Well, as we get ready to start another year, plans are made and perhaps, vacations booked 😉
Thus, I decided to write up a little post about our top favourite places.
It’s so hard to narrow a list like this down with weather, location and overall experience playing such a big part in how a person remembers a place but I’ve tried my best and would love to also hear some of YOUR favourite places or, least favourites🤪
Also if you’ve been to any of these places, what your experience was!
Also, for almost all of our accommodations, my husband has booked us places using Airbnb.
We’ve gotten great deals, helpful service via Airbnb customer service and stayed at places that give off such a different vibe then the classic hotel room. I highly recommend 👍🏻🏘
1 – South Africa
The vacation that has it all.
Good food, diverse landscapes, affordable accommodations, nice people, animals and a big bonus is the English spoken and written.
During vacation it can get tiring to have someone trying to explain every dish on the menu before you order and hope it was translated correctly/hope you remembered the options.
But truly, besides the lengthy traveling to GET there, it was our favourite vacation spot.
The cost of everything is extremely affordable, meals are not only healthier & delicious (I don’t think we ate one place that we left even slightly dissatisfied) but also much cheaper! Mike got one of the most tender, tasty fillet mignon steaks for around $15.00 and it wasn’t a little one either.
That’s just one example 😉
We were lucky that Mike knew some people there (duh, where DOESN’T he know someone 🤪) and since they were ‘locals’ they were able to reserve us a spot at Pilanesberg safari, staying at the Ivory Tree Game Lodge, for a much better price than we’d have been able to book it for ahead of time.
Though I like animals, I didn’t think I would enjoy safari THAT much but it was a great experience.
The mix of very early mornings, driving while the sun rises and being on constant watch for animals, coming back to have breakfast and a short nap and then leaving for an evening drive made for tiring but also refreshing days.
Being handed a drink once you got back in the darkness of evening, wind chilled from the drive in the open Jeep had and then tiredly going to your room where the bed was freshly made and turned down for you, was all a part of the 5 star experience.
(WHY is turndown service such a nice touch?! I have hands, I can fold the blanket down too… or can I? 😂)
There is a lot to do.
You can do safari style things, malls, beaches, bungee jumping if you’re into self inflicting fear and many other options we didn’t have time to try out. Not saying we tried out bungee jumping either…we would rather eat then barf😂
The landscape is awesome.
We drove the garden route, a scenic drive that starts in Cape Town and ends in Port Elizabeth.
There’s lush green, barren brown, rocky hills, mountains, sand dunes and beaches and rock shorelines… not at all the diversity I would have pictured before going there.
I mean, there ARE downfalls, if you’re not into being wary of baboons on the beach and sharks in the water, stay away from the beaches, especially the ones flying the Shark flag 🤪
This brings me to another aspect that TO ME, is detrimental to having a grand time whilst away from home.
There were shells. Many, beautiful shells.
The end 😉
*small downside – be prepared to tip, there are lots of ‘helpful’ people who are expecting something in return
If you want to glance through our time there, you can read about it here – Our First Days Learning The SA Ways
– Zakynthos, Greece
The ultimate foodie/clear ocean experience.
I wouldn’t say this is a place to go if you want to overdose on adventure and activities… but if you want to relax, eat, walk out into clear, calm ocean water, eat and relax some more, this was a great place to do it 😏👍🏻
Also, I got to hold a baby tortoise 💁🏻♀️
(But if you go at the right time there is supposedly a good chance you can see turtles/baby turtles on the beaches.)
We stayed at The Balcony Hotel and loved it.
I’m not sure what they did to those beds but we slept wonderfully when ever we were in the room. Seriously, we pretty much couldn’t enter our room without taking even a small nap. We had a window overlooking the ocean and when dining at the delicious hotel restaurant, there was on an open patio overlooking the ocean there too 😉
Also, there were stray kittens there… I’m beginning to think my recollections of holidays are slightly skewed depending on what small animals I could see/touch 😂
If you like Greek food, then this is obviously a smart decision but seriously, the food was SO good.
The restaurants that the Greek themselves would probably consider fast food or cheap snacks, were leaving us stuffed and happy, so you can imagine what a slightly less casual dining experience was like for the taste buds😉
Breakfast there was a new experience for me too, generally I don’t eat anything first thing in the morning but there, with breads and pastries stuffed with cheese, made fresh? 🤤 Things changed.
Also, after every meal you get a small, complimentary dessert!
Just the perfect size of sweet to satisfy but not enough to overfill 👌🏻
The shipwreck beach, a classic tourist spot, had THE bluest water I have ever seen in my life.
I thought pictures of it were overly photoshopped but I was wrong… think of the bluest, blue raspberry slushy you would imagine, made with the overly potent, fake food coloring and then imagine THAT dumped in an ocean.
Bam, shipwreck beach.
Typically when I’ve been to the ocean, it’s rough and wavy and not really a place to wade in casually but in Zakynthos, there were multiple spots sporting clear, calm water and clean, coral/rock/plant free sandy bottoms.
Mike is typically a ‘go out, do and see all that there is, to do and see’, but even he said he truly got into relaxation mode a day or two after being there 😉
It’s also very interesting to see all of the stunning Greek homes that have been abandoned due to the economy. It’s sad but still jaw droppingly pretty.
If you want to glance through our time there, you can read about it here – Sleep, Eat, Beach, Repeat
3 – Switzerland
*Disclaimer – we went here while Michiel had a business trip, so costs were essentially cut in half.
