2018: A Year in Review

2018: A Year in Review

We didn’t realize we were making memories. We just knew we were having fun. – Winnie the Pooh

Even numbered years have historically been good to me and 2018 was no exception. I travelled to seven countries on four continents, visited friends and family all over the world, got a promotion at work, and spent another year living in my favourite place on earth. In my typical fashion, I’ve recounted the big travel highlights below in chronological order.

1. Nashville, Tennessee (January)

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I kick started 2018 with my bestie Joy in sub zero Nashville. We bar hopped and ate really good food and danced our way into the new year at a Y2K themed party.

2. Dubai, United Arab Emirates (March)

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I’ve been fascinated with the Vegas of the Middle East for over a decade, since I saw a TV special on the building of the famed “7-star” Burj al Arab hotel (pictured above). Over the years, the city only gets more impressive as it seemingly breaks every record in the book.

3. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (March)

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Abu Dhabi wasn’t really on my radar until I learned of the stunningly beautiful Sheikh Zayed Mosque. The city takes luxury to the next level and felt even wealthier than Dubai, which was hard to imagine.

4. Cape Town, South Africa (March)

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South Africa has topped my bucket list for years and with dear friends recently moved back to Cape Town, the time was finally right for a visit. I spent about a week in total in Cape Town exploring everything from Cable Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope, Boulder’s Bay to the V&A Waterfront. I could easily have spent a month in the Mother City, flitting between beaches and wine farms.

5. Stellenbosch, South Africa (March)

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My dream day trip from Cape Town to the famed Stellenbosch wine region where my hosts Debbie and Theran took me to multiple wineries for tastings of cheese, chocolate, and yes, all the wine! I couldn’t get over the cheap prices and wished I could’ve brought home an entire case.

6. Hoedspruit, South Africa (March)

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During my trip to South Africa, I finally lived out my biggest bucket list activity to date – an African safari! Since, I was travelling solo for most of this trip, the price was more expensive than it needed to be, but still worth every penny. It is the best thing I’ve ever done while travelling and something that every single person should do before they die! I plan to write a more detailed post about this trip at a later date. But, in short is was four days of all-inclusive luxury, sunshine, and the Big 5!

7. Napa, California (May)

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For our 10 year friendaversary, my group of university girlfriends and I upgraded our annual girls weekend and flew down to Napa for ALL the wine. We couldn’t have picked a more picturesque place to celebrate our amazing friendships that have seen us through marriages, pregnancies, career changes, and all the ups and downs of life. I’m forever grateful to be doing life with this crew!

8. Cannon Beach, Oregon (June)

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In June, I made my 7th trip to Oregon with a new travel buddy in tow. My boyfriend, Markus, and I made our inaugural trip together one for the books by visiting the beautiful coastal towns of Astoria, Seaside and Cannon Beach on our way to spend a few awesome days with my cousins in Portland. We fit in some of the usual tourist trappings like Powell’s Books and Washington Park, but added in the Edgefield Brewfest to really get us into the spirit. Every time I go to Portland is better than the last… What can I say? I’m a PNW girl through and through.

9. Kelowna, BC (September)

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For the second year in a row, my cousin, Teri-Lynn, flew out from Winnipeg for the long weekend and we drove straight to wine country! (are you sensing a theme here?) I love the Okanagan Valley and was thrilled to finally be checking out the Naramata Bench. We managed to squeeze in stops at Legend Distilling, Lake Breeze, Van Westen, Ruby Blues, Sumac Ridge, Mission Hill, and Quail’s Gate. Some we visited for the wine, and others for the view. Either way, this is one of my favourite places to go every summer!

10. Helsinki, Finland (September)

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A trip to Europe wasn’t originally in the plans for 2018, but when my Finnish boyfriend decided to visit the mother land for his first visit, I couldn’t resist the urge to tag along and visit friends Kathrin and Kristof. We had an incredibly five days soaking up the food (munkki and karjalan piirakka were faves!), sauna culture, and beautiful natural surroundings. I know that this will be a place we come back to again and again!

11. Tallinn, Estonia (September)

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We were stoked to learn that the gorgeous historic city of Tallinn is just a 3 hour ferry ride from Helsinki. We decided to spend a day wandering the old town, which I cannot recommend enough. It was straight out of a fairy tale and far less touristy than other old towns I’ve seen throughout Europe. The Baltic countries are quickly climbing up my destination list as I seek to combat overtourism with less popular destinations.

12. Copenhagen, Denmark (September)

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Now, Copenhagen certainly is a popular city, and one I’ve had my sights on for years now. However, travelling in late September helped us to avoid the summertime crowds and really enjoy the city at our own pace. We LOVED Copenhagen and can’t think of a reason why any person wouldn’t want to go there. Again, a more detailed post is yet to come, but our favourite spots were Nyhavn (pictured above), the hipster bars in Norrebro, Reffen, Freetown Christiania, and Kastellet.

