Florence

Our 16 Highlights of 2016

2016 was another great year of travel. Any year that I can spend time in Europe is always a good year. At the beginning of the year we had no plans in place but that soon changed. Join me as I belatedly look back on our four months away and the places we visited that make up our sixteen highlights of 2016.

Our 16 Highlights of 2016

Northern Ireland

Belfast won our hearts! I’m trying to put my finger on what specifically I loved about Belfast but it was a little bit of everything and a good dose of surprise. It’s a fun town, the food is fabulous, the bars buzzing and the sights interesting. Read about our fabulous Taste of Belfast Food Tour with Tour and Taste

The countryside is also magnificent. The drive from Belfast along the Causeway Coastal Route to Torr Head, the Rope Bridge at Carrick-a-Rede and on to the Giant’s Causeway was stunning. We could have easily spent longer in this part of the country.

 

Highlights of 2016: Torr Head

Looking back over Torr Head towards the town of Cushendun

Highlights of 2016:The Rope Bridge

The Rope Bridge at Carrick-a-Rede

Highlights of 2016: Giant's Causeway

The basalt blocks at Giant’s Causeway

 

 

Paros

Our love affair with the Greek Islands continued in 2016.
On Paros we stayed in the fishing village of Naoussa on the northern corner of the island.
By day we explored the island, it’s beaches and villages. By night we joined the party atmosphere in the cobbled streets of the village. The restaurants were fabulous.  Fresh seafood thrown on the grill, traditional Greek dishes, gourmet meals using local products….it was all there!

Highlights of 2016: Naoussa

Octopus drying in the fishing port of Naoussa

Highlights of 2016: Lefkes

The hill top town of Lefkes

Koufonisia

I debated over whether to share this one or not! For us, this tiny Cyclades island was bliss. It’s an island where only a few locals have cars, there’s no quad bikes to hire, and taking the local bus, boat or walking is the only way to get from one end of the island to the other. Not that it’s far. The stroll around the island to Koufonisia’s best beach, Pori Beach, takes just under an hour! You’re rewarded with a stunning bay of white sand and clear blue water overlooked by one of the island’s best restaurants to make sure you don’t miss your daily allowance of greek salad! If you’re looking for glamour, Koufonisia is not for you!

Highlights of 2016: Koufonisia

Town Beach in Koufonisia

Highlights of 2016: Greek Salad on Koufonisia

Greek salad at Kalofego

 

 

Mykonos

Mykonos has glamour but at the same time there’s something about Mykonos that keeps pulling us back. It’s crowded, it’s busy but it’s great! Join in the fun of the fabulous beach clubs such as Nammos, Skorpios and Jackie O or head to the other side of the island for Kiki’s, a small restaurant under the vines that’s looks over a gorgeous little beach! At night, head to town and watch the sun set at Little Venice.

Highlights of 2016: Mykonos

Little Venice on Mykonos

Highlights of 2016: Mykonos

Streets of Mykonos

Naples

Naples is a city on the move. The garbage in the street has disappeared, the buildings are being restored and a new metro is being built. There’s still chaos in Naples but that’s what you go to experience. The busy narrow streets of Spaccanapoli, the back streets of the old Spanish Quarter, the elegance of the Vomero….we loved it all

The museums and churches hide incredible treasures and of course there’s the food…..You can’t beat pizza in Naples.

Highlights of 2016: Pizza in Naples

Pizza from Da Michele

Highlights of 2016: Street life in Naples

Capri

Capri is magical. As day trippers we have always enjoyed the short time we’ve had on the island but until we stayed there, we didn’t realise how special it is. After the last boat leaves and the crowd diminishes, there’s nothing better than to sit in the piazzetta and watch the passing parade. You’ll be kept busy exploring different corners of the island. There’s great walks to take, beach clubs to try and delicious restaurants to eat at. You can also head to Anacapri and take the funicular for knockout views from Mount Solaro then wander through Villa Michele, the 20th century home of the Swedish physician and author Alex Munthe.  Of course if you haven’t seen it before, the Blue Grotto is probably calling your name! All in all it’s a fabulous summer holiday.

