I can’t believe another year comes to an end. 2019 really seems to have flown by like no other.
With only few days left of 2019, I thought this is a good time to reflect on my travels over the past 12 months and to share my favourite travel moments and what made them so special to me.
Driving Route 62 and exploring the Robertson Wine Valley and Klein Karoo wine route in South Africa
Ever since my first visit ten years ago South Africa’s Cape Winelands hold a very special place in my heart. The stunning landscape defined by lush green rolling hills and vineyards surrounded by rugged mountain ranges, historic Cape Dutch architecture with some rather modern structures strewn in between, along with excellent wine and food experiences that continue to offer something new and unexpected every time one returns makes this place one of my favourites in the world.
This year a real highlight was to leave the major historic wine growing areas behind and start exploring some of the smaller, lesser known but very dynamically evolving wine regions.
Needless to say, Route 62, dubbed the longest wine route in the world was a revelation.
The Robertson Wine Valley with many excellent yet smaller boutique wineries with their down-to-earth tasting rooms, many offering the most breathtaking views over the surrounding landscape or nestled directly in the midst of the vineyards, quickly became one of my favourite wine regions.
The small, family-led wine farms that belong to the Klein Karoo Wine Route really had me at first sight. Though they too have tasting rooms welcoming visitors, visiting is a bit like stepping back in time to the earlier, more humble times of winemaking at the Cape.
More about Route 62 and the Cape Winelands
Seeing the Big Five in South Africa
Another magical South Africa moment this year was my stay at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve just outside of Barrydale in the Klein Karoo.
There is no question of how many times you will go on a safari and see the local wildlife, including the Big Five in South Africa. It will always be a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
The visit to Sanbona was no exception. Coming close to so many wild animals, including the Big 5 (elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and cape buffalo) along with giraffes, zebra, kudu, eland, springbok, baboons, hippos and many more was truly exceptional.
More about South African safaris and wildlife experiences
Seeing almond blossoms in the Palatinate
One of my bucket list items is seeing cherry blossoms, ideally in Japan or as a viable alternative in Washington DC. Since timing this rightly when living far away is tricky and it falling into a time when long-distance travel is difficult to squeeze into my agenda, this year I took advantage of a last-minute opportunity to spend a weekend in the Palatinate during the local almond blossom.
It’s a fairly popular attraction here in Germany with a six weeks event programme allowing to explore the area planted with thousands of almond trees in various ways.
Slow hikes through the vineyards lined by lots of almond trees in bloom and taking advantage of the many wine tasting opportunities at the local wineries turned out to be an amazing alternative to seeking cherry blossoms somewhere far away.
More about visiting the Palatinate
Staying at the cute wine-themed hotels in the Alentejo in Portugal
I’ve found some of the most beautiful little boutique hotels in the Alentejo in Portugal. Sandwiched between Lisbon and the Algarve, the area is currently something of the hottest secret amongst keen wine travellers and those that seek experiences in the lesser travelled regions.
All distinctively different, a red line in all of these hotels was wine, and all had their own wine production even though only two were actually part of a winery.
More about visiting Alentejo and its lovely wine-themed hotels
Wandering around the historic UNESCO World Heritage Site of Quebec City
I’ve been looking forward to my trip through Canada’s Quebec and Ontario provinces as a highlight of the year ever since booking my flights. I simply knew it would be a fantastic experience.
Though it was a fantastic experience through and through, if you would ask me to recommend only one city in Canada to visit, I’d say Quebec City.
The old part of Quebec City, from the famous Quartier Petit Champlain to the upper part of Old Quebec with its lovely shopping streets and Dufferin Terrace was truly one of the most marvellous places I’d the pleasure to explore this year.
More about visiting Quebec City
Exploring Ontario Wine Country
If you follow my blog, you will know I can’t resist a wine region and road tripping through the dynamically growing wine growing regions in Ontario was another definite highlight.
Exploring the small family-owned wineries across Prince Edward County and the Niagara Peninsular as I’d expected was one of the best experiences of 2019. Even better, it turned out the beautiful Ontario wine country has so many more exciting things to explore, from the lovely small towns to a vivid art and craft scene and excellent food.
More about exploring Ontario Wine County
Spending a wine filled weekend in Mainz
This has been my shortest trip of the year in terms of distance; Mainz is just a mere 60 kilometres from my home town. My main reason for visiting was the annual wine festival while I did not make much plans for other activities at first.
Not having great plans and not expecting much might have been one reason this trip turned out to be one of my highlights in travelling this year.
Strolling through the historic centre, looking back at more than 2,000 years of history with its half-timbered colourful houses, the huge cathedral, a couple of other parish churches and the huge river promenade, I constantly wondered why the city has not been on my list earlier.
In addition, Mainz not only offers a lot of history. The city is recognized as the ‘wine capital of Germany’. It is indeed part of the international wine network ‘Great wine capitals of the World’ and there are many exciting opportunities to enjoy Rheinhessen wines (and others) in the city.
Check out my post ‘How to spend an unforgettable wine weekend in Mainz‘ to learn more about the city and the various local wine experiences.
Spending a lazy weekend at the Algarve in Portugal
Sometimes, doing less is more and spending a long weekend on the beautiful Algarve in Portugal with just a few spots to explore and more time to spend at the beach / pool definitely makes it into my top 10 this year.
More about visiting the Algarve in Portugal
Returning to Rothenburg ob der Tauber – twice
The small walled-in historic town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is dubbed Germany’s most fairytale town. Step through one of the gates and you will know what I mean.
It’s been a long time since my last visit and it was so lovely to be back, especially as my visit fell on the weekend of the annual historic Meistertrunk festival that retells the story how Rothenburg was saved from destruction by its mayor Georg Nusch after being taken by the troops of General Tilly during the Thirty Years war.
Slowly re-discovering the town during the weekend, I got all spiced up to come back for the annual Christmas Market; and I couldn’t have made a better decision.
The historic streets and squares all decorated with Christmas Lights along with the aroma of mulled wine and Christmas sweets even topped the summer weekend.
More about visiting Rothenburg ob der Tauber
A culinary winter weekend at Hotel Mittermaier
Embracing slow culinary travel in Germany
Travelling more closer to home was on my list for a long time and last year, I finally started to include more weekend trips to nearby locations across Germany.
I truly loved seeing more of my own country after years favouring long-distance destinations.
The highlights travelling within Germany definitely were those focusing of culinary experiences. From a fantastic whisky pairing dinner to Michelin-star cuisine in the German wine country.
It’s safe to say, more is on the list for next year!
More about culinary travel in Germany
A culinary winter weekend at Hotel Mittermaier
What have been your best travel moments in 2019? Let me know about them.