2020. Definitely the strangest year I’ve ever experienced (and that’s an understatement) which means it probably seems a pointless exercise to write one of my annual travel reviews.
At the start of the year I made the decision to quit my job so I could concentrate on my blog, with the plan being to spend a lot of time exploring the parts of Andalucía closest to me. I envisaged day trips along the Costa del Sol, long weekends on the Costa de la Luz, and trips to discover new towns and cities, while revisiting some old favourites.
Little did I know that when I walked out of the office for the last time in early March that, just a week later, Spain would go into a full lockdown and it would be seven weeks before I was even able to leave the house. Aaah, the best laid plans of mice and men…
Before lockdown I was able to fit in one overseas trip but others, including a trip back home to the Isle of Man, were cancelled as was our annual visit to Jerez for the Sherry Marathon, a jaunt to Marbella to see Simple Minds in concert, and a return to Northumberland to visit Mark’s family and take part in the Great North Run. Since March I’ve also only been back to Gibraltar twice – it’s so close I can see it from home yet it might as well be a million miles away.
So, where have I been this year?
For the second year running we spent New Year’s Eve in Tarifa on the Costa de la Luz.
This year we stayed at Kook Hotel, a quirky boutique hotel within the old town walls and, as is customary on any trip we take to Tarifa, we had dinner in Vaca Loca before heading to the square in front of the cathedral to join in with the festivities.
Since Mark and I met we’ve ‘enjoyed’ a dip in the sea each January 1st and 2020 was no different. Before moving to Spain we spent every New Year in Northumberland with his family which meant a chilly dip in the North Sea at Whitley Bay. Now it’s either the Med, or, like this year, a bracing swim in the Atlantic Ocean.
We also popped back to Tarifa during the summer for a whale watching trip. Unfortunately, the Orcas were keeping a low profile but we did get to see pilot whales and lots of dolphins.
We took our first, and only, flight of 2020 in March and spent a few days in Krakow. It was our first visit to Poland and we stayed in the lovely Hotel Stary, just a stone’s throw from Krakow’s town square.
We spent time exploring the cobbled streets of this beautiful city with frequent stops for traditional Polish food and drink.
We also took a fascinating trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mines and spent a sobering afternoon at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
I fell in love with Krakow and wish we could have stayed longer as there’s still so much I’d like to see and do. As it was, our timing was impeccable. Any longer and we may not have got back to Spain!
When we arrived home from Krakow the seriousness of the situation was becoming evident and, that weekend, the President announced a full lockdown. This meant that, rather than gadding about Andalucía as planned, my only trips outside of the apartment were to take the bins out.
When restrictions were eased in early May we could exercise outside for an hour as long as we stayed within a kilometre radius of home. This meant I was wandering down roads I’d never taken before and discovering just how much beauty there is on my doorstep.
Further easing of restrictions came at the end of May but it still wasn’t permitted to travel between municipalities. Luckily where I live in Sotogrande there are some lovely beaches for long walks as well as some beautiful countryside to explore.
By September things were starting to feel more normal so we decided to take a road trip to Portugal.
Tavira is a lovely town on the Algarve and not far from the border with Spain. We spent a few days exploring the old town, relaxing on the long sandy beaches, and enjoying some delicious food.
We stayed in Residencial Mares, a small family run hotel right on the river and got to witness this beautiful sunrise on our first morning.
Next stop on our road trip was Lagos. At the opposite end of the Algarve, Lagos is blessed with beautiful beaches which we enjoyed from land and sea. It also has a thriving street art scene so I was in my element wandering round the old town looking for artwork.
We stayed in Casa Creativa, a funky hotel in the old town and enjoyed so much good food – if you like seafood you’ll love Lagos!
Even though I couldn’t do a lot of the things I had planned for 2020 it hasn’t been all doom and gloom. I’m lucky, for one thing, that I stayed healthy, as did all my family and friends and, fortunately, don’t know anyone personally who was affected by COVID-19.
While physical travelling might have been largely off the menu I’ve got plenty of inspiration for future travels from my lockdown reading.
With a Kindle Unlimited subscription I’ve read dozens of books this year and, while most of them have been in a similar vein (I do like a good crime thriller), I’ve been transported to far off places including Antarctica, Sicily, Australia, and New York among others.
What’s in store for 2021?
After a very active 2019 (I set myself a goal to run at least one mile a day every day and ended up running more than 1,300 miles over the course of the year) and, unsurprisingly, a very inactive 2020, my biggest travel plan (all being well) for 2021 is to walk the Camino de Santiago.
I’ve decided to walk the Portuguese Way from Porto to Santiago de Compostela which is around 250 kms and then to continue from Santiago to Finisterre, just short of another 100 kms.
I’m not saying any of my other travel plans out loud – just in case they’re scuppered again!