It is good to look back at the year, 2016, that has just gone. We certainly have had a year of great travel and adventures, recognition by the Travel Blogging fraternity, but a year of sudden passing of 2 close friends and 2 family members. With their passing brings a renewed passion for the life we lead! Our mantra ‘chase time not money’ has a deeper meaning to us. Life is short, too short! We encourage you to get off that couch, think twice about that corporate cubicle and follow your dream!
Travel and Adventures in 2016
The very first day of the year of travel and adventures saw us heading back to Sydney for a few months to catch up with family, friends and to undertake some tasks that needed our attention. We come from the Northern Beaches in Sydney, where most of you will recognize the name Manly – Sydney’s most famous beach (those who reside in and around Bondi Beach on the Southern side of Sydney will totally disagree, of course!).
One of our favorite cities to travel to, this time with our youngest son, James for two nights en route to Barcelona. James has now become a travel blogger, just like his parents, and he is now traveling the world creating content for his website Live Ur Life.
Sometimes, some hotels just feel like home when you return to them. The Arize Hotel on Soi 26 is one of those for us.
What would a visit to Bangkok be without an adventure traveling by longtail boat up the Chao Praya River to the Grand Palace? It was such a great pleasure to walk past the scammers knowing their tricks of the trade. It is an amazing sight, even after visiting more than once, and no wonder it is rated as one of the biggest attractions in the world.
A foodies heaven. From La Boqueria Market to Tapas Bars, Barcelona certainly has it all. Not to mention the visit to La Sagrada Familia, our 2nd in 3 years, and we had noticed our far they had progressed during that time. We have fond memories with family and friends at the Champagne Bar in the El Born area.
Just an hours drive from Madrid is Toledo, our first stop on Day 1 for sightseeing, lunch and coffee. A stunning city full of history, it is definitely worth a day trip from Madrid if you are in the area.
Andujar, a little known village to us, was our first night’s stop on our journey. We chose Andujar for two reasons, we did not know how long we would spend in Toledo as our next stop was to visit Cordoba and we did not want to arrive there too late, and also Cordoba was quite expensive due to the height of summer and the tourist season. It was the right choice as we booked 1 nights stay in a Palace – Palacio Sirvente Mieres. Andujar was such a cute village, full of little bars and at 9pm the locals ventured out with their families and wined and dined around the many little squares.
We spent a few hours wandering around Cordoba. If you bypass the main streets and wander through the back streets and find the places where the locals eat you will enjoy tapas at a local price and not a tourist price.
There is so much to see and do in Seville, Spain. We gave this city 4 nights but we could have stayed for double that. From tapas at lunch time to dinner in the many restaurants Seville is definitely one for the foodies!
On the way from Seville to Granada, we were recommended by friends to stop off at a small village called Carmona. So glad we did. Stunning architecture, on the top of a hill and small squares with many outside restaurants serving their set menu of the day.
Granada’s icon the Alhambra cannot be missed as it sits proudly on the hill overlooking the city. We allowed ourselves 2 nights here but could have stayed at least 5 nights. A city of history, flamenco dance, Moorish architecture and tapas bars, the traveller will not be disappointed with Granada.
Our last night of the road trip was in Valencia before finishing the road trip in Barcelona. A city that captured our hearts immediately, so much so, that we turned around 2 nights later and headed back for 14 nights. Contrasts of the old city and the new city, modern day architecture, beaches, great food and local markets Valencia is a great place to base yourself in Spain.
Sadly we arrived a week after the terrorist attack and Nice was still in mourning. The mood was somber around the memorial where thousands of flower bouquets, children’s drawings and teddy bears lay in remembrance of that awful night. We were visiting our eldest son, Robert, who works on the Super Yachts based in the French Riviera. Nothing was going to stop us visiting him for a week. Whilst we were in Nice we traveled around to Antibes, Eze and Beaulieu-Sur-Mer.
We enjoyed our first house sitting assignment in France in the small village of Encausse. Our daily walk with our two new four-legged friends took us through country lanes, past the smiling faces of the sunflowers and small quaint village churches.
After our house sitting assignment we spent a night in Toulouse France before we headed off with Easyjet via Dubrovnik, Croatia to Kotor in Montenegro. A few hours spent wandering around Toulouse gave us a good feel for this city which has the Midi Canal running through it.
One of Lonely Planets top destinations to travel to in 2016 and one that was at the top of our bucket list. We spent 7 nights in an idyllic location, climbed the 1350 steps to the Fort that towers over the ancient UNESCO town and traveled by boat around Kotor Bay visiting the Island of St George and the town of Perast.
We tried so hard to like Budva, 5 nights stay was definitely too long. Once a jewel in the Croatian Riviera Budva is now nothing more than a concrete jungle and pebble beaches with sunbeds stacked like sardines beside one another. The Stari Grad (old town) is full of souvenir shops and the beach restaurants are nothing more than hamburger and chip shops belting our loud music. Some rubbish bins would be a good start in tidying up this sad town.
We are in love with Dubrovnik, from its ancient walls, to the people and the high-quality wines and food on offer, Dubrovnik stole our hearts.
