This has been a jam-packed travel year for me, but you won’t hear any complaints. The more, the merrier, as far as I’m concerned, because I collect new countries/hotels/experiences like a madwoman! By rough count, 2017’s travel adventures included: five new countries; visits to and/or tours of more than twenty all-inclusive resorts; three trips to Mexico; my first river cruise; three fabulous travel conferences (two of which I spoke at); and a handful of new luxury hotels in fun US destinations.
If that sounds overwhelming, it kind of is. But out of the whirlwind that was this past year, a few highlights stand out:
Favorite hotel: The Jefferson, Richmond VA
I’ve probably been to Richmond a dozen times at this point, as my son is a student at the University of Richmond, but we typically stay at branded chain hotels near campus. This October we treated ourselves to a long weekend at The Jefferson, a five-star hotel in a grand, old historic building in the center of the city. Everything about this property was on point — the service, the rooms, the food, the location, the atmosphere – I simply could not find a single thing that I would change or improve. Very rare indeed!
Favorite all-inclusive resort: Le Blanc, Cancun
Three visits to Mexico in one year (and more than a dozen properties visited) can leave a bit of a blur in my mind, but Le Blanc stands out clearly. It has everything that I look for in a resort: a fabulous beach, a decadent spa, gourmet food, impeccable service, spacious rooms, serene décor, and no children, LOL. (don’t get me wrong…I love children, I have children, but when I want some “me” time at a tropical resort, I don’t want to be surrounded by children.)
Most intriguing city: Salzburg, Austria
By intriguing, I mean that I’m longing to return. We had just the briefest taste of Salzburg on my November river cruise, and it left me hungry for more. More time to wander the pedestrian-friendly streets, nibble on pastries in a café, hike my way up to the fortress, and soak up the Medieval and Baroque architecture. Plus, I didn’t get to see a single hotel! Reason enough to go back.
Most beautiful scenery: Azores, Portugal
For me, the Azores is the very definition of a love/hate relationship. I absolutely LOVED the islands, with their jaw-dropping scenery, natural wonders, fresh seafood, delicious wine, and friendly people. But the process of getting there (and back) was unbearable. What should be so simple – a five-hour hop from Providence to Sao Miguel — turned into a days-long journey of cancelled flights, cattle-car conditions, last-minute changes, and drives back and forth to Boston. If I could click my heels and transport myself back there I would. But until then, I’m not in a hurry to try SATA Airlines again.
Biggest surprise: Munich, Germany
Sometimes, the very best thing you can do is to visit a place without any plans, expectations, or pre-conceived notions. This is exactly what happened with Munich! We had just one night there (maybe 24 hours in total) in November, and all I had done in advance was to book a room at the Sofitel Munich Bayerpost (which we loved!) We strolled through the city center, watched the vendors set up their Christmas market stalls, drank some delicious beer, ate some delicious German food, wandered into a fascinating museum, took lots of photos, and absolutely had a ball. I would go back again in a heartbeat!
Newfound love: River cruising
Do you ever worry that an experience (or a place, or a restaurant, etc.) simply CAN’T possibly live up to the hype and the expectation? I do! And I was a little bit afraid that I was dooming myself to be let down with my big 50th birthday river cruise, simply because I was looking forward to it so much. Silly me. If anything, it was even better than I hoped! The food was amazing, the service blew my mind, the ports were fascinating, and the whole experience could not have been more fun. It’s a great way to see Europe, without any stress, and I cannot wait to do it again!