Each year brings new travel destinations, places of wonder that really capture your heart. As the year draws to an end, I wanted to look back and reflect on my travel highlights of 2018 before the new year.
If you read my post 2017: The Happiest Year, you will know one: it was my happiest year, I got engaged and saw Guns n Roses live so two: it was going to be hard pushed for events this year to ever top those experiences. But as both were personal experiences, this year I really had the chance to really become the travel blogger I want to be.
In 2018 I really felt like a travel blogger. One at least that manages to travel to different countries and locations whilst balancing a full-time office job. The accommodation I stayed at in 2018 were all places that fit the affordable luxury vibe, my own style of trip and fits the feel of The Life of a Social Butterfly. And yes, I am now the proud owner of similar geometrical bedding!
I visited 8 countries in 2018. I know I could have squeezed in a few more but I’m really pleased I managed to visit 8! Here they are:
Not only that, but my trips to Italy and The Netherlands were press trips where my flights, accommodation and related costs were covered by the brands. Following my initial work with both Visit Holland and Bookings For You, they invited me to visit The Netherlands & Italy once more so I got to visit these countries on multiple occasions. A real win-win situation for a travel blogger, as not only do I get to explore new places and try new experiences, I get to share content I love that brings awareness to a destination which is beneficial to a brand. I feel like all those years writing detailed travel reviews and recommendations on TripAdvisor (the reason for me starting the blog) are starting to pay off. I’ve always loved writing and sharing my travel experiences so being able to work with brands doing what I love is incredible.
I was so honoured to come runner-up in the ‘Best Online Article’ category at the 2018 Visit Holland Awards for my festive shopping in Den Bosch post. I may not have travelled as far and wide as other travel bloggers out there, but I’m really chuffed with my achievements and collaborations this year.
Anyway, enough of tooting my own horn (someone’s got to)…here’s a recap of the destinations I visited. Here are my 2018 travel highlights…
Despite being on my doorstep, France is somewhere I have never properly explored and I’m not sure why. I love the simple elegance of the French and I do love a French accent! I hope to visit the lavender fields of Provence and meander the small French towns on future trips but first I needed to see areas everyone else has seen.
One of my first trips with my fiancé Adam was to Paris around fifteen years ago and in our naivety we hadn’t quite anticipated just how big Paris is. We found ourselves staying near Disneyland, paying over €100 euros a time for taxis and spending an absolute fortune without seeing iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower. This year we planned a romantic getaway to Paris to see all that we missed out on the first time around.
I was gifted a free one night stay at The Hoxton Paris (I’d always wanted to stay in a Hoxton Hotel), which was around a 20 minute walk to The Eiffel Tower. The Hoxton is a uniquely designed hotel that lives and breathes affordable luxury. The quirky features, welcoming public areas and cosy, yet elegant design of the hotel is something that really resonates as a visitor.
Nothing quite prepares you for seeing the Eiffel Tower twinkling come nightfall and I can now see why Paris is such a romantic getaway for couples.
I was in my element seeing Notre Dame Cathedral and tucking into warm French onion soup with oodles of cheese in a cute Parisian bistro (not so much escargot). Especially, as it was absolutely freezing during our trip in February. I even tried some escargot (snails), when in France and all that…Let’s just say, snails are better left in the garden!
But our trip wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. We were almost mugged twice during our time in Paris and it was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. Nonetheless, we still enjoyed our time in Paris and you can read all about the Paris trip in my France archives or by clicking the links to the blog posts below:
- From Paris with Love: A Guide to Visiting Paris for the First Time
- Food in Paris: A Restaurant Guide From French Delicacies to Rustic Charm
- Parisian Chic: A Hotel Stay at the Hoxton Paris
Another popular destination I was yet to visit was Italy. One thing I knew for sure is that I do love Italian food, gimme all the pasta and pizza! How had I not visited sooner…
My first taste of Italy was in February when I was invited by Jo from Bookings to You to her beautiful home in Surrey for an Italian cooking masterclass with the Giovannini family. The family had flown all the way from Tuscany, bringing an array of ingredients from their home in Volterra.
Following this experience, I have not stopped harping on about the most delicious wild boar I ate during the masterclass, cooked and prepared by the family. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it and I am seriously thinking of marrying Adam at their villa Country Relais & Spa La Capanne just so I can taste the boar one more time!
I took my best friend Yvette along with me and, when we weren’t exploring the pretty towns of Ostuni, Locorotondo and the trulli houses of Alberobello, we were relaxing in the rooftop hot tub soaking up the sunshine and beauty of our surroundings.
