2016 really did a real weird number on us, didn’t it? Wham is on autoplay on Youtube as I’m writing this and it’s a bit heavy-hearted that I’m looking back on the year that has been. Focussing on the travel part, I think this was a good one for me though. I visited Germany for the first time, finally reconnected with my roots in Morocco, did my annual trips to Brussels and London and went back for the second consecutive year to Spain and Gibraltar. My only regret is once again, I didn’t set on exploring Ireland beyond Dublin and county Wicklow. I badly need to rectify this in 2017. For 2015’s recap, I compiled the best places I visited but this year, I want to do something a bit different and reminisce the moments that took my breath away while travelling. I think you know the ones I mean, those that make you want to pinch yourself, quit your day job and be a constant joe-on-the-road. So here come my five favourite ones.
1. Browsing a German flea market under the snow
Back in January, I woke up one Sunday in Berlin to find out that the world outside my window had been covered by a bright fluffy blanket. I had one super fun day planned, it started with brunch at Aunt Benny’s and was to be followed by a long list of markets. You see, Sunday is flea market day in Berlin and I was adamant to visit as many as I could that day. First one was on Boxhagener Platz, located only a few streets away from my Airbnb. Just as I started browsing the stalls, the first snow flurries started to fall and I looked around and felt I had been transported into a snow globe. People were holding cups of glühwein, children were dragged on sleighs and dogs were greeting each other. I kept repeating to myself ‘this is so romantic, this is so romantic!’ and the snow fell heavier and heavier…
2. Entering the Voltaire Room in the Sanssouci Palace
During that trip to Berlin in January, I took a train to Potsdam to visit the Sanssouci Palace. You know my love for rococo and baroque so it was a real treat to see with my own eyes the crazy Summer home of Frederick the Great. I gasped at many gold features and chandeliers but upon entering the room he had specifically designed for his friend and mentor Voltaire, I basically lost my sh**. The whole room is painted and furnished with the same striking marigold yellow throughout. The wall panels are covered with wood carvings of flower arrangements and fruit garlands while exotic birds seem to be frozen in a playful banter. It was nothing like I had ever seen before.
3. Standing on my ancestors’ land in the Middle Atlas
This Summer I made a last minute trip to Morocco to attend to some family matters. Unexpectedly, it turned into a magical tour of my great grand-father’s old stomping ground. He owned quite a sizeable chunk of land in the Middle Atlas which holds so many dear memories to my family. It was amazing to hear everyone’s stories and anecdotes of growing up there. One day, we sneaked into the ruins of what was once my grand-mother’s childhood home. It stands on a cliff and if you go right up to the edge, you’re met with the most incredible view. Beneath our feet, a lush valley of cherry trees stretched for miles and miles. I’ll hold that sight with me forever.
4. Being locked up in a mirrored room with glowing pumpkins
One thing I didn’t want to miss during my annual trip to London this Summer was the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Victoria Miro Gallery. I had seen her work displayed at the Tate before and I wanted to experience her universe once again. The exhibition was a bit more intimate this time but just as successful (hence the long-winding queues outside the door). The highlight of the exhibition was the room called ‘All the Eternal Love I have for the Pumpkins’. As soon as you step in the cubic room, the attendant closes the door behind you, and you have a whole minute to yourself surrounded by luminous pumpkins. What did I do in there, you may ask yourself? I took a selfie… Not sure it was the best use of my time but it certainly was one of the most memorable minutes of 2016.
5. Exploring Catalan Bay in Gibraltar
It was October and I was holding on to that Summer feeling in Gibraltar. That afternoon, I had set on exploring the East Side of the isthmus where the sandy beaches are. More specifically, Catalan Bay. I was dying to see the famous candy-coloured houses stacked against the Rock. Even though it was well into Autumn, the temperatures were high in the twenties. I cursed for not wearing a swimsuit under my clothes but nevertheless, life was good, I had the beach practically all to myself. I sat there looking out to the horizon and from to time checking on my right if the thousand of seagulls behind the hotel were planning any attack, Hitchcock style. I seriously had never seen that many seagulls gathered in one spot! When it got too hot, I carried my espadrilles in one hand and wandered bare-foot in the village’s alleyways. It was the perfect afternoon!
So that was my 2016 in a nutshell. Did you travel much this year? Tell me about your favourite memory on the road in the comment section!