I don’t think we could have afforded it otherwise 🙈
If you know anything about me by now, you may know I am a prairie girl through and through.
In what sense you might ask?
Well, you know mountains?
I can’t stand them 😂🤪
They ARE beautiful to look at and I do think of them as masterpieces created by God, but… He made wide open spaces too 😂
I like to look at, be amazed and then leave the mountain surrounded areas, so I feel like I can breathe again 😉
BUT, we truly did enjoy our short stay/drive though Switzerland!
The lush, vegetation filled green hills, blue skies and lakes make for enjoyable views, almost anywhere you are ☺️
It’s of course a different vibe then the previous two vacations mentioned but in its own good way.
There are lots of dark, wood homes with ornate shutters and rails, making it feel older, more rustic and less modern in a way, though there were of course populated city areas as well.
Prices of almost everything are roughly 30% higher than in most of Europe, but they don’t advertise ‘made in Switzerland’ to get LESS money now do they 😉
The cheese fondue.
That sentence alone could convince a person to go there 🤤🧀
But then the price attached could convince any person to leave 😂
It was super delicious though, I mean, bread, dipped in melting, flavour filled cheese 👌🏻
We stayed at The Glashause Hotel and it will forever be one of my favourite hotel rooms we stayed at.
It didn’t FEEL like a hotel but instead like a clean, classy room that we could in relax fully, while enjoying a view.
If you want to glance through our time there, you can read about it here – On The Road Again
4 – Amsterdam
I almost didn’t think to put this on the list, since it didn’t feel like a ‘vacation’ spot to me, as we went there so many times while living in Europe.
But with it boasting of cobblestone, narrow bike lined streets and canals, it’s certainly a worthy stop.
The ‘postcard’ looks of Amsterdam are the same as the real life Amsterdam and well worth exploring 🙂
During the colder months it has a festive atmosphere and then during spring you’ll walk past rows of vendors selling fresh flowers.
There is architecture, shopping, food and history almost everywhere the eye lands and it’s a prime place to witness the hustle and bustle of another culture going about their day to day.
Sitting at outdoor patios wrapped in coats and scarves to sip coffee because it’s ‘cozy’, woman in dress attire, casually biking to work in the misty morning, wafts of smoke coming out of an open ‘coffee shop’ door and people walking with fries in hand with loads of sauce atop them.
Also, they have a place called Tout Patisseri, where you can buy the best (pistachio) macaroons you’ll ever eat 🙌🏻
Trust us, we have tried many a Mac and the only ones that compare are in Winnipeg, from Jenna Rae Cakes 💕
I don’t have a specific Amsterdam focused post, so if you are curious just ‘Amsterdam’ on the main page of the blog 🙂
5 – Rome, Italy
Now, this was taken longest ago and as a side kick kind of situation with Mikes siblings, so it’s always different when you aren’t 100% free to do as you please 🙂
So, though we weren’t left to our own devices and it was busy with people, it was lovely.
There are narrow streets to wander but there are also an abundance of wide streets, making the crowds not feel so tight.
Ruins all around, large cobblestones, small cafes and architecture surround you and also many gardens.
There was something about the sunlight streaming through vine draped street ways, stairs and ruins, that made for a warm invitation to explore.
There were many ‘best coffee’ spots recommenced and tried and many a pizza eaten and MANY miles walked.
My suitcase with flat shoes had been delayed, so all I had was heeled boots and if you’ve ever walked on cobblestone that’s a whole other thing too.
So, we can safely say my feet had never felt so bruised up to that point in my life 🤪
I can’t send you to read about out time there, as I didn’t have Jemstory yet… so you’ll have to take my memories word for it 🤓
Honourable mentions –
We went there for a short trip with my parents during their trip to visit us in Europe.
We stayed in Zadar which was near the waterside and it was a fun city to explore.
There was a farmers market to buy fruits and goodies right from the area and many tasty restaurants near where we stayed.
We also drove to the Plitvice Lakes National Park to do some hiking and it was beautiful.
Teal tinted clear pools of water hugged each side of the driftwood boardwalks, waterfalls spraying mist across our path and the bright green leaves overheard, casting their shadows when wandering through the more wooded areas.
If you want to glance through our time there, you can read about it here – Rest, Eat, Repeat In Zadar Croatia
We went when it was cold out so that can greatly change the allure of a place.
For me anyways, but had we gone during tourist season, I can’t imagine what the crowds would have been like 😳
Even when we were there, there is a lot of pushing through people and side stepping to stay out of the way of others… then in tourist season when the water is higher, it’s that many people PLUS more, having only some narrow boardwalks to get from point A to point B 😬
The canals were lovely and boating through the ‘water’ streets is fun and a great way to see all the different colors and architecture but that was pretty much the highlight for us.
Being able to boat around to the different spots and see that many different styles of buildings and craftsmanship they are renowned for, isn’t usually an option anywhere else 😉
Pizza and pasta are delicious but believe it or not it can get to the point where you just want anything BESIDES that and it isn’t to be found 🤪
Same goes for a relaxing cup of coffee.
I wanted to take a break from all our walking and exploring the one day and so when a coffee was mentioned I was so happy, on many levels.
Only to stand at a bar style counter and be served what felt like 2 tablespoons of espresso 🙈
It was delicious and it DID provide the energy boost, just not the rest for the weary feet 😬
If you want to glance through our time there, you can read about it here – Arrivederci Holland, Buongiorno Italy!