A real pinch-me-moment and a milestone trip for me, I must once again thank Bookings For You & Raro Villas for this experience. Not only was it my first time staying in a villa (I’m definitely a convert), it was also my first driving a car abroad on the other side of the road. Skills that luckily I didn’t lose when I was invited back to Italy with Bookings For You later in the year, this time to explore Lake Maggiore.
Lakeside views and sun-drenched skies, it is no wonder the Italian Riviera is so popular with celebrities. I had the opportunity to stay in the lesser known and more peaceful area of the Italian Lakes, Lake Maggiore at the Golfo Gabella Resort.
Highlights from this trip have to be exploring the beautiful Borromean Islands, braving the bucket lifts (they’re damn scary) and our road trip (putting my driving skills to good use) to nearby Switzerland (another country I got to briefly visit this year.)
Riding around on the mountain top rollercoaster and splashing around on the water slides in Switzerland made me feel like a big kid and I loved every minute! I’ll be sharing more about my whistlestop visit to Switzerland in an upcoming post.
Undeniably, one of the things I still love most about Italy is the food and the culinary experiences I’ve had on these trips have left me with a hunger to explore more of Italy. Click the links below to read my Italy posts:
- Italian Lakes: The Best Attractions & Things to Do in Lake Maggiore
- Italian Food: Cooking Masterclass in Maccagno, Lake Maggiore
- Things to do in the Italian Riviera: Braving the Bucket Lifts of Lake Maggiore
- Italian Lakes: Holiday at Golfo Gabella Resort, Lake Maggiore
- What to Wear in Northern Italy in September/October
- A Taste of Southern Italy: Cuisine & Food Heritage Typical of Puglia
- Puglia: Exploring Pretty Towns of Ostuni, Locorotondo & Trulli Houses of Alberobello
- La Dolce Vita: An Italian Retreat at Corte dei Massapi Villa in Puglia Italy
- Food of Love: Italian Cooking Masterclass
In 2017 I visited Croatia for the first time and I was blown away by Dubrovnik. This holiday is one of mine and Adam’s favourites and we knew we had to return.
This time around we headed to the small island of Korčula, known as “mini Dubrovnik” and meaning we could enjoy a taste of the things we loved about Dubrovnik whilst exploring a new destination.
I will be sharing more about Korčula to include this poolside hotel, a secret bar with a ladder up to a turret and a phallic looking surprise dessert.
Intrigued about Dubrovnik, why not read my Croatia archives or click the links below:
If you know me well or have been reading the blog for a while you will know I frigging love Greek food. Why oh why there are no Greek restaurants in my hometown of Milton Keynes is beyond me…
Adam and I booked a week in Greece mainly due to the fact we were craving our favourite Greek food specialities. This time we were visiting the island of Zakynthos, better known as Zante to us Brits. Zante is a destination I have toyed about visiting for a while. Its party island reputation does not hold any appeal to me and is one of the main reasons I’ve previously been put off visiting. Though, the shipwreck beach and indigenous loggerhead turtles this time around convinced me otherwise.
Zante did not disappoint and I wondered why we had not visited sooner. We stayed at the Hotel Papillon in Argassi, which is newly refurbished and as the hotel was still showing as a two-star following the refurb we got a cracking price too!
The community spirit in Argassi is evident not only from the locals but from the holidaymakers that choose to visit every year. There is even a Zante Argassi Lovers Facebook Page where people can share tips and recommendations from their own experiences. One tour company those in the group all rave about is Peter Tours and, after getting to see the turtles in their natural habitat following a tour organised by Michael, I am raving along with them.
Seeing the turtles was the highlight of our trip, when we wasn’t tucking into gyros, feta in the oven and saganaki…
You can read more about the turtles and the conflict between tourists in my post: Turtles, Tourists and Summer Mating on the Greek Island of Zante.
What can I say about The Netherlands since I visited for the first time in November 2017. The Netherlands is a country that continues to surprise me. Every city is completely different to the next and I want to explore them all.
Den Bosch is a traditional Dutch city with local retailers that really give a personal touch, perfect for a festive getaway.
The Hague is a place that captured my heart. The city by the sea has a young vibe with trendy boutiques and restaurants but retains its proud royal and political heritage. The Hague is most definitely an area I would like to explore more.
Eindhoven is a city of innovation, The Netherlands technological hub. Eindhoven city recently held the event Glow Eindhoven in which the city comes alive at night. I was mesmerised following the event on social media and I’d love to visit next year.
