Friday, 30 December 2016

DESTINATIONS 2016



As its nearing the end of the year, I think it's fair to say a lot of us are eager to wave goodbye to 2016 and welcome 2017 with open arms! For me personally, 2016 has been an unforgettable year where I have accomplished a lot of things I set out to do. I turned the big 2-1, graduated University, lost a lot of weight, began the full-time lifestyle and travelled to my hearts content in-between.

I've had a pretty extraordinary year of adventures and I wanted to dedicate my last post of the year to the destinations I've been lucky enough to explore. I physically struggle to go a few months without wanting to go away somewhere different, and of course there are places I have always wanted to venture to but financially I can't make it happen (just yet). Here's an overview of each beautiful country I flew too and what I got up to..

AMSTERDAM | THE NETHERLANDS 

Ok so this isn't technically (or at all) a holiday from 2016, but it fell over Christmas Day last year so I think it's very relevant to my list! It was my second visit to Amsterdam, and I was really glad we chose to go over the winter period - and even better still - over Christmas Day. It's honestly such a beautiful and underrated city, everyone is super friendly and no canal is the same. The Dutch celebrate with two Christmas Day's so a lot of shops, restaurants and buildings are still open which is a bonus. We were lucky enough to visit during Amsterdam Light Festival - the sculptures and displays were dotted around the city and it made the whole place even more festive. The Christmas markets seem a lot more authentic than what we have in the UK, plus I thought it was very inexpensive. It's definitely on my list of places to go back to!

TOP TIP | take the 'Friendship Amsterdam' cruise just off the Red Light District. It's nothing like the cliche, boring boat tours you expect and you can just hop on with no pre-booking required. You're greeted with cute individual tables, blankets to keep you warm and a drinks list including rum hot chocolate - need I say more (€20pp)

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CHAMONIX | FRANCE

The 6 of us visited Chamonix in the first week of February this year and my god it was even better than I imagined. We took a flight to Geneva and had a driver take us all over to Chamonix. We stayed in the BEST chalet I've ever seen just out of the outskirts of the town which allowed us to save money on cooking at the chalet instead of eating out all the time. The beginner slopes were right on our doorstep with the bigger and steeper runs on Mont Blanc just a short free bus ride away (included in your ski pass). If you've been on a ski holiday before you know that the views are similar to what you see in films, but it honestly amazes me every time. I've skied in Saalbach, Austria before but Chamonix topped it for the scenery. I'm a keen snowboarder so I'm very eager to get back on the slopes in the new year.

TOP TIP | Visit Hotel l'Heliopic in the centre of the town for a spa break away from a day of skiing. I treat my boyfriend to a full day at €80pp and we were the only people in the entire place

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VENICE, FLORENCE, ROME | ITALY

In June I returned to Italy (my favourite place in the entire world) visiting Venice, Florence and Rome. I spent a weekend here last year but I went to Milan instead of Rome - Rome blew Milan out the water. Milan reminds me of a warm London, and I'm not the biggest fan of our capital. I can only ever spend a few days down there at most, the hustle and bustle and overall feel of it doesn't ride with me (northern girl born and bread).

Italy in general is extremely pretty, cultural and laid back, I would say it's the best country I've visited in the EU. Venice has always been, and will always be, my favourite destination of all time. I can't explain to you how breathtaking the place is, and if you haven't been then make sure you take someone special. It's extremely romantic and you can see the entire scope of it in just 2 days. Although it's expensive it's truly worth every penny - do your research like I did! 

Next up was Florence, and I'd say this is the most cultural out of the three in terms of scenery and architecture. The Cathedral gave me a similar reaction to the Duomo in Milan, they're just both insane. Here, we wined and dined (a lot), experienced wine tasting for the first time and also drank a lot of prosecco on tap. Florence was lovely to just leisurely walk round and enjoy the surroundings.

Rome was a new one for me this year and it concluded our 5 day getaway. Rome is a lot more congested than the other places we went to, mainly because you have such iconic landmarks there - we saw constant tours of people from China, the US, Germany etc surrounding the Colosseum, I was so shocked! The highlight of Rome for me was the Trevi Fountain, we went at the crack of dawn on our last day and it was empty (perfect photo opp). It's even better than it looks in the Lizzie McGuire movie - honestly.

TOP TIP | throughout the trip we started extremely early on most days so we were able to see the landmarks in their own glory. We did this for St. Marks Square (Venice) and the Trevi Fountain and St. Peter's Basillica (Rome).

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BARCELONA & IBIZA | SPAIN
- WATCH THE VLOG -

My final holiday this year was spent in Barcelona and Ibiza in the first week of September - a whole 9 days of it too! It was my first time in Barca and it was just as good as people said it was. The bonus of a beach in the city really makes a difference to the place and I will definitely vouch to go back. Shopping in Barca is unreal, but it is far too easy to spend money. In the small district of El Raval there are several independent vintage shops which have the coolest bits and bobs in at cheap prices. It has a great relaxed vibe and I enjoyed lazing by the pool most days (rooftop pool in the hotel is a MUST).

Ibiza needs no special intro, it honestly get's better every time for me. The good thing about the White Isle is that there is always something going on and you're never stuck for things to do. Everyone out there is there for a good time and to have fun, partying or not! The nights out we had were of course unbelievable seeing the likes of Steve Lawler and Loco Dice. But the 'cultural' side (if I can say that?) was just as enjoyable. Hiring a jeep to explore the Island was probably the best decision we made and when there's a good group of you day drinking and arguing with Spanish Police then how can you not have a good holiday?! It's a really special, beautiful and weird place.

TOP TIP | just go to Ibiza.


So that's it for my 2016 travel adventures, I've kept each place short and sweet, but on reflection I've honestly had one of my best years yet. When you're surrounded by amazing people to experience them with how can you not develop a serious case of wanderlust?! I have even more travel aspirations for 2017 and my saving hat is firmly in place for it.

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