Last year I was inspired by another travel blogger to do a year in review.  I am excited to start this tradition for a few reasons.  1)  For regular readers it helps consolidate information from a slightly different perspective.  It may have been my favorite hotel in Spain on a particular trip, but it brings it to a whole new level if it is still my favorite hotel of the year, six months after my trip.  2)  Over the years, my blog has also become a personal journal.  And this post gives me an opportunity to look back over the year. 

A word of caution – one of my frustrations with any “best of list” is it only reflects the author’s experience.  I do a lot of research for each trip, and it is definitely a good place to start, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t thousands of great hotels, cities, bars and restaurants out there.  These are just my favorites of those I’ve been privileged to try. 

A little bit about my year –  I now live in Washington DC (again).  I spent three weeks walking in Spain, a week in Cinque Terra Italy, a week in Sicily, and two weeks in South Africa.  For work and family, I spent time in Ohio, North Carolina, Tennessee, Boston, Oklahoma, Portland Oregon, and St. Louis. 

By the numbers:

            5 Countries

            1  “New” Country

            7 States

            80 Nights Away from Home

            41 Different Places I Slept

            21 Planes

            12 Trains

            2 Ferries

            Over 1500 Miles Walked

Favorite Trip –  South Africa was amazing, but I really enjoyed finishing my walk of the Camino de Santiago and it remains #1.

Favorite City – Cape Town…. I’ve always heard wonderful things about Cape Town and now that I’ve finally been, it did not disappoint.  I am already planning a second trip. 

Favorite hotel  – This is a difficult choice.  I stayed in some awesome small hotels in Spain, I love the Memphis Peabody, the Union Station hotel in St Louis is pretty cool and I stayed in four amazing places in South Africa.  But I think Ryukia Safari Camp in South Africa was my favorite.  I loved the romance of the tented safari glamping.  I loved my porch overlooking the water hole.  

Most expensive hotelUnda de Ma Sea View Terrace Apartment in Vernazza Italy ($369 a night)… technically our rooms at Nkorho for Safari were more ($474 a night), but since that included two game drives a day and all meals I think the actual room is less. 

Least expensive hotel:  Saint James Way in Cacabelos Spain ($39 a night for two people)

Best value – Via Avis in Santa Catalina de Somoza, Spain.  I loved this property.  It almost made it on my list of favorite hotels but since it was only $62 a night I decided it won for best value.   A runner up would be the Rectory of Lestoedo in Palas de Rei, Spain. 

Best meal:  El Neru in Madrid Spain.  We stumbled across it by accident and as we were led through the cavernous empty rooms — we got worried.  But their veggies, wine and bread were amazing.  AMAZING!!!  And it turned out we were just early (or trend setters).  Before we finished, the place was packed!   Two runner ups would be Eatstanbul and Osteria Torontino in Cape Town. 

Favorite 24 hours:  Maybe ironic for a travel blog, but as I write this, I can’t think of any that top right now.  As I type this, I am at home in my PJs drinking a mimosa.  I have my dogs, I have a book, I have potatoes in the oven…last night I saw a dear friend and in a few hours I will head to church and then go out for a drink with another dear friend.  I love to travel but I also love to come home and experience simple pleasures.  But if thinking of a time on a trip, it would be similar – the first night in Johannesburg when I met up with friends I hadn’t seen in years, laughing in Madrid with a good friend, dinner in Cacabelos, Spain with a friend who came to walk with me, beginning and ending the day on the patio in Cinque Terra with a good friend, and walking around Rome with my mom. … all quiet moments with people I love.

Best walk / hike:  Santa Catalina de Somoza to El Acebo Spain. It was just beautiful and peaceful. No bad stretches!  

Best sunrise:  Fields outside Hospital de Orbigo Spain

Best sunsetFinisterre Spain (end of the world)

Best Rooftop Bar: Circul Artes bldg. in Madrid 

Best view:  Cape Agulhas South Africa 

Best spontaneous activityBoat trip out of Manarola Italy along the coast of Cinque Terra. 

Coolest adventure:  I really loved driving down to Cape Agulhas to see the southernmost tip of Africa.   I also really enjoyed spending the evening in Finisterre Spain once known as the edge of the world to have dinner and see the sunset. 

Best dessert:  Jenin baklava in Falls Church VA.  Lucky for me this is only 15 minutes from my house.

Best DC Day TripSt. Michael’ s Eastern Shore Maryland was a really beautiful and fun girls day trip.

Favorite book:  Of the 66 I read this year – I really enjoyed:  (memoir) Between Two Kingdoms – A Memoir of a Life Interrupted, (fiction) Time and Time Again, (non-fiction) Bottle of Lies:  The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom, and (historical fiction / travel) The Lincoln Highway.  I also reread The Historian which is my favorite fiction, historical fiction, travel book!  

Biggest Travel MishapGetting off at the wrong train station for Valley of the Temples in Sicily (go to the very end of the line). 

Best museumApartheid Museum in Johannesburg South Africa and the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis Tennessee

Best Italian (outside of Italy):  Osteria Torontino in Cape Town.  Two great runner ups were Al Dente in Boston’s North End and Limoncello in St Michael’s Maryland. 

Most outside my comfort zone:  Bigfoot Conference in Ohio. As a second, I am proud that I did a tasting menu in Santiago de Compostela Spain. While I love to eat and have gotten more adventurous in recent years, but it is unusual for me to be that spontaneous and adventurous when it comes to food. Dinner at Casa Marcelo was great!

Fanciest eventTea at St Regis in DC

Best surprise:  Veteran’s cemetery in Cambridge Ohio with graves going back to Mexican American war.    

Biggest Travel Related Disappointment:  Walking into Santiago after 800 km on the Camino de Santiago and Cinque Terra

What I did and didn’t do this year – On 1 Jan 2022 I posted the following list:  2022 Travel Plans – Life Kinetic Travel Research

            Niagara Falls in the Spring – I didn’t do it but will go this month to see it in the winter.

            Big Foot Conference – I finally went.  You can read all about it here. 

            New York City – I didn’t go back as planned.

            Finish the Camino de Santiago – Yes, finally after 4 years. 

            I finally made it to Cinque Terre but not the Amalfi Coast.

            I didn’t make it back to Paris or the Caribbean but I did go to Sicily.

            One of my biggest disappointments was not going to Kanas City but that is on the list for 2023. 

            And after a year delay, I did get to South Africa.  Stay tuned for notes, thoughts, recommendations and photos.

Looking forward to 2023 – InShallah …  Gabon, Cameroon, a liveaboard sailing trip, upstate NY, St Louis and Kanas City, somewhere in the Caribbean, somewhere in South or Central America, and possibly Belgium.  If you have any recommendations and “favorites” from any of these places, please let me know!! 

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