The days that lead to New Year’s Eve are always a time of reflection. It’s a time to look back at our year. To cherish the good moments. To evaluate the negative and learn from our mistakes. 2017 was a learning year. It was a year of new beginnings as we rang the new year with a two-month-old baby. Both the Dutchman and I had professional changes that led us to reevaluate our goals. It was a year of heartbreak as we witnessed mother nature’s wrath throughout the world. Being from Puerto Rico, the damage that Hurricane Maria caused is still quite an open wound for me.
Reflection aside, 2017 was a great year for travel. We had the opportunity to experience 10 countries, 2 new to us: Colombia and Slovenia. We got to eat great food, stay at gorgeous hotels, and see breathtaking landscapes. We had the privilege to witness the magic of two beautiful weddings. We met inspiring chefs, artists, hoteliers, and entrepreneurs.
Here are some of the highlights of our travels…
Southern Road Trip
I haven’t had the opportunity to write about this experience but will do so soon. Given the current political climate in the United States, many people, especially people of color like me, may be hesitant to travel down south. However, we did not want our lives to be dictated by fear. We drove from Washington, DC to Savannah, Georgia with stops in Atlanta and Charlotte. We fell in love with all three cities and can’t say enough about the level of customer service and hospitality. Bonus: we got to take la Piccola to her first NBA game thanks to a good friend who works for the Hawks.
One of the highlights of the trip was stopping in a tiny town in North Carolina on our way to Charlotte. To be honest, I don’t even remember the name. We (Dutchman, Piccola and I) stopped by for lunch at this nondescript barbecue place. It did not get more southern than that: the scent of the BBQ, the southern drawl of the staff, and generous helpings of mac ‘n cheese. However, what we witnessed was what makes me hopeful. People of different races eating and working together in a common environment. I truly believe that food has a unifying effect.
Colombia is a place I’ve been longing to visit since I used to listen to Carlos Vives and Shakira in high school. Everybody that I know who has visited Colombia has raved about it. Now I know why! Cartagena is simply magical. The colors of the colonial homes, the bright smiles, the freshness of the ceviche are all reasons to return.
Bogota was a different world than Cartagena but just as special. Now we know how Gabriel Garcia Marquez drew his inspiration. The diversity and depth from one city to another is astounding. The view from the mountains, the hip cafes, the beautifully spoken Spanish makes it one of my favorite cities in the new world. The only mistake we made on our trip to Colombia was not staying longer.
Slovenia has been on my list for the last few years. Our friends were getting married in Bavaria, Germany and Triglav National Park is just a four-hour drive. The Slovenian Alps are breathtaking. We went for a long drive along the winding mountain roads simply in awe. The snow-capped mountains, the icy blue streams, the majestic waterfalls are still vivid in my mind.
We were fortunate enough to visit Rotterdam twice this year. It’s great to become more and more familiar with this city as the years go by. Rotterdamers say there’s always something new being built in Rotterdam. They are so right! As a lover of modern architecture, I loved taking a ride on the Rotterdam Water Taxi and admiring all the interestingly designed buildings. One of my favorite posts of 2017 is about locally owned hotels in Rotterdam. Being able to appreciate local owned business is something I try to do during my travels. I will be writing more about locally owned hotels in 2018.
There were no shortages of great culinary experiences this year so will narrow it down to a few. So hard to pick favorites! In terms of my international travels, we loved Carmen in Cartagena, Astrid y Gaston in Bogota, and Carina in Brussels. From our domestic travels, The Grey in Savannah, Local Roots in Roanoke, and Raymi in NYC take the prize. In DC, Tiger Fork, Sushiko, La Puerta Verde, and Kyirisan are places that I recommend repeatedly.
We’ve stayed in dozens of hotels but there are a few that stand out in 2017. The Four Seasons Casa Medina was spectacular. Their dining room is an object of my design fantasies. In Rotterdam, Hotel Stroom’s unique design made me want to live there. The coziness and smart design of Made in Louise in Brussels was a favorite as well. Made in Louise is also located in the neighborhood where my Dutchman and I met so that’s a bonus! As for staycations, we enjoyed exploring Virginia horse country at Salamander Resort & Spa.
What can we say? There are so many great trips we made this year that we can keep going on and on. From our weekend in Antwerp to our staycation at National Harbor to a Bavarian wedding, 2017 has plenty of travel memories to cherish. Most of all, our daughter got to experience all of these places with us. Hopefully, 2018 will show us more new and interesting places. Where do you want to go next year?