In 2013 I had an amazing five-week holiday with my best friend around France, Greece, Italy & Turkey. What a way to celebrate graduating from uni! I felt like most of 2013 was spent head down, bum up, as I finished my final semester of university, planned the trip and worked two jobs so I could afford to go. Of course, all of this added to the anticipation!
This post is long overdue, but it only just occurred to me that my first Top 5 Travel Experiences post was only about 2012 and I’m going to start doing them for each year.
1. Sailing around Capri + the Blue Grotto
You do not have to be rich or able to actually sail to do this – phew! Capri is lovely, but it’s also packed with tourists. A great way to get away from the crowds, appreciate the island’s beauty and soak up the sun and fresh sea air is to take a boat tour of the island. We did this as part of our tour, but there are plenty of operators. From memory, this cost between 50-100 Euro, but it was absolutely worth it. Not only did I see the famous blue grotto (trip highlight!), but I also saw the green and white grottoes, the island’s natural arches and a creepy cave which has a natural statue that looks a lot like a person watching over you.
Half way through the tour, the skipper stopped the boat and we jumped off the edge into the ocean for a swim. It was such a relaxing yet exciting way to spend a summer’s day in Capri and is one of my happiest, most blissful travel memories.
2. Staying in Levanto & seeing Cinque Terre
The five villages of Cinque Terre on Italy‘s Ligurian coast are famous for their beauty, and I loved exploring each of them. However if you want to really relax, Levanto is the place to go. Only ten minutes from the first CT village, Monterosso, Levanto is big enough to have a real sense of community but small enough to make it the perfect place to unwind and fly under the radar for a few days – or weeks, if I had it my way! Unlike many tourist hot spots, a lot of the locals only speak Italian, apart from those working in hospitality.
We booked a few nights in Levanto thinking it would be cheaper than staying in Cinque Terre. I’m so glad that we did! We stayed at the gorgeous Villa Clelia, our B&B host was lovely and was more than happy to point us in the direction of the best local restaurants. The sunset here was the most beautiful I’d ever seen!
I can’t wait to go back to Levanto and I feel so lucky that we happened to make it part of our travel plans.
3. Ballet in the Bowl in Melbourne
Ballet in the Bowl (a huge park) is a free concert held every year in Melbourne, featuring highlights from popular ballets such as Swan Lake and Don Quixote. I loved it! I hadn’t seen a lot of ballet as an adult, but this al fresco performance let me appreciate how beautiful it is without the hip-pocket hurt. In saying this, I will definitely try and see Swan Lake when it is next playing. It was so cool to see people of all ages, from small children with their parents, groups of twenty-somethings and older couples all pulling up a picnic rug and enjoying the performance. Melbourne is such a cultural city and free performances makes the arts more accessible. AND you can eat & drink during the show! 😉
4. Seeing more of Europe with my best friend
This is a broad highlight, but travelling with C was so much fun! The trip was all ours – we’d included lots of beach and island destinations with a good mix of cities and historic sites. Travelling with a friend I’ve known for my whole life (we were born a day apart, our parents are friends) was so much fun, particularly because there were no awkward silences or things left unsaid that made the trip uncomfortable. I’d heard so many stories of best friends travelling together and ruining their friendship. Luckily, this didn’t happen! I definitely think it helps to know someone really well and to also be able to acknowledge your own flaws – and being able to apologise (and accept apologies!) for little stuff ups along the way.
Making friends overseas is awesome, but it’s so much fun to be able to relive those memories with someone back at home.
5. Ancient Ephesus
I hadn’t even heard of Ancient Ephesus before I booked this trip and it was one of my favourite sites! The site is what remains of the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey, near the port town of Kusadasi. I enjoyed touring Ephesus more than Pompeii – although this might be because in Pompeii I could hardly walk due to nerve pain in my back. My favourite part was the was the ancient library – formerly one of the largest in the world. Because we were going to Ephesus, we visited the nearest town, Kusadasi, which was an interesting slice of Turkish culture. The rug-weaving workshop was really cool and the apple tea & Turkish hospitality was great. The catcalling and wolf whistling from Turkish men was a little unsettling, but an interesting insight into another culture nonetheless.
I wish I had been able to afford to go to Istanbul, but in hindsight it might have been for the best – I was definitely getting travel fatigue by the end of the trip and such a big and vibrant city deserves a lot of attention ( and energy).
I had so many amazing experiences last year, those were just a few of my stand out moments. Even though I won’t be going overseas in 2014 I’ve already had great travel highlights travelling around Australia – I can’t wait for the rest of the year. In the past few weeks I’ve visited the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, the Gold Coast, Southern Queensland Country and Australia Zoo and I’ve got an upcoming Sunshine Coast trip and a trip to Cairns, the Daintree & the Whitsundays at the end of the year with C. I also visited Melbourne a few times earlier this year, have had a handful of work trips to Sydney and will probably also visit Canberra for work. I can’t wait to find out what the rest of the year holds!