Similarly to The Hague, Rotterdam is a big favourite of mine and I want to return in 2019. The city is so modern compared to other areas I’ve visited, with bold cube houses, colourful streets and beautiful murals/street art. Rotterdam has a story to tell and I was fascinated to learn that the city was rebuilt following World War II. I wrote about it in my blog post: Rotterdam – Old Town Values in a City of Skyscrapers.
At Easter I visited the Keukenhof Tulip Gardens with my Mum and it was the perfect spring getaway. We also got the opportunity to stay and explore Haarlem. I only wished we had also explored the surrounding tulip gardens of Lisse.
I am so thankful of the opportunities I have had over the past year to work with Visit Holland to explore these cities.Whilst I am yet to visit Amsterdam myself, it still baffles me that people tend to only visit Amsterdam when they travel to The Netherlands as there is so much to see beyond Amsterdam. Personally, I would love to explore the castles, eat some Dutch cheese and head to a few Dutch music festivals (I love Tiesto & Garrix).
- The Best Things to See & Do as a Tourist in Rotterdam
- Rotterdam – Old Town Values in a City of Skyscrapers
- Exploring Eindhoven’s Innovative Restaurants & Retailers
- 24 Hour Spring Break at the Dutch Keukenhof Tulip Gardens
- Den Bosch at Night
- Festive Shopping in Den Bosch
- Fashion Find in The Hague
Iceland is one of those destinations that really captures your heart and is without a doubt my ultimate travel highlight of 2018.
I’ve always favoured hot locations over cold and as I hate being cold ‘Iceland’ wasn’t initially one of my top destinations to visit. Coupled with the fact that I’m not overly adventurous or sporty, I didn’t think I’d like Iceland. How wrong was I….
I was invited to stay at The Swan House Apartments in Reykjavík, beautifully designed boutique accommodation located in the heart of the city. Exactly the kind of accommodation I would book anyway…did you see the Lisboa Pessoa Hotel I stayed at in Lisbon…
The apartment was perfect for us with a comfy bed and a kitchenette that really helped us keep our costs down in Iceland. You can read more about The Swanhouse Apartments Reykjavík by clicking here.
If you are planning your first trip to Iceland, make sure you check out my post 11 Things to Know Before Visiting Iceland for the First Time.
I’m keeping this section about Iceland brief as I have so many posts I can’t wait to share in the New Year.
Stay tuned to read all about the waterfalls, driving in Iceland and how to save money when visiting Iceland to name a few posts coming soon!
Last and certainly not least, Adam and I jetted to Prague for another romantic getaway. Prague is fairytale destination that I’d been gazing at with wonder for a long time on Instagram and I knew I had to visit. I wasn’t disappointed, it really is like stepping into a fairytale. Gothic architecture, castles and quaint cobbled bridges make Prague the sweetest location for romance.
I will be sharing more about Prague, Switzerland, Korčula as well as share more Iceland content in the new year – you can sign up to the newsletter to ensure you do not miss these posts by clicking below:
One thing we can all be guilty of is not taking the time to explore more of our homeland. Whilst I had already visited Painswick in the Cotswolds, I had always wanted to stay at The Painswick and after picking up a bank holiday deal I got to do just that. Read about my Cotswolds Retreat at The Painswick by clicking here.
Nothing quite beats the peacefulness of being in the country.
In the spring, I was invited to stay at the Luma Concept Hotel in Hammersmith, West London an area of London I had never had the chance to explore. It was great to spend some time in London with my friend Ves.
2019 & Beyond
As a travel blogger, the bucket list is somewhat neverending. As it stands, Costa Rica is top of the bucket list along with Sri Lanka as the wildlife looks incredible. It has always been a dream of mine to visit an elephant sanctuary as elephants are my all time favourite animals. There may well be some plans in the pipeline to visit these destinations in 2019…watch this space…
You never know, I may even get my ass in gear and get married in 2019…the wild boar is calling me…!
New Zealand, Japan and Canada have been on my bucket list forever and it would be great to explore the vast landscapes of these countries in 2019. I want to see Hobbiton (huge LOTR fan right here), the beautiful blossom trees of Japan and the wonderful wilderness of Lake Banff and Lake Louise in Canada.
I want to continue exploring the U.K. and Europe to check out more UNESCO world heritage sites, as well as, romantic and colourful destinations.
I hope you enjoyed my 2018 travel highlights. Did you tick off any destinations from the bucket list this year? Where are you headed in 2019? Let me know by commenting below 🙂
Wishing you happy & healthy travels in 2019!
If you enjoyed this post or any of the destinations I visited in 2018 please share. Let’s inspire others to travel too 🙂
Check out my Real Reflection on 2020 post!