We were hosted on an Half Day Wine Tour visiting the Peljesac region just outside Dubrovnik by Ana and Bozidar Jukic from Insider Holidays. Ana, a highly trained sommelier, delighted in showing us two of her favorite boutique wineries where we enjoyed tastings and local produce. It was one tour that we did not want to end. On the way to the wineries, we visited Ston which is famous for the 2nd Great Wall of the World and its ancient salt factory.
Ana and Bozidar are so passionate about their home town and the local countryside that we spent another afternoon with them enjoying the delights of the Bugenvila Restaurant in Cavtat, driving through the colourful countryside and enjoying the view of Dubrovnik from high up on Mount Srd.
Dubrovnik Tourist Board hosted us on a complimentary walking tour within the walls of Dubrovnik and gave us free passes to enjoy some of the historical buildings and to enjoy walking the 2km of ancient walls that is Dubrovnik’s iconic tourist site.
You must not leave Dubrovnik without an adventure ride up the Cable Car to Mount Srd and a meal at the Panorama Restaurant. If you would like one of the front tables with the stunning view you do need to book a few days in advance, luckily for us we were hosted by the Nautika Group that owns the Panorama Restaurant as well as 2 others in Dubrovnik and they had made sure that we had a front table.
If you enjoying staying in a luxury resort hotel with a choice of swimming pools, a private beach, a luxury spa, gym and many restaurants to choose from then a stay at the Sun Gardens Dubrovnik Resort should be high on your list. We were hosted for two nights, but it was definitely too short to enjoy all the facilities available, there are still many restaurants and bars that we have not tried. The view is spectacular and one that you can never tire of.
Go Dubrovnik and Adriatic Explore Dubrovnik hosted us on a day trip to Mostar. Traveling through 3 border check points in each direction we eventually arrived into Mostar in time for an hours walking tour through the Old Town. We were saddened by the stories of the 1990s war, saw derelict buildings and many buildings with the ravages of war – bullet holes and bullets still embedded. The people are strong and passionate, even with the two religions living side by side, all keen to get their country back onto a strong footing. Tourism is definitely helping. One day was not long enough to enjoy this country, we will return.
We flew into Bilbao Spain for 3 nights prior to sailing to Panama. This was our first adventure into the Basque region and we were excited about the food and wine on offer. The weather was against us and we missed out seeing the major sites of Bilbao but we are definitely returning and exploring this region more.
Hotel Gran Bilbao hosted us for 1 night out of the 3 that we stayed with them in Bilbao. The boutique hotel is in a centrally located position, about a 10 minute walk to the Centro Historico where the streets are full of bars and restaurants offering the local Pintxos. The rooms are large and modern, there are conference facilities on offer, as well as a gym and parking, and the breakfasts are too die for.
We had a 3 month house sit in Boquete in Panama and a cost effective way to travel there with an adventure on the side is a Repositioning Cruise. For as little as US$30 per day you can travel from Bilbao in Spain to Colon in Panama for 15 nights.
Lisbon was our first stop on our Repositioning Cruise to Panama. Although we only had a few hours to spend there we were impressed by the architecture, people and of course the Portuguese Tarts. Our plans for 2017 are to return to Lisbon and Portugal and spend more time there.
St Maarten was our 2nd port visit on the way to Panama on our Repositioning Cruise. Hurricane Matthew was playing havoc with cruising around the Caribbean and we had only a few hours before an early sea departure to avoid the weather conditions. Amigo Tours hosted us on a half day tour of the island, covering both the Dutch and French Side and one of the craziest airports in the world. If you have heard about the KLM 747 landing at St. Maarten’s airport you will enjoy this video of our visit. Unfortunately, KLM was not landing that day. We heard a week later that they have stopped flying the 747 aircraft and have changed it to a smaller airplane.
Panama City, Panama
We arrived into Panama City 15 nights after we left Bilbao, Spain on our Repositioning Cruise. Over the last 18 months we have spent time in Panama City. We loved the fish markets and Casco Viejo and of course a highlight on our last visit was spending a morning at the Panama Canal.
A 7 hour bus ride from Panama City, Boquete is located in the Mountains a short distance from the Costa Rican border. This is our 2nd visit to Boquete for house sitting assignments and this one would see us spending 3 months here over Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year of 2017.
What was our travel expenditure in 2016
We aim to travel on a budget of AUD92 (USD67) per day which includes all travel, flights, insurance, food etc. Did we achieve our budget for all our travels in 2016? Our article how we travel the world on a budget shows that we were over AUD3 per day for the first 8 months. Our year end is at the end of April 2017. We will bring this under budget as we head off to more house sitting assignments in Mexico and Barbados in 2017, as well as an exciting month spent in Cuba.
Travel Blog Wins
South West Discoveries: Top Baby Boomer Travel Blogs for Senior Adventurers
Hello Travel: Top 50+ Baby Boomer Travel Blogs for 2016
Round The World Travel Experts: Top 7 Australian Travel Blogs That You Should Follow
This year we have been interviewed by our peers, read our interviews here:
House Sitting Summit
The first ever House Sitting Summit was held over the weekend of November 25-28, 2016. We presented on:
How to budget for your travels when housesitting.
Our presentations and over 30 others can be read in the House Sitting Magazine.
N.B. This post contains affiliate links. We were hosted by various companies throughout the year, these details are included in the linked blog posts, as always our opinions are our own.