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Top 10 Travel Experiences

Steve and I have been lucky to have some incredible travel experiences over the years (and a few not so good ones, too). It took me a little time to think of my top 10 over the course of the last 17 years, which is when we started to travel in earnest after graduating college and getting “real” jobs.  So, without further ado, here they are:

Seeing The Great Migration in Kenya

We ended up doing this trip somewhat last minute after having one too many beers on our back patio one evening and deciding we should do a safari.  However, it ended up being one of my all-time favorite trips.  This was one of the few trips I have been on that really took my breath away or brought me close to tears (happy tears).  Seeing the animals in their natural habitat was exhilarating but the landscape and the kindness of the people made it an even more special experience.

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Crocodile attacking a zebra during a river crossing.  The zebra got away…this time.
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Cheetah in the Masai Mara Park
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Up close with elephants
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Beautiful male lion on safari

Channeling Ernest Hemingway in Spain (Running of the Bulls)

I won’t lie – this trip is a one and done for me for The Running of the Bulls  (but I LOVE Spain) but it was an experience.  Pamplona is crowded, dirty and filthy stinking drunk during this festival but getting up at the crack of dawn with a hangover to watch the Running from a balcony and then partying the rest of the day was something I’ll never forget.  We also attended a bullfight but it was way too violent for me – no thanks!

Spain 5

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Insane crowds right before the Running starts
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The Running is fast and chaotic
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From the safety of our balcony
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In our San Fermin outfits

 

Sitting on the Best Beaches in the Caribbean with a rum punch

We have visited a lot of Caribbean islands (Jamaica, Bahamas, Aruba, Antigua, Turks & Caicos, St. Lucia) but by far the best iconic beaches are in the Virgin Islands.  Perfect sugary soft white sand and the clearest blue water anywhere.  Probably my favorite beaches are found in St. John in the USVI but Jost Van Dyke’s White Bay Beach in the BVI will always have a special place in my heart.  I can swing in a hammock with a Painkiller drink in my hand all day on that beach.

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White Bay Beach, BVI
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Sunset on Jost Van Dyke, BVI

Learning to Love Wine Tasting

We did our first wine tasting trip in California 6 years ago and it completely turned us into wine lovers and a bit of wine snobs. The idea of tasting wine for more than one day originally seemed kind of boring to me but learning about wine is fascinating and I quickly learned that wine does not grow in ugly places – the scenery is usually beautiful and the restaurants in wine country are amazing.  Next week we are off to Willamette Valley in Oregon for some new tastings!

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Picnic Lunch and wine in Sonoma
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Barrel Room at Opus One in Napa

Speaking French Like a Parisian

Okay, okay, I can’t really speak French like a Parisian but during one of our first trips to Paris where I was really struggling with the language, I decided on the spot that I would take French lessons when I got home and then come back and make the French language my bitch.  So, I found a private tutor and took lessons one day a week for a year and then planned a return trip to Paris.  I ended up doing quite well and even got compliments on my French from several waiters (and Paris waiters are notoriously snotty).  Twice I was mistaken for being Italian, which is funny because my French teacher also spoke and taught Italian so I must have picked up a little bit of her accent.  I felt like a bad ass that trip, which was fun.

Paris Pic

Jumping into the Lagoon of Bora Bora

This year we celebrated our 15 year wedding anniversary by traveling for the first time to French Polynesia.  We stayed on Moorea for 3 nights and then spent 4 nights in an overwater bungalow on Bora Bora.  I loved Moorea but Bora Bora seems unreal.  The scenery almost looks like a fake movie set back drop.  Of course, Steve and I spent a lot of time jumping into the lagoon from our bungalow deck, sipping overpriced champagne and even spent a day on a private tour of the lagoon with a lunch on a private island.  It was a long flight but was such a dream vacation spot.  Everytime I saw Mount Otemanu, I had to pinch myself to prove I was awake.