Highlights of 2016: Capri

Capri views

Highlights of 2016: Capri

Positano

Always a highlight, it was great to be back in Positano even if it was only a quick visit! We introduced our friends to this wonderful town with visits to Amalfi and Ravello, a day on the water exploring the coast and a delicious lunch at that well known lunch spot in the sun, Da Aldolfo! A week here is ideal but it’s interesting to see how much you can pack into three days if that is all you have!

Highlights of 2016: Positano

Positano

  Highlights of 2016: Positano

Rome

Rome is a city best walked around in the early morning. Take advantage of no one being around to wander the streets and see the sites uninterrupted! We happened to be back at the Pantheon when the doors opened so wandered inside. It was a completely new experience to enjoy this amazing building with only a handful of people around! The Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps were sparkling too after their recent restorations. Early morning was also the best time to visit St Peters. We had no plans to go inside but with no queues greeting us, we wandered straight in! There were no queues either to take the lift to the roof of the Basilica so up we went. If you haven’t done this, add it to your list of things to do in Rome…The views are magnificent!

We loved exploring the Trastevere area of Rome this trip. It’s got its own character with its small narrow streets, quirky bars and inviting trattorias. Of course, just being in Rome meant we ate our weight in gelato and pasta enjoying every last morsel!

Highlights of 2016: Trevi Fountain

The newly restored Trevi Fountain

 

Highlights of 2016: The view from St Peter's

The view from the Dome of St Peter’s

Highlights of 2016: Pasta alla Gricia

Delicious Pasta alla Gricia

Florence

Benvenuto Firenze! Welcome back to Florence! After spending a month in Florence many moons ago pretending to learn Italian, it was great to be back to this wonderful city and revisit old haunts. Small enough to easily walk around in a couple of days but large enough to escape the crowds, Florence is a city that holds many treasures. Once again we had fabulous food not just on our food tours…Eating on the other side of Florence and a progressive dinner crawl through Florence but dinner recommendations we had been given were brilliant. There’s still a few more I’d like to try so you might see us back here next year!

 

Highlights of 2016: Palazzo Vecchia

The loggia at Palazzo Vecchia

Highlights of 2016: Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

Milan

I love Milan! This time we stayed in a completely different part of town to that where we usually stay and were rewarded with a new view of this wonderful city. Milan is not an easy city to get to know for many people but having been there many, many times now we know our way around. Having said that, we also found new sites to visit…. the wonderful Villa Necchi, the Fondazione Prada and the highlight of the trip, Milan’s Sistine Chapel, the frescoed covered San Maurizio al Monasteria Maggiore. Look out for my updated guide to Milan

Highlights of 2016: Milan

Highlights of 2016: Milan's Sistine Chapel

The stunning San Maurizio al Monasteria Maggiore

Prague

A gap in our itinerary, an impromptu decision and cheap airfares found us in Prague!
Oh to live in Europe and enjoy this spontaneity regularly!
Prague was every bit as wonderful as we were expecting! What we didn’t expect were the enormous numbers of tourists! Being a spur of the moment decision, we had not done any research but our smartest move was to join Context Travels Introduction to Prague Tour. This gave us the historical background and enable us to learn so much about this fascinating country. The food was surprisingly good too…thanks to Eating Prague’s wonderful food tour.

Highlights of 2016: Prague

Highlights of 2016: Prague

Looking the the gate at the Charles Bridge to Mala Strana, the Lesser Town

Porto

Portugal had long been on my husband’s list of places he wanted to see so off to Portugal we went! Porto was a great introduction to this fascinating country. The wonderful tiled facades of the buildings, the old warehouse area of the river front, the port houses of Gaia on the other side of the river and the great little wine bars and restaurants introduced to us by André from Taste Porto tours. It was a town easy to discover…. a town easy to enjoy.

