One of the best things about travel (if not THE best), is the new discoveries you make. Maybe your new 'discovery' is somewhere you've read about and have always wanted to visit or perhaps it's somewhere you have stumbled across by chance. Whatever the reason, discovering new towns and villages or regions that leave a lasting impression is what the best travel memories are made of. In 2013, I was lucky enough to 'discover' a number of new places on my eight week trip around Britain and Europe. These are my five greatest discoveries of 2013 (in no particular order).
I've already written about my stay in Riquewihr in the heart of the Alsace region and how beautiful the area is so you'll know that it was love at first sight for me. Wandering the cobbled streets lined with brightly painted buildings and brimming with flower boxes was like stepping into the pages of a storybook. The beauty of the villages of Alsace is complimented by the lush green vines planted on the rolling hills. It's no wonder the wines taste so good!
The lakes near Salzburg in Austria were a bit of a suprise to me. Being in Austria I knew they would be beautiful but I didn't expect each one to be so different. From the resort-like lakeside towns of Gmunden and St. Wolfgang to the quieter and less touristy Altausee, the common element was crystal clear water. My 9 day self-guided cycling tour around the Austrian lakes was fantastic and a great way to discover the beauty and diversity of each of the lakes.
My visit to Llandudno was more good luck than good management. Planning our itinerary around Britain and Wales, it looked like a good spot on the map to be our northern Wales base. To be honest I'd never heard of Llandudno before and I didn't know it was a popular seaside resort for both the Welsh and the Brits, but it turned out to be one of those unexpected delights. Whilst it wasn't warm enough to swim when I visited, it's easy to picture the beach filled with sunbathers and the jetty bustling with tourists, ice creams in hand.
The Cotswolds, England
For years I had looked in awe at photos of the English Cotswold region and longed to visit. When I finally visited the Cotswolds in 2013, I wasn't disappointed. The honey-coloured stone buildings with their thatched roofs were every bit as beautiful as I'd expected. Picturesque villages dotted the landscape amongst rolling green fields and each corner I turned unleashed a fresh batch of oohs and aahs.
Outside of Italy's major cities, Tuscany and the Lakes region are those most frequented by tourists but after visiting the north western region of Piedmont, I can highly recommend it. Piedmont offers plenty - history, culture, architecture, art, cuisine and wine - but until now it has pretty much gone under the radar for most tourists. I loved the fact that despite its rich history and amazing sights, we were amongst only a handful of English speaking tourists everywhere we went. Having our own personal guides (friends who live in the region) certainly helped us to 'discover' sights we'd never heard of before and really gave us an insider's look at this lovely area.
Have you travelled somewhere this year that surprised and delighted you? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.
© Holidays to Europe