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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?

Tarifa

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.

Krakow

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.

Tavira

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.

Lagos

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!

Why not pin this for later and follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more inspiration, photos and updates?

2020 may not have gone to plan but I still managed to leave home a few times so read on for my travel review of the year.

24 Comments

  1. Jealous that your local trip was Portugal – a trip I had to cancel due to the Pandemic. But like you, I did get to enjoy local sites too – awesome sites that I otherwise wouldn’t have experienced. Walking the Camino is a great goal for this year. It’s still on my 80 year old Dad’s bucket list, and he still has every intention of walking it…

    1. That’s awesome that your Dad is planning to walk the Camino – judging by the research I’ve been doing it seems to be one of those things where there are no age barriers. Good luck to him – I hope he gets the chance soon.

  2. Well, you got to do a lot more than we managed. Krakow is high on our list of places to visit at some point; my wife works with several Polish people who have praised it and recommended it.

    1. Yeah I didn’t do too badly!! I’m doing lots of Camino planning at the moment and, once I’ve actually walked it, it should keep me in blogs for the rest of the year!! ;o)

  3. We are anxious to read all about your Camino de Santiago journey. We have seen the movie many times. We have fond memories of our time in Northumberland and Newcastle Upon Tyne. We stayed there several days during Sting’s production of The Last Ship. We were mesmerized of how his story popped into real life after seeing it first hand. We spent one night watching the fishing boats come in at the quay and stumbled upon one of our most unique experiences at Holy Island. We just happened to drive by an hour before the water receded so we waiting and checked it out. So cool!

    1. I’m very much looking forward to the Camino.

      Northumberland is such a beautiful part of the world. I’m really lucky that, in normal times, I get to visit often. I’ve driven across the causeway to Holy Island but haven’t sat and watched the tide come in (or out) – one for my next visit.

  4. I understand not wanting to say your travel plans out loud. But here’s to a no-jinx 2021! I walked the Camino de Santiago (Northern Route) 1.5 years ago, and it was a life-changing experience. I can’t wait to read about your pilgrimage! (Knock on wood.)

    1. Fingers crossed everything goes to plan!! I’m sure once I’ve walked the Portuguese route I’ll be bitten by the bug and ready to try some of the others so I might be coming to you for advice!

    1. 2020 wasn’t a bad year all things considered! I hope I get back to Krakow at some point and also see a bit more of Poland – Wroclaw is another city on my list.

  5. Walking the Camino de Santiago sounds like a great plan for 2021, Alison! Sounds like such a great adventure. Jealous of the Portugal trip – looks like it was lovely and that sunset in Tavira is beautiful! 🙂

  6. Sounds like you’ve managed to see quite a bit! As much as I want to travel, I’m not ready to start booking things. Too many unknown variables still.

    1. We were lucky that we’ve managed to do a fair bit without having to get on a plane since March. There’s a lot I’d like to do this year but I’m not booking anything just yet either.

  7. I’m very envious that you got to explore Portugal, especially Lagos. I can’t wait to return.
    What an achievement with your running too. Best of luck with the Camino de Santiago, that will be incredible Alison.

    1. Thanks Wendy! I’m planning like a crazy woman at the moment – I know the dates I want to go but I just daren’t make any bookings yet. Even if I have to hold off until next year I’ll be super organised and ready for it!! ;o)

  8. I wish you well on your 2021 plans. In a few years I’d like to do the Camino too. I’m planning on some long distance Irish walks this year. I think your 2020 wasn’t too bad, at least you got in two international trips. But those lockdown months must have been terrible. We were never that restricted here.

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