Highlights of 2016: Porto

The Dom Louis 1 Bridge in Porto

 

Highlights of 2016: Porto

The tiled facades of Porto’s waterfront

 

Douro Valley

If you’re looking for a week of lazy days intermingled with wine tastings, good food and beautiful drives through the valleys, the Douro Valley is the place to come. The autumn leaves were turning so the hills of this incredible wine area were swathed in colours from green to orange and red. What a sight. The Douro valley wines are excellent and it was fun discovering the vineyards and their cellars dotted over the landscape.

Highlights of 2016: The Douro valley

The Douro Valley

 

Lisbon

Porto was easy to get to know, Lisbon not so easy. I’m not sure why but we didn’t bond straight away. I was just getting to know and understand it as it was time to leave. As a city, it’s very hilly and quite spread out but the more you walk, the more you find!
It’s a great city for food! Culinary Backstreets have a fabulous new food tour, The Song of the Sea, that introduced us to the old port area. The seafood in Lisbon is fabulous. There is such an incredible selection to choose from …..the sweetest prawns, delicious razor clams, spider crabs, octopus and many more. But make sure you leave room for Lisbon’s little morsels of heaven called pastel de nata. The pasta de Belém may be the most famous but I had to keep trying different places just to compare! Since returning home, we’ve been talking more and more about going back. It’s a popular place for a reason and I think we need to explore Lisbon further!

Highlights of 2016: Lisbon

Your friend…the trams in Lisbon that take you up those hills!

Highlights of 2016: Pastel de Nata in Lisbon

Delicious pastel de nata…Portuguese custard tarts! The best were at Manteigaria

London

I love being in London when the Christmas lights are starting to go up. It helps make the impending 4pm darkness of winter a lot more cheerful and bearable. London was buzzing this year. The restaurants are getting better and better. I always have a list of places to try and this year was no exception. We loved Lyles, Chiltern Fire House, Barbary and Palomar. Elystan, a new restaurant from an ex Spring chef was great. Padella was fun but you do have to queue! We love the markets and a visit to Borough Market, Maltby St Market and our local Pimlico Market always make us feel like locals.

 

Highlights of 2016: London

The skating rink at the Natural History Museum

Highlights of 2016: London

Christmas window at Fortnum and Mason

 

Paris

Paris is always a good idea. Spring, summer, autumn or winter, the city takes on a different feel. Late November gave us yet another look at the city. Christmas was coming….the store windows had groups of excited children standing in front of them, the lights were twinkling and everyone was in a festive mood! We love staying at different areas and this time we chose to stay in one of my favourite areas of Paris, the Marais! With no queues at Saint Chapelle when we passed by, we took the opportunity to pop in and see the wonderful stained glass again! I’d forgotten how breathtaking it is.
Days ran into nights, lunches ran into dinners and all too quickly it was time to head to Charles de Gaulle airport to catch that long flight home!

Highlights of 2016: Paris

The Paris bouquinistes were closed on this walk

Highlights of 2016: Paris

Christmas window

See you again next year Europe!
Thank you all for your continued support, your comments and likes on Facebook and Instagram as well as here on the blog.  I wish you and your family a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017.

 

What travel plans do you have for 2017?

 

Other posts you may enjoy:
2015: A Fun Year Spent in Australia 
Twelve Days in Ireland: Our Itinerary
A Taste of Belfast with Taste and Tour
An Walking Tour Through Prague’s Early History

 

Suggested reading……

 

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19 Responses to Our 16 Highlights of 2016

  1. Libbie January 18, 2017 at 7:11 pm #

    This good list is helpful to me. I’m planning a long journey to Europe later this year. I want to explore some Greek islands and your list includes two I hadn’t yet considered.

    As always, your photos are very fine.