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View of the Lagoon from private island lunch
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Mount Otemanu
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Living that overwater bungalow life (if only for 4 days)

 

Exploring the Souks of Marrakesh Morocco

Morocco was a country that really surprised me. I was expecting it to be hot and dirty (which it was to some degree) but it was incredibly beautiful even with all of its grit.  The colors, smells, noise and chaos were strangely exotic and appealing.  Steve and I spent an entire day just wandering the souks, getting lost, finding little gems every every corner and finally being overwhelmed by the Jemma al Fna plaza.  It was one of the first times I really felt like I was experiencing a truly foreign culture.

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Colorful and fragrant spices eveywhere
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The “dyer’s market” in the souks
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Snake Charming in Jemma al Fna Plaza

Eating Fancy in New York

On our last trip to New York with Steve, we splurged and stayed at the St. Regis in midtown.  One of the perks is using the service of their clef d’or concierge and she was so helpful with getting us into some difficult to reserve restaurants.  That weekend we were able to dine at Gramercy Tavern and Blue Hill, which were both excellent.  However, probably my favorite meal was one I had alone! I was on a business trip by myself and decided to “pop into” Le Bernardin where I sat at the bar and had a 5 course meal that was one the best I have ever had.  Steve was so jealous sitting at home with the dog, eating cheetos and looking at the pictures I was texting him.

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At Le Bernardin – One of the signature dishes – a pounded tuna carpaccio with sea beans
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Love NYC

Climbing a Mountain in St. Lucia

During a week stay in St. Lucia 3 years ago, Steve and I decided to climb Gros Piton mountain.  Steve is a much bigger hiker than me but I was game.  We got half way up the mountain and Steve bailed due to a bad stomach ache.  I ended up carrying on with the guide and finally made it to the top!  This was hands down the hardest hike I have ever done and I wanted to quit so many times but it was worth the bragging rights in the end.  Steve got to listen to me talk about how I had “summited” my first peak for the rest of the trip – I’m sure he loved that.

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Summit of Gros Piton!
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Pitons from the water – Gros Piton on the right

Taking in the history of Rome

We finally made it to Italy for the first time last year and it did not disappoint.  History was my minor in college so I love visiting historical sights and Rome is one of those cities where everywhere you look there is something historical.  Turning a corner and seeing the Coliseum looming in front of you or the hulking Pantheon is such an incredible experience or walking the ruins of the Roman Forum and knowing that this is where Julius Caesar was killed and then cremated is almost surreal.  I particularly enjoyed our guided visit to the Vatican which is overwhelming in terms of size and artifacts.  Finally checking the Sistine Chapel off my list was a must but it was also more beautiful than I expected.  Oh, and pizza.  And pasta.  And gelato.  And chianti.

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Pantheon
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See that line of people in front of the Coliseum? That is the “skip the line” line. Ha ha – good joke, Rome!
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Piiiiiiizzzzzaaaaaa
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Me in my element

 

Not a bad list though I could add a few others, including attending the opening weekend of Oktoberfest in Munich, eating crazy spicy jerk chicken in Jamaica and having the longest and most expensive lunch ever at La Tour D’Argent in Paris.  But there is still so much on our list, including Asia (Japan, Hong Kong, Bali, Thailand and Vietnam), Iceland, Tuscany, Argentina, Peru, the Greek Isles and New Zealand.  So many great places and experiences are still yet to be had….

8 thoughts on “Top 10 Travel Experiences

  1. I’m taking note of BVI here – I’ve been to quite a few Caribbean islands but there are so many more I want to visit! I do regret not attempting to hike the Pitons in St Lucia a few years back but it gives me a great excuse to return! Great list Melissa

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes but unfortunately the BVI and USVI was just devastated by Irma. We were planning to return in April 2018 and may still have to cancel as the islands may not be ready even by then. So sad! When they fully recover, definitely put the BVI and USVI on your Caribbean list – the beaches of St. John are the best I have seen anywhere in the Caribbean, hands down.

      Like

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