Not surprisingly, the most frequent question I'm asked is "What's your favorite destination?" It might seem like an easy question to answer, but that's far from the reality. There are so many destinations around the world - I love mountains, beaches, wildlife, warm weather, cold weather, meeting new people. I've traveled to Newfoundland and Iceland many times. I have family in Ireland and have been visiting since 2001 - I think I'm on my 10th or 11th trip, I've lost count. Those countries are all on the top of my list.
Staying in the heart of the Amazon in beautiful Ecuador, one of the most diverse and spectacular countries was an experience of a lifetime - listening to the howls of the monkeys through the rainforest, seeing the red eyes of the caimans in the river after dark, the toucans perched in the trees and the hundreds of parrots soaring through the skies, it was something I never thought I'd see outside of a TV screen.
Greece was incredible, the history, the people, the food, the scenery!
And, traveling to Croatia this year I fell hard for that country too - I'm returning to experience more of some of my favorite spots there in 2020 - there's so much I have to say about that spectacular country, it deserves a post of it's own...on the list!
Of course, I've been mostly living in Baja, Mexico for the last 18 months or so - the Wild West feel, the stunning beaches and crystal-clear blue waters for snorkeling that are like swimming in an aquarium, the Mexican people and the mouthwatering cuisine, make it one of my favorite places too. And, the whales...humpbacks and gray whales come so close you can almost pet them - in some places, you can!
Truly, it's an impossible question to answer. But, after visiting New Zealand, I have to admit, that one is going to be hard to beat. Not that I have to choose just one, of course. When I returned from my trip, I endured some of the worst jet lag ever... but I also felt more calm and relaxed than I had in a very long time. There was just something magical about this place that I tried to boil down to a list of reasons, but to really understand it, you'll need to visit yourself. Trust me when I say, the long flight and jet lag is worth it.
I'm going back in March of 2021 - in one of my latest articles for Trips To Discover I reveal just some of the reasons why: !3 Reasons New Zealand is the Best Country to Visit
Where will you go in 2020?
2019 was quite the year for travel - and, I've been so busy with client work I've barely had time to breathe between working and traveling. It's time to slow down the pace a bit, but I have got some very exciting adventures coming up in 2020.
I'll be traveling to Ireland like I do most years, visiting in late April/early May, a great time to be there with all the green and wildflowers, but far fewer tourists than what the summer springs. From there, I'll fly to Porto, Portugal for a few days and then drive north to Asturias, Spain. That region is rarely visited by American tourists, and it happens to be one of the last places that Anthony Bourdain featured on Parts Unknown before passing in June of 2018. Mountains, ocean, amazing food... there are many reasons I've decided to visit, some of which I've outlined in this article for Trips To Discover: Top 9 Reasons to Visit Asturias, Spain.
In July, I'll return to one of my favorite places on Earth, Newfoundland - this will be my sixth trip, but it will be shorter than usual. Last time I visited the west and north, so heading back to spend more time in St. John's and Trinity, for two whale watching trips. There were hundreds of humpbacks there last year so crossing fingers that it will be just as good in 2020, but it's always a beautiful place to visit. From there, I'll head to the Arctic - Churchhill, Manitoba from there to spend a week with the beluga whales. The Hudson Bay coastline in Northern Manitoba is home to the world's largest population with over 57,000 belugas congregating in the region in the summer. And, while polar bears don't usually come into town until the fall, I'll be heading out with Lazy Bear Expeditions to go where they are. Seeing the belugas and the polar bears is something I've wanted to do for years.
Finally, I had such an amazing time in Croatia this past September/October that I'm going back again in 2020. I was fortunate to be able to join a small-ship cruise with Unforgettable Croatia, one of my clients, and I was seriously blown away by the experience. A small-ship cruise is nothing like going on one of those mega ships and it was one of the best trips I've ever had - it really requires a full blog post, and during this "slower" time of the year, I'll be getting to that soon. The food, the wine, the people, the scenery, the history. Incredible. For this next trip I'll be visiting Crete in Greece for a week first and then head to Dubrovnik, Korcula Island, Split, the Plitvice Lakes area, into Slovenia (Lake Bled) and the Istrian Peninsula, which is amazing, a lot like Tuscany with hilltop towns and lots of vineyards - the area is famous for its truffles too.
