I thought I’d finish the year with a roundup of my favourite travel moments of 2019.
Whereas 2018 was filled with lots of short breaks (or microbreaks as the latest buzz word seems to be) in and around Andalucia, this year we’ve ventured further afield a few times. Unfortunately, I don’t have the most generous holiday entitlement at work (that’s an understatement!!) but I don’t think I’ve done too badly with the meagre allowance I do have!
Tarifa, on the Costa de la Luz, is only a short drive from where we live and one of our favourite places for a day out. We decided to spend New Year’s Eve there (something we’re doing again this year) and take our traditional New Year’s Day dip in the Atlantic Ocean rather than the Med (or the North Sea as in previous years before we moved to Spain!).
Entertainment was based in the square in front of the cathedral – unfortunately so was our hotel for the night so not much sleep was had!! However, we joined in the festivities until the wee small hours including the Spanish custom of eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight!
We made use of the first long weekend of the year to spend a few days in Morocco. Tangier is so close to southern Spain that it’s possible to be there in around an hour on the ferry from Tarifa.
As with most of our trips, there’s a big focus on trying out the local cuisine – naturally I had a tagine but also fell in love with the flatbreads which made the perfect snack, hot from the oven and spread with honey.
One of my favourite parts of the trip was sitting in Café Hafa, enjoying a mint tea while admiring the view of the Bay of Tangier from the terrace.
While we were in Morocco we decided to take a day trip to Chefchaouen, Morocco’s famed blue city. It took a few hours to travel there by taxi but it was certainly worth it as it’s so unlike anywhere I’ve been before. More used to Andalucia’s pueblos blancos (white towns), Chefchaouen is predominantly blue so to wander round the small streets and alleyways of the medina was a real eyeopener.
It’s an Instagrammer’s dream and, indeed, taking photos at some spots felt a bit like a production line with people queuing to get the perfect shot. To escape the madness of the medina we hiked up to the Spanish Mosque for a panoramic view of the city nestling at the foot of the Rif Mountains.
Jerez de la Frontera
Jerez is one of my favourite Andalucian cities and it’s a tradition now to head up there every April to take part in the Sherry Marathon.
Jerez has an abundance of wide tree lined streets and quiet squares and, despite being the fifth largest city in Andalucia, has a small town feel particularly in the old town, around the cathedral and Alcazar.
It’s obviously also famous for its sherry so this year we spent an evening in Tabanco El Pasaje – sampling the sherries from our spot at the bar watching live flamenco.
Conil de la Frontera
Another long weekend saw us heading back to the Costa de la Luz for a few nights in Conil de la Frontera where we wandered around the narrow whitewashed streets, stopping occasionally for tapas and a beer.
As with so many towns on the Atlantic coast, Conil is famed for its fried fish including my favourite tortillitas de camarones.
Conil has long golden beaches (although they can get a bit windy) and the sunsets are out of this world – on our last night we had sundowners on the beach and weren’t disappointed with this sunset!!
We headed to Berlin for the first time in May and instantly fell in love with the city. There’s so much history and so much to see and do – from the Berlin Wall Memorial and the East Side Gallery to Checkpoint Charlie and a trip to the top of the TV Tower. You can read more about this trip in this article I wrote for the Gibraltar Chronicle.
The real reason for this trip though was to see Hugh Jackman in concert – the perfect ending to an amazing weekend!
I was celebrating a big birthday in the summer and wanted to do something special to make it memorable so, after much deliberation, decided on a safari holiday in Kenya. I’d been on a game drive in South Africa previously, but to spend a week visiting three separate game reserves was an experience I’ll never forget.
Our trip took us from Nairobi to Amboseli, with its large elephant population, Lake Naivasha, home of the hippos, and the Masai Mara where, over the course of a week, we managed to spot all of the Big Five (which I wrote about for the Gibraltar Chronicle).
I spent the morning of my birthday taking a hot air balloon ride to watch the sun rise over the Masai Mara and getting a bird’s eye view of the wildebeest migration, followed by a champagne breakfast under an acacia tree once we’d landed. It certainly made reaching a half century bearable!!
I’m in Gibraltar five days a week for work but when we have family and friends to stay, I love showing them around and seeing it through a visitor’s eyes.
A lot of people, when they think of Gibraltar, just think of the rock and the monkeys and, obviously, seeing the famous Barbary Macaques is a highlight for everyone. Gibraltar has so much more to offer though. In previous years we’ve taken our guests on dolphin watching trips and around the Alameda Gardens. This year, we ventured inside the rock to explore the Great Siege Tunnels and St Michael’s Cave.
Another of our traditions is to have a weekend in Malaga every December to see the Christmas lights. I thought they were spectacular last year and, although they’ve changed for 2019, they were just as special.
The main display is centred on Calle Larios where there’s a music and lights display three times a night but a walk around the old town or along the Alameda Principal is equally as lovely with Christmas trees and other illuminations. There are also Christmas markets dotted around the city and roast chestnut sellers on the street corners.
We loved Berlin so much when we visited in May that we decided to head back for the Christmas Markets which certainly didn’t disappoint. There are over sixty markets in and around Berlin so, naturally, we couldn’t cover them all but I don’t think we did too badly with the ones we chose. My favourite was the market at Charlottenburg Palace but I also loved taking a ride on the Ferris Wheel in the market at Alexanderplatz.
It was a long weekend of much eating and drinking (mainly glühwein at the markets although we did visit the Ice Bar for a sub zero vodka or two) – it’s impossible, for me anyway, to visit a Christmas market without overindulging in the festive fayre!!
The highlight of this trip was the evening we spent in the Botanical Gardens which are transformed every Christmas into a winter wonderland.
On top of these I also had lots of day trips either along the coast (Estepona is one of my favourite places) or inland (Castellar de la Frontera is a popular trip whenever we have visitors) so, now that 2019 is nearly over, it’s time to start planning where to go and what to do in 2020!!