    Libbie

    • Jenny Freedman February 4, 2017 at 4:16 pm #

      Hi Libbie. I’m glad you enjoyed the read. We love the Greek Islands and are planning to go back to Koufonisia. Its low key, laid back lifestyle suits us! We also loved Naoussa on Paros even though it was a different type of holiday! Another island you may enjoy is Folegandros which we went to in 2014 along with Spetses and Hydra…both great! The only island I have not enjoyed is Santorini…far too touristy for me! I hope this helps!

  2. The GypsyNesters January 24, 2017 at 8:06 am #

    Wow, what a year! Here’s hoping that 2017 is every bit as good… maybe better.

    • Jenny Freedman February 4, 2017 at 4:11 pm #

      We’re hoping 2017 is going to be a great year too! At this stage I’m not sure where we’re going or for how long but the list is long so it will be fun planning!

  3. Janice Chung January 25, 2017 at 6:50 am #

    You visited a LOT of amazing places…..many which I have yet to see! I understand why you liked northern Ireland so much. Great pictures. I especially loved the Rope Bridge photo. Not sure how you’ll top 2016 but I’m sure you’ll have fun trying!

    • Jenny Freedman February 4, 2017 at 4:07 pm #

      I’m not sure how we are going to top it either Janice but we always start the year out with no plans and everything falls into place just as we’re about to leave! Northern Ireland rally was fabulous. The countryside was so beautiful!

  4. Doreen Pendgracs January 25, 2017 at 9:30 am #

    What a lovely post! You have had a wonderful year of European travels. I did visit Switzerland in 2016, but that was my only opportunity for European travel. I spent 6 weeks on Vancouver Island, Canada, which was super. Time in Ottawa and Toronto, Ontario. And a week in Grenada. Feeling very grateful for the wonderful opportunities. 2017 started out well with a trip to the DR and lots more to come.

    • Jenny Freedman February 4, 2017 at 4:04 pm #

      Thanks Doreen. You had a lot of travels too! Six weeks on Vancouver Island would have been fun! I’ve been enjoying reading about your travels in Switzerland.

  5. Irene S. Levine January 26, 2017 at 12:04 pm #

    What beautiful photos and wonderful memories. Wishing you more of the same in 2017!

    • Jenny Freedman February 4, 2017 at 4:02 pm #

      I’m hoping we can do more on the same this year too Irene. We certainly did see a lot in our four months!

  6. Anita January 28, 2017 at 4:22 pm #

    Wow, you folks certainly made the most of your time in Europe, Jenny! It was great to welcome you to Porto, and I hope we’ll manage another meetup when we’re once again on the same continent. Thanks too for the tips about Rome. We are headed there in a few weeks, and will definitely be putting some kilometers on our sneakers as we explore one of my favorite places more closely. All the best for the coming year!

    • Jenny Freedman February 4, 2017 at 4:01 pm #

      It was great meeting you too Anita. When you come from Australia you have to make the most of that long flight and spend as long as you can away! Enjoy Rome….it’s one of my favourite cities!

  7. Therie February 7, 2017 at 6:41 pm #

    Those were some amazing adventures in Europe, Jenny! Prague looks so charming despite the crowd of tourists.

    • Jenny Freedman February 14, 2017 at 12:02 pm #

      We had a wonderful trip thanks you Therie. I was prepared for Prague to be crowded but I never realised it would be this crowded! Even so, I wouldn’t have missed it!

  8. budget jan February 21, 2017 at 11:26 am #

    Just re-read your post and took notes on Greek Islands to investigate!

  9. John July 12, 2017 at 6:18 pm #

    Wow this looks pretty incredible. Loved this comprehensive post.

    • Jenny Freedman July 15, 2017 at 2:46 pm #

      Thanks John. We had a fabulous year!

  10. Sandro August 17, 2017 at 9:31 pm #

    The view from the dome os St. Peter looks amazing.

    • Jenny Freedman August 25, 2017 at 9:02 am #

      It was a wonderful view Sandro and, as we were early in the morning, it was not too crowded.

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