Best of Travel 2011

Thanks to Michaela at Awe Inclusive for including me in Budget Travel Adventure’s Best of Travel 2011 and giving me an opportunity to look back on the best of my 2011 travel adventures.

Last year was another fabulous travel year for me. I visited London for the third time and Paris for the first time, though it was my second trip to France. So here’s my Best of Travel 2011 roundup —

Best Domestic Travel Destination: To me, Washington, DC is the best domestic travel destination because it has so much to offer. The National Mall, the White House, galleries and (free!) museums, theater (not as many as NYC but still good and good bargains), restaurants, festivals like the Folk Life Festival, the National Book Festival, etc. Whether you’re looking for history or entertainment, Washington DC is the best place to be and the best part? It’s compact – you can cover a lot of territory over a few days.

Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC
Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC

Best Travel Experience: I’ve been fascinated by Stonehenge since I saw a documentary about it several years ago and added it to my Must See List. As soon as I decided on the dates for my UK trip, I booked a tour. The best part was that the group was small enough so that we weren’t tripping over each other. We could go into the circle and get up close (but not touch) the monument. The tour also took us through the bucolic English countryside and Bath, a very historical and picturesque town.

Inside the circle, Stonehenge
Inside the circle at Stonehenge

Best International Destination: My best international destination for 2011 was, without question, Paris.  I love Paris – it’s all of the things we’ve heard, and more — romantic, picturesque, fashionable, etc., and though I felt a bit intimidated by the stories I’ve heard about Parisians looking down their noses at people dressed in jeans, I never felt out of place or slighted. In fact, I met quite a number of friendly Parisians. One night, I got talking to a waiter and when he found out where I was staying and that I was traveling alone — it was nearly 10 p.m. when I finished dinner — he called one of the waitresses who was taking the same train and told me to wait for her so we could travel together. Although I could have found my way back to the hotel on my own, I was very touched by his kindness.

Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower at night

Worst Travel Experience: My worst travel experience in 2011 happened before I even left my destination. I turned up at the airport to board my flight on Spirit Airlines and got a huge surprise. I owed $93 in baggage fees! I was so furious at myself for not paying attention to the fine print — I know better (or should) — that I forgot that I wanted to buy a few gifts in the duty free shop. The worst part is that on the return leg, I couldn’t figure out how to pre-pay and ended up paying again. Suddenly, the deal that I thought I had worked out to be one of the most expensive New York/Montego Bay tickets I’ve ever bought.

Most Embarrassing Travel Experience: Last year, my travel was embarrassment-free but 2010 wasn’t. I started to feel sick the day I was scheduled to return to the US from Johannesburg, South Africa. My body felt weak and I began to sweat. I didn’t know what was wrong – I didn’t think it was a cold but by the time I got on the flight, I was sneezing. I was so petrified of coughing that before I finished a cough drop, I’d pop another one. I felt awful. I still think of the people I know I passed my cold on to. Thanks goodness, it was a night flight so (hopefully) my no one remembers my face! The best part was, I was traveling with two friends who were also coming down with colds so I didn’t infect the people on either side of me. The worst part is, our row probably passed our colds on to everyone in coach.

Best Local Destination: Since I relocated from New York City to Jamaica last year, I’m going to take the liberty to name two best local destinations. In New York, the best location destination is Coney Island. It’s a place where you’ll find everyone – toddlers, young adults, couples, singles, grandparents – and there’s a variety of activities for everyone, from the hot dog eating contest over the July 4th weekend to summertime fireworks displays to roller coaster rides.

My best travel location in Jamaica is Treasure Beach. It’s laid back, it’s funky, it’s fun. It’s just a charming location that I’ve written about several times.

