West To East In 2017
Our reflections on 2017 travel confirmed that we had a very busy travel year again in 2017. When we looked back on what we thought we might do in 2017, we had some hits and some misses. As we planned, our big trip in the spring for 10 weeks took us from Miami across the Atlantic Ocean. Landing in Lisbon we then spent 5 weeks travelling through Portugal and into Spain. We did not get a river cruise booked in 2017 but we did travel by car up the cruise path of the Douro River in Portugal. While we missed Iceland this year, we did travel through the Baltic countries and into St Petersburg, Russia. From there we headed back along the north coast of France, Spain and Portugal. Antarctica will be left for another year. But we did take our first trip to Alaska. Several small trips gave us both great city and beach breaks.
We spent almost 150 days away from home in 2017. Many new countries were added to our travel list. And many more spots were added to the growing list of places that we want to see more of. We travelled so much that there are still a long list of blog posts sitting in draft waiting to be published when we are at home. But we shared much of our travel year on the blog. We are excited to see that the interest in our travels keeps growing!
Let us review the year of travel ….
We Started Our Year In Dubai
We finished 2016 with a long 51 day cruise and a stay in Dubai for New Years, after a week in Cape Town for Christmas. To finish this extra special trip, we splurged on first class flights on Emirates. And yes, we did have a shower in the sky! This was a great way to begin our reflections on 2017 travel!
A Long Journey Across the Atlantic
Our reflections on 2017 travel started with a great ocean voyage. We had been planning a trip to Portugal for several years. We took the opportunity to book a trans-Atlantic cruise with Oceania Cruises from Miami to Lisbon to get the trip started.
The first half of the cruise was through the Caribbean. Stops in Puerto Rico, St Barts, Antigua and Barbados gave us a lazy start. While we had feared that crossing the Atlantic would be rough, the seas were almost still for our entire journey.
We hit land again on Cape Verde. This was the first of a long list of volcanic islands we saw in 2017. Three different stops in the Canary Islands and then a visit to Madeira Island provided us with a taste of these amazing islands. We will definitely want to return here again.
Exploring Portugal And Spain
After the Algarve, we flew out to the Azores Islands to complete our view of the volcanic islands of the North Atlantic. We got to explore 3 of the islands of the Azores (Sao Miguel, Faial and Pico). The natural beauty was stunning and we definitely want to go back to see more.
From the Azores we moved to the most fascinating city of Porto. There was beauty and art everywhere we looked in this city. While we had considered a cruise up the Douro River Valley. But we instead rented a car and took our time exploring the wine region of Portugal along the Douro River.
We loved every part of our visit to Portugal and Spain. It was one of our favourite reflections on 2017 travel. We liked Portugal so much, we found a way to return later in the year.
Every year we contemplate a visit to the north or south poles. This year we planned our first taste test of Alaska. Our first adventure was a 7 day cruise from Seattle.
We travelled up the west coast and had a fascinating day at the Tracy Arm Fjord. We saw our first glacier. The trip in along the fjord made having a balcony so worthwhile!
Stops in northern British Columbia and the Alaskan Panhandle finished up this first visit. While the weather was rainy in July, we didn’t let that stop us heading out in search of the wilderness and wildlife.
A short return to Vancouver provided us with time to visit family and re-visit a town we had come to love on a previous long visit.
Our reflections on 2017 travel showed us that Alaska needs to remain on the travel wish list. The Alaska cruise was a great taste test but did not really get us the far north visit we wanted. So many of the travel bloggers showed us that a trip to mainland Alaska should not be missed.
The Baltic In The Fall
A cruise in the Baltic had been on our travel wish list for some time. This was the year we booked it. The cruise gave us our first taste test of many of the Baltic countries and a great 2 night stop in St Petersburg!
We started our trip with 5 days in Copenhagen. The stop gave us the chance to recover from jet lag and get a taste of this water city. As we travelled through the Baltic, we saw many more cities on canals, stunning castles and artistic outdoor displays.
From there we went on to see Stockholm and Helsinki. The trip in through the waterways around Stockholm got us up at the crack of dawn. These were short stops but we put on our walking shoes and went out to explore.
