It’s always fun to look back at the year to see where you’ve been and to relive some of the moments. This year I didn’t move around as much as I had in the past because I was trying to get a one-year sabbatical approved from work, as I really want to have the experience of living in Portugal for a couple of months. So for most of the year, the trips I took were short trips from the East coast. It was not until October, did I manage to get my sabbatical approved for a year and off I went to Portugal.
Here are 10 of my favorite travel memories of 2017
10. Taking a Mud Bath at Totumo Volcano
I was in Cartagena for a week and this is a day trip you can sign up to do when you are there. You get in a minivan with a bunch of others who all want to take a mud bath together. The mud inside the volcano is said to have natural minerals good for your body. Inside the mud pit you feel weightless. It’s a messy, dirty and shameless experience, as it literally is messy, and you get dirty and you get real up close and personal with strangers. You can’t leave the experience without having smoother skin, a good laugh and a story to tell your friends.
9. Exploring the Delights of Quebec City
It was my mom’s first visit out east and so I took her to Quebec City for a visit. It was our first mother-daughter trip in a long time so I thought this was fitting, as Old Quebec City is charming and has an European vibe. On this trip, we also ventured out to the countryside to Île d’Orléans in hopes we would catch some fall foliage but no luck. What we loved most about Quebec City visit was the feeling like we were in Europe without leaving North America, getting to experience a little bit of the quaint countryside and the food. It tantalized our gourmet palettes.
8. Spontaneous Trip to Pedras Salgada Spa & Nature Park
In 2017 one of my goals is to find less visited wellness spots to visit. When I got to Portugal, I heard some locals talking about this Spa & Nature Park. I was out one night with a guy I just met and I mentioned it. And he said, “let’s go now!” So we did. The feeling of being in the middle of a forest, smelling the crisp fresh air and seeing stars that shine so brightly with someone you just met was exciting and incredible. It makes it a beautiful romantic getaway. For those who are curious, we enjoyed each other’s company but there was no romantic spark between us. I am grateful for the experience and the time we had together.
7. Veni Vidi Viñales Valley
For a quick long weekend trip, I went to Havana, Cuba. The city itself was colorful but I was really happy to take a day trip out to Viñales Valley to get away from the busy and congested Havana. The open landscape in Viñales Valley reminds you something of a Marlboro ad. It’s rugged, with fields of tobacco, mogotes – small hills with fairly flat tops. Even though it is tobacco region, I can’t deny the beauty of the landscape where you get to ride horses and explore caves.
6. Retreating in Muskoka
Muskoka is Ontario’s cottage country and there’s nothing like enjoying life with the people you love. It’s essential for our wellbeing and my friend and I spent a night there celebrating her new job offer, had fun on the lake – paddle-boated and canoed, and ended with a delicious meal with wine and more wine.
5. Chasing Waterfalls in Peneda Gerês National Park in Portugal
This national park is an untouched gem of Portugal. I explored Gerês on a tour with Oporto Adventures. We chased waterfalls, hiked through old Roman road that looked like you were trekking thru the Chronicles of Narnia, and went 4x4ing along hidden tracks to discover the untouched beauty of this region of Portugal. And this was just a taste. There’s so much more to see and I can’t wait to go back to discover more of this pristine area of Portugal.
4. Experiencing the Christmas Market in Prague
Prague has been on my bucket list for a good 10 years now and I finally had a chance to see it and was lucky enough to catch the start of the Christmas market season. With some new friends I met from the UK, we hit up the wooden huts, picked up some Christmas ornaments and trinkets and delighted our taste buds with market snacks and hot mulled wine. The other highlight in Prague was seeing Strahov Library. I geek out on beautiful libraries and bookstore and this one looks like the Beauty & Beast Library.
3. Visiting Sao Miguel
This was an unexpected bonus trip tacked on to my flight to Porto, Portugal. Azores airlines offers a free stopover to check out the Azores islands out in the middle of Atlantic. I chose Sao Miguel because it was the biggest island out the nine. This island is beautiful. From majestic mountains to pristine lakes, to thermal hot springs, it’s a dream for nature-lovers and anyone who is looking to unwind and recharge. It literally is the Hawaii of the Atlantic.
2. Tasting the Spring Water in Karlovy Vary
Tasting natural spring water is as exciting as wine tasting to me. Psychologically, I envision the water purifying my body and is a gift of eternal youth. Karlovy Vary is known to be the place to do this. It’s a spa town that’s about 2 hours outside of Prague. All along the old center of town you can find fountains of mineral water just gushing out waiting for you to sample and taste with your porcelain cup
1. Discovering More of Portugal
This was my second time in Portugal and am so grateful for the opportunity to discover more areas in this country. My family came to visit for a week and in introducing them to Portugal, I was able to uncover more cool sites like the Carmo Convent in Lisbon, new towns like Óbidos – a cute hilltop Medieval town, Amarante – a quaint little picturesque town that is obsessed with a certain type of phallic shape cake to exploring more areas outside of Central Porto like Foz and Matosinhos.
What were your favorite travel memories of 2017?