Treasure Beach boats
Treasure Beach boats

Best Travel Lesson: When I visited Paris last year, it was the first time that I traveled on my own to a place to a place where I didn’t know a soul and no one was meeting me when I arrived. Thank goodness, I know some French so I didn’t feel completely at sea. Interestingly enough, I was very excited the morning I left for Paris — it’s probably the most excited I’d been in a while about a trip. It turned out to be a very liberating experience and surprisingly, made me feel very grown up.

Now, I get the pleasure of inviting the following 5 bloggers to write about their Best of Travel 2011.

18 comments on “Best of Travel 2011

  1. Your 2011 was full of wonderful travel adventures! I’m glad that you highlighted so many great things about Washington, DC. It’s a great city to visit and live!

    I have yet to travel alone and I’m starting to feel like I’m the only one left who hasn’t. Your story is giving me some motivation to finally get out there and do it!

    Cheers to a wonderful 2012!

  2. Hi,

    I read your comment on my blog…I’ll do my best to finish the post on time! Thanks for the nomination

  3. Ah! The Stonehenge that I was introduced to and studied in art history class?! Gee, I envy you! What a sight!

  4. Very nice year in travel! I loved reading about your Paris experience and the nice waiter — very cool. I’ve never been to Coney Island — based upon your recommendation, I’ll go there next time in NYC — in summertime would be nice to see the fireworks.

  5. I enjoyed reading about your experiences. I’ve spent just a couple of hours in DC but was in the area for a few days last month. I absolutely loved Annapolis – it was my favorite destination from this past year.

    For someone who has traveled so much, it’s interesting and exciting to read about your experience going to Paris. Wouldn’t it be great if all of our travels made us that excited – like it was a first time?!

    Thanks for taking part in this and best of luck in your 2012 travels!

  6. Pingback: Best of Travel 2011: Nominated bloggers | Budget Travel Adventures
  7. Oh my goodness, Annapolis is a beauty! It’s easy to see why it was your favorite.
    You’re right, sometimes we become matter-of-fact about travel but we shouldn’t. Travel brings so much joy to our lives.
    Thanks, Jeremy and thanks for creating the Best of Travel 2011.

  8. DC has a special place in my heart as I lived there for 10 great years. Glad you like the highlight.
    I doubt you are the only one, Michaela. You’ll do it when the time’s right.
    Thanks again for inviting me to share my Best of Travel 2011.

  9. Wow!!! You had quite the travel experience in 2011, particularly your European adventures. I’m truly quite envious.

    I read about your experience in Paris with the waiter in the past, but I never truly appreciated what it meant. I’m glad you emphasized that Parisian aren’t the snoody people they are known for, at least not all of them, as everyone is an individual. Despite this bad reputation I’d fall in love with Paris, too. I’m glad you got a good memory of your time there and that it was your first solo travel adventure.

    Oh, and it may have just blew passed my head, but I had no idea you moved to Jamaica. I thought you were just visiting. So glad I still get to read about your New York experiences while enjoying reading about Jamaica as well.

    Thank you for nominating me.

  10. I loved reading this post… I love to travel and I have traveled quite a lot on my own… Paris is a lot of fun… 🙂

  11. The Stonehenge is a place i want to see and hear the story behind it.Such awesome things like the great wall of china, manchupichu etc always intrigue me. Thanks for the post.

  12. You’re welcome, Sherry!
    Looking back, I realize I did have a good travel year and a lot going on. Yes, I did but it didn’t start out that way. Sometimes, we make one plan and things turn out quite differently.
    Paris was great — I’d go back in a heartbeat. That waiter just made the trip for me. I forgot to mention the people at the hotel — the front desk person was so helpful and very warm, and the one young woman who helped me figure out how to buy tickets for the metro.

  13. When I was younger I used to travel on my motorcycle by myself and did a lot of camping. I loved the freedom but I also had to be cautious.

    What are your travel plans for 2012?

  14. You had a motorcycle? How cool! Did you go far away to camp or stay close to home?
    I’ll be doing some travel around Jamaica and in the Caribbean this year and perhaps to Sicily, if my friend gets married there in the fall.

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