I am at the tail end of my summer vacation. My partner and I stayed “local”, spending 2 nights in Montreal and 1 night in Ottawa, and the rest of the week in and around southern Ontario. We drove – my first long road trip. It was a great trip!
One of my favourite activities is traveling to new places and gaining new life experiences. Immersing myself in the local culture, food and, of course, shops. As we are all painfully aware, that hasn’t been an option since the pandemic started – at least not with extreme inconvenience and precaution. Our vacation was wonderful, but I am missing international travel.
So I decided to write a blog post about some of my top travel spots from my past travels! I’ve visited more than 20 countries so far in my life… and I can’t wait to add to that list.
I did a 12-day tour in 2009 and it was amazing! I was traveling alone so I went with Contiki (which at the time was a group travel company). I made friends with other travelers, mostly from other parts of Canada and from Australia. In fact, I met someone with my same last name, who then invited me to her wedding! See Fiji below. I liked this format b/c it’s cheaper (when you’re on a limited budget) and you see and learn about lots of places in one trip.
Trevi Fountain (Rome) / Ponte Vecchio (Florence) / Coliseum Outside (Rome) / Coliseum Inside (Rome)
My fave two cities were (1) Rome – for obvious reasons: The Coliseum & Roman Ruins, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, etc. and (2) Florence – famous for the Ponte Vecchio, it has great shopping for jewelry and leather goods (let’s just say, I spent quite a bit of money there).
I have also visited the south of the country, on a separate trip, as my parents both have family there. Small town life is nice… for visiting, but living there is not for me. Beautiful beaches in the south!
Left to right: Bay of Naples, Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps), Cinque Terre (view from the boat)
Left to right: Tour guide in Capri, Francesco, quintessential Italian man; original sculpture in the piazza in Milan
My friend and I did a two-week, three-city trip in 2018: Porto, Lagos, and Lisbon. Portugal is beautiful. The people are so nice (not like the snobs in Italy and France 😉), and the food is amazing, as is the wine. And it’s very affordable.
Harry Potter Library top floor / Harry Potter Library first floor / Shrimp with rice dish / Enjoying a glass of wine
In Porto, we visited the “Harry Potter” library, spent time exploring the town, and did a wine tasting (as the name might suggest, it was port wine). Lagos was the relaxing beach-y part of the trip. Hotel was a little pricier but the guest services were above and beyond, not only recommending restaurants, but making reservations on our behalf. Lisbon, of course, was the city part of the trip – that’s what I love about Europe: you can get city and beach all in one place! We also did a small-group day trip to Sintra and Cascais. A little pricier due to the small group – literally 9 of us – but totally worth it.
Clockwise from top left: statue in Sintra / Castle in Sintra / Beach in Lagos / Bridge in Porto (view from cable car)
This one was likely not a place I would have otherwise visited, were it not for my Aussie friend who invited me to her destination wedding here. Fiji is gorgeous – so green and lush. The people are very friendly.
I will confess, it’s not what one would call affordable. Even with the group discount for the wedding, the least expensive room (garden view) was over $200 a night. Normally, that would be fine, but I was traveling alone so there was no one to share the cost. Word of caution: lots of sunscreen. I got burnt to a crisp during our group outing It was so bad that I had a sunburn treatment at the resort spa – it helped. The spa was comparatively reasonably priced.
It was my first (and so far only) beach wedding. Very casual – barefoot in the sand!
Clockwise from top left: wedding on the beach / View from my room / Honeymoon suite / Inside my room
The landscape in Brazil is amazing – beach and city all rolled into one! However – and it’s a big however – I would strongly recommend you visit with someone who (a) speaks the language (English is not common, even in the big cities) and (b) knows the area (for safety purposes).
I have a friend who was living there at the time whose husband is originally from Brazil so I stayed with them. They took me to the botanical gardens, mountain waterfalls, the beach, a samba bar – it was so much fun. And I got the opportunity to spend quality time with that friend.
Rio beach / Favella in Rio / Samba bar / Samba Bar / Rio at night / Rio in the day / View from the Sugar Loaf Mountain
Waterfall in the mountains of Rio / Christ the Redeemer Statue
Other places I’ve been:
- Various countries in the Caribbean and Central America: Cuba, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Turks & Caicos
- Various cities in the US: New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Washington DC, Phoenix, Las Vegas
- Other European locations: Paris (tbh I could visit every year), Barcelona, Ibiza, Madrid, London, Luxembourg, Brussels, Bruges
- Other: Australia (same trip as Fiji)
Places I’d like to visit:
- Morocco, or Dubai, or Abu Dhabi