13. Winnipeg, Manitoba (October)

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I often spend Thanksgiving away from my friends and family but this year, we all made the trek to Winnipeg to celebrate my grandpa’s 80th birthday. It was so nice to be all together, which is becoming less and less common. And it also gave me the opportunity to enjoy the fall colours at Fort Whyte Alive even if it meant digging out my winter coat far earlier than I would have preferred.

14. Whistler, BC (October)

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Whistler is one of my favourite places on Earth and since it is both an incredibly popular winter and summer tourist destination, I like to visit in the off-season. This year I went with a group of friends in late October, one of the most beautiful times to go in my opinion. The weather couldn’t have been better, still allowing us to go for a classic walk around Lost Lake as well as sit on a patio outside, but without all the crowds.

15. Mexico City, Mexico (November)

My last big trip of the year, was my annual girls trip with go-to travel buddy Megan. This was our 7th trip together since we met in Vietnam back in 2014 and our 6th country. We had the BEST time exploring the impressive Teotihuacan pyramids, the beautiful parks in Condesa and the fascinating Casa Azul. I could easily see myself returning to Mexico City for the cheap and delicious food, year-round perfect weather, and picturesque neighbourhoods. I didn’t sign up for beginner Spanish next year for nothing.

2018: By the Numbers

Countries Visited: 7 (5 new ones) –  USA / United Arab Emirates / South Africa / Finland / Estonia / Denmark / Mexico

States Visited: 4 – Tennessee / Washington / California / Oregon

Provinces Visited: 3 – British Columbia / Manitoba / Alberta

Plane Rides Taken: 15 one way flights (I count a flight as a flight regardless of how many segments or layovers it has).

Airports Visited: 15 (BNA, SEA, DXB, CPT, HDS, YVR, SFO, PDX, LHR, HEL, CPH, YYC, YWG, YYZ, MEX)

Kilometres Flown in 2018: 82,957

Beds Slept In: 16. Of those, 5 were hotels, 5 were crashing with family or friends, 4 were Airbnb rentals, 1 was a safari lodge, and one was my own bed!

Gone Country? New Year’s Eve in Nashville

Gone Country? New Year’s Eve in Nashville

Hello again friends! Did you miss me? It’s already half way through 2018 and I’m just now getting to the long overdue retelling of my most recent New Year’s Eve festivities. Despite the shameful lack of blogging, I have been to some amazing destinations this year and I’m ready to make up for lost time.

I kicked off 2018, with my favourite travel tradition of celebrating the start of the year in a new city. Five years in and still going strong! In 2014, I set the bar high with a fun-filled night on the streets of New Orleans. In 2015, I partied Catalan style at the Plaza de España in Barcelona. I danced my way into 2016 at a glitzy party under the Seattle Space Needle. And last year, I used my one “cheat” year to celebrate in my beloved Vancouver, where I’d actually never spent NYE.

This year, I ventured to a new city and even a new state… Nashville, Tennessee. Now, it’s no secret that I’m not much of a country girl, but even I was drawn in by the allure of Music City. When my friend Joy suggested it as a possible option, I jumped at the chance to join her for 5 days of bar hopping, thrift shopping, and BBQ eating. Sounds tough right?

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Our timing was not ideal because we happened to catch Nashville in the middle of a ridiculous cold snap, which hit lows of -17°C. My poor West Coast body struggled to deal with the harsh conditions meaning that we whimped out big time on the outdoor NYE party we’d planned to attend. Lucky for us, our back up was my 13 year old self’s dream come true, a Y2K themed party with an amazing house band playing hits from the early 2000s. It was like high school all over again but without the friend drama or homework.

 

We also managed to check out some touristy attractions like the Country Music Hall of Fame. While still not exactly my cup of tea, I did geek out over the Shania Twain exhibit. I still remember all of her over-the-top costumes from watching every single music video she ever made.

The best meal we had was a family style lunch at Monell’s in Germantown. We joined a table full of strangers for an all you can eat Southern meal complete with fried catfish, chicken fried steak, okra, grits, green beans, cornbread, biscuits, sweet tea, lemonade, and peach cobbler for dessert. My mouth is watering just thinking of those delicious calories.

Other highlights include watching a movie at a theatre with reclining seats, snagging the last table at a secret Absinthe bar, and attending Sunday morning gospel hour at famed honky tonk, Robert’s Western World.

If you get the chance to visit Nashville, I promise that there’s something for everyone. The people are friendly. The food is delicious. And the music will have you tapping your feet to songs you never thought you’d enjoy.