Yesterday I posted about my six best city experiences of 2015; if you didn’t catch it, read it here: https://juliamhammond.wordpress.com/2015/12/30/six-of-the-best-from-2015-cities/.
But what about out in the countryside?
Torres del Paine
Visiting the south of Chile as late in the season as April was a risky choice in terms of the weather, but luck was on my side. Getting up close to the blue crevasses of Glaciar Grey and watching the clouds pull aside to reveal the Torres del Paine in all their splendour were just two of the highlights of this very special place. Staying in a luxurious ger at Patagonia Camp and waking to a pink sunrise over Lago de Toro made this one of the most incredible places I’ve ever stayed.
Haiti was hard work, a trip fraught with worry. Despite arriving several days later than planned after being stranded in Jacmel because of a transport strike, the beautiful beach and turquoise waters of Pointe Sable at Port Salut were worth the wait. Staying mid-week, I had the sand almost to myself, save for a few upturned fishing boats and a stray hawker or two. Who needs beach bars and banana boats when you can enjoy such solitude with only a few tiny burrowing crabs for company?
Acadia National Park
I’ve been fortunate to visit many of America’s National Parks, but Maine’s star attraction felt more manageable in size. From the drama of the granite cliffs and blowholes to the serenity of unsigned and overlooked beaches, this was a real treat. The addition of a clutch of Model A Fords chugging around Park Loop Road on a weekender only added to the spectacle. Feasting on freshly caught lobster down the road at Bar Harbor was the icing on the cake.
Five hours from the Chilean mainland, Easter Island is one of those places that promises to blow your mind. Fortunately, it lived up to expectations. Waking before dawn to watch the sunrise behind the fifteen moai at Tongariki was a very special experience but the real surprise was of how much the island had to offer beyond its famous stones. The vivid colours of the volcanic crater lake at Rano Kau and the sight of wild horses thundering down the road towards the car made a lasting impression.
Having visited seven Hammonds on my US travels this year in preparation for my book “Hammond, Me”, it seems only fitting that one makes the list. Most fun had to be the llama racing in Hammond, Wisconsin but in terms of getting out into the countryside, it’s Hammond, Illinois that stood out – classic barns surrounded by fields of corn and an Amish community down the road.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Strictly speaking, a view of the countryside rather than a visit to the countryside itself, but looking across the valley from the mediaeval walls of this impossibly quaint German town just can’t be missed off this list. Visiting in early autumn, I missed the crowds, caught the weather and fell in love with the place.
Now over to you. What are your favourites from 2015? And what are you looking forward to for 2016? I’m currently busy working as a researcher for a book on Essex dog walks. Overseas, my travel plans for the first half of the year include riding Sri Lanka’s trains, visiting the Seychelles on a budget, trialling an error fare to New York City and exploring Oslo and Stockholm. Practising ABBA songs as we speak…
The end of 2015 is fast approaching, so it’s time to look back at the best of this year’s travels.
Blessed with clear blue skies and a touch of snow underfoot, a trip to Glasgow in January was my first stay in Scotland’s largest city. Architecturally splendid, the highlight was a trip to the Merchant Quarter for a chance to taste haggis, neeps and tatties in the wood panelled setting of the Cafe Gandolfi. A timely reminder, should I need it, that I don’t have to travel abroad for a memorable travel experience.
The old coffee town of Jacmel on Haiti’s southern coast has a languid charm for most of the year. For a few frenetic days in February, all that changes as Carnaval comes to town and the city pulses to the soundtrack of a throbbing bass. Clad in sequins, feathers and masks, everyone’s invited. The people of Jacmel prove to the capital Port au Prince that they might be a sleepy backwater, but they know how to throw a party.
This northern German city is anything but grim, yet walking Bremen’s streets, Grimm was never far from my mind thanks to the brothers’ famous fairytale. The four sad old creatures who set off to seek a better life in retirement ironically never made it to the city that adopted them as its mascot. Nevertheless it’s a beautiful city to wander around looking for the sculptures that commemorate this heartwarming story. Definitely one I’d like to revisit.
Going back to Salzburg was like visiting an old friend. Decades had passed since my previous visit, but passing through the beautiful Old Town, I wondered on numerous occasions why I’d left it so long to go back. Fräulein Maria’s cycling tour gave me the opportunity to cover a lot of ground and belt out some Sound of Music classics along the way. Sing it with me: High on a hill was a lonely goatherd; Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo…
Many of the Italian cities I visited for a work trip in 2015 were old favourites, but the city of Bologna was a new one on me. I’d heard it was renowned for its towers and its food, so chose to climb its tallest to ease the guilt of that calorie overload. The exertion of climbing the 498 steps to the top of Torre Asinelli meant I could indulge in the evening buffet which accompanied my Aperol Spritz without a second thought.
June gave me a second chance to visit New Orleans, albeit in temperatures considerably more sultry than for my first visit a few autumns ago. Despite thunder, lightning and heavy rain, I enjoyed a self-guided walking tour of the Garden District, met up with guide Sandy again for a cemetery tour and, of course, enjoyed plenty of ice cream cocktails to keep me cool. Love, love, love this city!
So what city impressed you in 2015? Please share, I’d love to hear.