Sometimes I have to pinch myself (you may want to pinch me too, after reading this post): not only do I get to travel for a living, but I’m also invited on some incredible trips as a blogger. 2013 was particularly busy and the places I’ve visited and experiences I’ve had this year will stay with me forever (and, I hope, with those who travelled with me). Here (in no particular order) are my top 10 destinations 2013. Roll on 2014.
1. St Petersburg, Russia (July)
Probably the most extraordinary city we’ve been to, not just this year, but maybe in our lives, with its intriguing history, culture and art, and some of the most stunning architecture I’ve ever seen – beautiful glittering baroque palaces that take your breath away. We spent two days there this summer as part of our Baltic cruise and I’m desperate to go back and explore further.
2. Venice, Italy (August)
Venice gets my vote as one of the most romantic cities in the world, but as we discovered when we returned this summer it’s also very kid-friendly, too, and we were lucky to stay in a hotel right on the Grand Canal overlooking the gondolas which we arrived at by vaporetto (speedboat). Eat your heart out James Bond.
3. Belfast, Northern Ireland (October)
From the fascinating Titanic Quarter to the city centre with its oh-so-chic bars and hotels, to the Antrim coast and the Giant’s Causeway, Belfast and Northern Ireland was, quite simply, a revelation – I can’t believe it took me so long to visit. I’ll definitely be returning.
4. Tampa, Florida (May)
Florida is one of my favourite US states, and Tampa has a wonderfully laid back vibe and some unexpected treasures (particularly the restaurants). The kind of place you could imagine living in, in fact.
5. Barcelona, Spain (August)
The more I visit Barcelona, the more I love it – this time we took things slowly and just enjoyed the city at its own pace, enjoying tapas at a beachfront restaurant and strolling around Gaudi’s magnificent Park Güell.
6. Rome, Italy (August)
Every time I return to the Eternal City I fall a little bit more in love with it and being able to show my niece everything it has to offer, from the Colosseum to the Trevi Fountain to the Spanish Steps, was a brilliant experience. We visited Rome as part of our Disney cruise – a truly unforgettable week.
7. Jamaica (February)
Jamaica has always been one of my favourite Caribbean islands, and visiting Falmouth and Ochos Rios with a gaggle of mummy bloggers reminded me just how much I love it. Climbing up Dunn’s River Falls was definitely a highlight.
8. Athens, Greece (August)
Athens remains one of our absolutely top cities in Europe – it’s fantastic for exploring with kids, it has a wonderful vibe and every time we visit we manage to see something different.
9. Florence, Italy (August)
Stunningly beautiful, with extraordinary works of art everywhere you look, Florence is the kind of city where you can just sit and relax and drink everything in.
10. Tallinn, Estonia (July)
Small but perfectly formed, a fairytale medieval city with a dark history. I’d love to go back in winter – the Christmas market is supposed to be amazing.