Just recently I spent a couple of weeks in New Zealand, so I'll be detailing that trip in my next blog post. I'd wanted to travel there since I was a teenager and it was even better than I imagined. While it's always hard for me to pick a favorite place, I have to say, that was it. I really never wanted to leave... but more on that coming soon. I'm already planning a return trip in March of 2021.
Where will you go in 2020? I'd love to hear about it!
Surprisingly, one of the questions I'm asked most often in regard to Newfoundland is "Why?" followed by, "Where is it anyway?"
First off, Newfoundland is Canada's easternmost province in the Atlantic region. If you could see far enough, standing on its east coast, you'd be looking directly at Ireland. Of course, it's over 2,000 miles away, so unless you're superhuman, that's not going to happen. Many Newfoundlanders are of Irish descent, and if you speak with a Newfoundlander, particularly in and around the area called the Irish Loop, you might swear that you are talking to someone who just arrived from the Emerald Isle, only to have them tell you their ancestors arrived 400 years ago.
Now that you know where it is, here's why you should go.
If you go during the summer months, you'll have the chance to see up to 22 species of whales, including the world's largest population of humpbacks. In St. Anthony on the Great Northern Peninsula, it's common to go on a whale watching trip and have the boat literally surrounded by the creatures.
Following a route known as "Iceberg Alley," a multitude of sparkling white and blue icebergs float from the glaciers of Greenland to the waters off Newfoundland's east and northern coasts. They typically arrive in May and stick around through mid-July, but can sometimes be seen as late as August or early September.
You don't have to travel all the way to Norway to see a breathtaking fjord, because Gros Morne National Park on the west coast, has some of its own. The park is renowned for its gorgeous freshwater fjords, striking cliffs and magnificent shorelines. Take the Western Brook Pond tour to see a landlocked fjord, as well as cascading waterfalls, wildlife and more.
If you like puffins, you'll be in heaven here, especially in Elliston, the best spot for close encounters with these adorable birds close up. In fact, it offers one of the closest land views of puffins on the entire continent. Between May and September, the colorful auks occupy a section of land at the end of a rocky outcrop. Take the less than five-minute walk down a narrow, well-worn path that will bring you to what is known to locals as the “Puffin Site.” In 1987, a census estimated there were 2500 pairs of puffins here, but in recent years the number has increased dramatically.
One of the most common sayings in Newfoundland is "Mind the moose." And that's because they're everywhere. Pay close attention to roadsides when you're driving and you're likely to spot more than a few.
While St. John's is arguably the oldest city in North America, existing on maps as early as 1519, Newfoundland's history goes back much farther than that. Follow the Viking Trail to L’Anse Aux Meadows, and you can see the archaeological remains of a Norse encampment that dates back over 1,000 years - it's the only authenticated Viking site on the continent. Costumed interpreters are at the site in recreated dwellings to provide a fascinating glimpse of the Vikings time in the province.
Whether it’s at an ad-hoc kitchen party, a festival or a pub, music is the heartbeat of Newfoundland. In the capital city of St. John's, you can enjoy famously outstanding local live music along George Street, which boasts the most bars and pubs per square foot of any street in North America. O'Reilly's is a fantastic place to go with live Irish music every night of the week. At some places, you might even have the opportunity to grab an ugly stick and join in the fun.
If you're up on the Great Northern Peninsula around St. Anthony or L'anse aux Meadows, don't miss Skippers Hot Lounge, they do a really fun Screech-In if you want to become an official Newfoundlander too.
The Food and Drink
I've had some many exceptional meals here, including lobster, mussels, halibut and more. If you're a seafood lover you'll especially enjoy the cuisine, but if you aren't, don't worry, there's plenty of your favorites to be found here too. If you're a fan of Guinness, while it's readily available throughout the province, be sure to try the St. John's stout, made by Yellow Belly Brewery. Don't tell my Irish friends, but it's actually slightly better. Something I never thought I'd ever say.
While the scenery, wildlife, music, food and history are out of this world, what makes it truly one of the best places on Earth, is the people. Newfoundlanders are some of the kindest, most welcoming people I've ever met.
If you're ready to go, check out these great places to stay in my recent article on Trips To Discover: 7 Best Places to Stay in Newfoundland.