I’m currently, ok always, considering my next vacation destination, and with so many amazing places in the world it’s hard to decide. Should we commit those precious vacation days to repeat destinations, digging deeper into what a city has to offer? If we do, what about all those wonderful new places just waiting to be discovered?
When traveling, I’m torn between wanting to wing it and not wanting to miss anything, which definitely helps makes the case for repeat visits to certain destinations. For example, our recent trips to Paris, London, and Edinburgh were all repeat visits, we’d already checked off many of the main attractions, which enabled us to explore more freely. One point for repeat visits!
That said, one of my favorite things about traveling is the discovery of the new. The surprise and delight you feel when discovering something wonderful in a new place simply can’t be beat! These moments are one of the reasons I love to travel, the highlights of our adventures! One point for new destinations!
However, being new to a place can at times be a hindrance. No matter how much research I’ve done, there are times when things don’t go quite as planned. Whether it’s accommodations, location, food, or timing, these are what I like to refer to as the hindsights of our adventure. These are things one can only know after time spent and often it’s too late… Another point for repeat destinations.
Of course not everywhere has a hindsight and some places are just plain full of surprise and delight. I love surprise and delight! Looks like another point for new destinations!
So, it looks like a tie between old and new, which means I’m no closer to working out where in the world, we’ll go next, but in the meantime, here are some of the highlights and hindsights from our summer 2016 adventures in Europe!
Highlights & Hindsights
Highlight: Guinness Factory Tour
There were many wonderful moments during our visit to Dublin, however it was our visit to the Guinness Storehouse that came out as number one! Which speaks volumes, since I don’t even drink beer. All four of us absolutely loved this experience and if you should find yourself in Dublin I highly recommend you go.
Hindsight: Popular attractions require advance planning
Our planned a visit to the Kilmainham Gaol Museum went awry when we couldn’t print our tickets and unfortunately we missed out. We ended up visiting Malahide Castle instead, which was delightful, but lesson learned.
Highlight: The Blarney Stone
For more than 200 years people have been kissing the Blarney Stone and after some debate (it is the world’s germiest attraction) Simon and I decided to join the club!
Hindsight: Touristy doesn’t always equal bad
If only we’d known how much we were going to enjoy exploring Blarney Castle, we would have given ourselves more time.
Highlight: Killarney National Park
We spent three nights in Killarney, the gateway to the Ring of Kerry and the perfect little Irish town! Quaint, friendly and picturesque, it was exactly what I had pictured an Irish town to look like!
Hindsights: Whoops, attention to detail is key!
Putting the wrong fuel in our rental car meant a drastic change in our plans. Instead of a visit to the Dingle Peninsula and Skellig Michal we spent a lovely day wandering in Killarney National Park. If I ever find my way back to the west of Ireland a trip to the Skellig Islands will be my first order of business!
Highlight: King John’s Castle
We weren’t sure what to expect at King Johns’ Castle, but I do love a good castle and we had to stop for lunch anyway so why not just eat lunch at the castle?
Hindsight: There was none!
This was a bonus stop on our way to Galway, and we were delighted with the way this midday stop turned out!
Highlight: The Cliffs of Moher
The spectacular Cliffs of Moher are a definite must-see if you’re visiting the West Coast of the Emerald Isle.
Hindsight: Allow time for unexpected adventures
There is a walk along the cliff tops , but we were running out of daylight and weren’t really dressed for a hike, so we satisfied ourselves with a good long look over the edge.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Highlight: Everything about the entire visit
Our visit to the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland was by far the best day of our 12 day tour of the Emerald Isle, if not our entire summer abroad!
Hindsight: We should have stayed longer.
Having no idea how much we would enjoy our visit we only booked three nights, but easily could have spent twice that many exploring Belfast as well as the amazing natural beauty along the Northern Coast.
Highlight: Mural Trail
A very happy accident, we discovered Glasgow’s Mural trail on our way to another destination!
Hindsight: Glasgow deserves more time!
Two days just wasn’t enough in this walk friendly city brimming with architecture, art, music, and shopping!
Highlight: Urquhart Castle on the Shores of Loch Ness
Having missed out on a visit to Loch Ness on our previous trip to the Highlands, we decided to make it a priority. A highlight was exploring the ancient ruins of Urquhart Castle, located on the shores of the lake.
Hindsight: So much more than a monster!
Our visit here was wonderful and exceeded our expectations in every way.
The Highlands of Scotland
Highlight: Eileen Donan Castle
A last minute decision to see Eileen Donan Castle did not disappoint. It’s no wonder that Eilean Donan is the most photographed castle in Scotland, it’s setting in the middle of three lochs is stunning!