The highlight for me occurred when we stopped in St Petersburg. Over the years I have gobbled up historical novels based on Russian history in the time of the Tzars. It was so exciting to visit Catherine’s Palace, Peteroff and the Hermitage. So much history was reflected in the beautiful buildings and gardens.
A short stop in Tallin, Estonia showed us a quaint town with many places that need much more exploration.
We continued our Baltic tour with stops in Northern Germany, Skagen in Denmark and Oslo. Each offered an interesting glimpse into new countries for us.
A final stop in Amsterdam conclude this part of the cruise trip. We only had a brief glimpse of Amsterdam. As a major gateway into Europe, we are sure we will visit again.
Our reflections on 2017 travel has put a return trip to Russia on our travel wish list. We got just a small taste of St Petersburg and a tease of what Moscow might offer.
Back To Western Europe
We originally booked our Baltic cruise to finish in Amsterdam. But before we had purchased our airline tickets, we got the opportunity to extend the cruise down along the northern coast of France, Spain and Portugal. This would get us back to Lisbon for the 3rd time this year. It was not a hard decision to add on to our cruise.
Our first stop was at the white cliffs of Dover. Our excursion that day took us to see the great Canterbury Cathedral. The vast church was intricately decorated and shone with the colours of so many stained glass windows.
The cruise included 7 nights in northern France. We have visited France several times before but this was a whole new region to explore for us. It was exciting to see the stunning Mont Saint Michel. We did a cognac tour in Cognac and a wine tour from Bordeaux. The small port towns we stopped in offered lost of opportunities to just sit at cafes and sip wine.
Stops along the northern coast of Spain let us explore the town of Bilbao and the Galacia region of Spain. These were quite different from our previous exploration of Andalusian Spain.
The journey in western Europe took us back to Porto. Having done our wine explorations in France, we continued the tradition with a tour of the port cellars in Porto.
When we arrived back at the Intercontinental Lisbon we were welcomed as regulars. It was a great way to finish such a great European trip.
Europe featured prominently on our reflections on 2017 travel this year. But it did highlight that we again missed visiting Italy this year. We will have to see if we can add it to one of our 2018 trips.
Not Staying Put At Home
Between our longer trips in 2017, we managed to escape twice to visit Nassau, Bahamas. We finally got to see the opening of the new Baha Mar Resort on our last visit. It is a great addition to Cable Beach.
Niagara Falls is an easy day trip from home. This year we visited twice with family. On the second visit we even made it around to the U.S. side of the falls for the very first time. The holiday light show was open on our last visit and we stayed after dark to catch the show.
We did a road trip in the fall to visit Chicago for the first time. It was such a great town to visit. The Intercontinental Chicago was a tourist destination all on its own with its Medinah history. The architectural wonders throughout the city kept us entranced. We found so much great food to keep us energized as we walked the city for days.
Our trip to Chicago was such a success that we planned a trip in mid-December to see the holiday season in New York City (NYC). NYC was decked in holiday trimmings everywhere we visited. We walked day and night and got new views of the city that never sleeps. We managed to see both a Broadway play “The Bands Visit” and the Rockettes Christmas Special at Radio City Music Hall. It was a great way to wrap up the year.
Our reflections on 2017 travel included some long trips but also a bunch of smaller trips. This mix let us keep exploring even when we were home for longer stretches of time this year.
Our Reflections On 2017 Travel
When we did our reflections on 2017 travel, we were surprised by how many different and fascinating things we had fit in this year. We had no idea when we started the year where we would really end up. Some like Portugal had been in the planning stage when we started the year. But others like Russia we great surprises. Our shorter trips were reminders that not every trip needed a long planning phase.
We had some excellent customer service experiences in 2017. A combination of proactive staff, great leadership and our loyalty to certain brands resulted in trips that exceeded our expectations.
We have started our thinking about travel in 2018. So you will want to check back here regularly to see the year unfold.
Thanks for following our travels in 2017. I know that many of the blog posts are still sitting on my computer. But I will update the links here as they are published. Check back often as we continue to travel and share.
Which of our 2017 travel reflections was your favourite destination? What do you think should be on our 2018 plans?
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