rollerblading and bike rides along the lake; new riverside restaurants and fun bars with outdoor dining; and a world class art museum.
One of the Best Local Destinations
Livermore Valley, California
As I’ve said and written many times before: I am so lucky to live in the San Francisco Bay Area where there is never a shortage of excellent day trips or weekend getaways. In 2012, I was particularly impressed with the Livermore Valley and the town of Livermore, a short drive from the San Francisco Peninsula to the other side of the bay. It is an area that hadn’t been on our radar during the time we’ve lived here. What a wonderful surprise we found when we decided to head there on a rainy Saturday and explore. We enjoyed several wineries, scenic rural vistas, and delicious food in a pleasant, welcoming atmosphere much less busy than the more famous wine areas of Napa and Sonoma.
This Actually Was the Overall Best Travel 2012 Experience
December in Germany and Austria
Our early December trip to Germany and Austria was definitely the overall best experience for several reasons. The European Christmas Markets were in full swing, we visited a new country and several new cities, walked in Mozart’s footsteps, climbed cathedral towers, met nice people, and ate hearty meals. Best of all, this was one of the few trips during which Mr. TWS did not work!
Best Travel Lesson
Houston, Texas is a hot town in summer! You need to stay out of the sun and hydrate. That sounds pretty obvious, especially for someone who has traveled quite a lot and knows about hot and humid weather (since I’m originally from Chicago). But I found myself walking though Houston’s business district at midday on a blistering hot day in June feeling the heat radiate from the pavement and the towering office buildings all around me. I only had a short distance to get back to the hotel, but it felt like miles.
So now we’re off and traveling in 2013 already. Mazatlan, Mexico is next on the agenda! Where are you headed next?