Hindsight: The Isle of Skye
There is never enough time in this magical country. We got a small taste of what the Isle of Skye has to offer and I’m definitely going back for more!
Have you ever visited a place that felt so right, so special that it was almost painful to leave? Love at first sight? That’s exactly how I felt about Edinburgh from the very first moment.
Hindsight: I’ve realized my Edinburgh list will never be completed
Although we didn’t have time to go inside the Writers Museum, we did spend time in the courtyard reading the tiles, which are inscribed with lovely quotes written by some of the city’s most famous writers. All of them about Edinburgh of course!
Highlight: A dream come true
I know that for some, what basically amounts to a crumbling brick wall in the middle of nowhere England might not be interesting, but for me, a history loving anglophile, this was an absolute dream come true!
Hindsight: Walk the Wall Hike
It’s quite popular to “walk” the Wall and I would have liked to, at least for a little while, but serious rain was threatening and after a few minutes the boys abandoned me for the shelter of the Housestead’s Museum.
Highlight: York Minster
It made sense that the center piece of York, York Minster, the largest medieval Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, would be our first stop. We were not disappointed!
Hindsight: There wasn’t one!
The rain fell hard and steadily during our visit, but thankfully we still managed to enjoyed this lovely city.
Highlight: THE Nottingham!
Yes, that Nottingham, home of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men!
Hindsight: Sometimes the weather wins
Sadly, extremely heavy rain put us off from a visit to Sherwood Forest.
Highlight: Camden Market
My highlight is also a hindsight! I can’t believe the Camden Market wasn’t already on my radar, It’s right up my alley and reminds me a lot of Venice Beach, California. Fun & quirky!
Hindsight: Top of the Shard
With my love of photography, I regret that I didn’t take the time to visit the observation deck at the Shard. Greenwich is also high on my list for next time…
Highlight: Beautiful Medieval Town
I was delighted by the incredible beauty of Brugge, a quaint little medieval town. I immediately fell in love and spent the better part of my three days there taking endless photos.
Hindsight: Why didn’t we eat more chocolate?
The question is: With endless chocolate shops around every corner, why didn’t we visit more of them? I’m afraid that’s a question, I’ll never know the answer to.
Highlight: Graffiti Street
Wanting to see something a bit off the beaten path and big fans of street art, we were excited to learn that Ghent has a dedicated graffiti street called Werregaren straat. We really enjoyed this and loved the idea of a dedicated place where anyone can express themselves freely.
Hindsight: Maybe next time…
Elliot really wished we’d had a can of spray paint or two, so he could contribute.
Amsterdam, Holland The Netherlands
Highlight: Everything about our visit!
A lovely and walkable city with no shortage of interesting sights and streets to wander we made the most of every minute of our visit in Amsterdam.
Hindsight: We visited Amsterdam and didn’t ride a boat or a bike, what?!
We made the most of every moment while visiting this fabulous city, but still ran out of time before ever stepping onto a boat, or peddling a bike. We did see some windmills though! If I had to do it over again I would stay on a houseboat!
Zaans Schans, Holland
I felt I couldn’t visit Holland without seeing at least one windmill up close and personal! I know, I know, that’s a very touristy thing to do, but hey, sometimes I’m a tourist!
Hindsight: Why didn’t we rent bikes here?
If we ever find our way back to this wonderful place we will be sure to rent bikes. The wide pathways and lovely scenery would make for a perfect bike ride!
Highlight: Sainte Chapelle
As I emerged from the doorway into the main part of the chapel my mouth literally fell open. I was completely surrounded by jaw dropping beauty. How did I not know about this amazing place?
While there wasn’t really anything wrong with our hotel, I’ve yet to really hit the nail on the head as far as Paris lodgings go… hopefully next time!
Highlight: Marie Antoinette’s Gardens
My favorite part of the day was our visit to the Petit Trianon, the home away from home of Marie Antoinette, who apparently wasn’t so enamored with the main Palace and preferred to spend her time elsewhere.
Hindsight: An evening visit might have been better
We should have considered going later in the afternoon for the musical fountains show and evening fireworks. We might have been able to beat the crowds, and the heat.
Highlight: Hyde Park
London’s parks are the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon just like the locals do! They are beautiful, vast and filled with activities for every interest.
Hindsight: Do we really have to go home?
Even after six weeks of travel, I wasn’t ready to go home.
Nothing makes me happier than discovering new places with my family and sharing them with all of you!
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