How do we keep churning out years of such amazing travel you may be wondering? Well, we are frequently asking ourselves the same question. As we start 2016 and look forward to yet another amazing year of potential travel opportunities, we want to take a few moments to reflect on the past twelve months in our 2015 year end review and find out just why this year was yet again another awesome time for A Brit & A Southerner. We thought that 2014 was pretty spectacular when we took 40 flights and visited 10 different countries. Could we beat that in 2015? Of course we could!
In 2015 we visited 18 different countries which is a pretty amazing feat given that we both work full-time. From Utah’s Mighty 5 national parks to the beautiful monastery in Montserrat, Spain, we certainly had a year to remember.
I am writing this review now at the end of our breathtaking European rail adventure which started just before Christmas. But more on that later in this post…however, when you think about all the travels that we have done in recent months, it really makes us appreciate just how fortunate we have been not only in a financial sense to be able to afford this, but also emotionally and physically for being healthy enough to endure the demand of traveling around the world.
Rather than looking at the last 12 months chronologically, I think it’s more appropriate to take a look at our top 10 experiences/trips.
10. New Orleans
We headed to New Orleans in mid-October excited about what we had planned for one of our stereotypical ‘long’ weekend getaways. This was my third time to ‘The Crescent City’ but Heather’s first, so we were both looking forward to exploring everything this French inspired city has to offer.
Tours of the Garden District and French Quarter along with a Natchez River Boat Cruise were definite highlights of our time in New Orleans. We sampled some amazing local cuisine at Mother’s (you have to sample the Po’boy there!) and had a delicious jazz brunch buffet at The Court of Two Sisters.
The disappointing aspect of our time in New Orleans was that we simply didn’t have enough time there to experience everything we wanted to. I love cajun/creole cuisine so this part of USA is definitely high on my list, but I don’t think Heather is quite as impressed.
8/10 – Beautiful city with so much to experience and a plethora of fine cuisine options to sample.
Texas in July? We must be crazy right, especially with the heat that is generally forecast at this time of the year. However, a July 4th weekend trip to Dallas was what we had planned and as always it was an action packed adventure. Thanks to the amazing folks at CityPASS, we were able to experience many of the city’s top attractions, in an ‘all-in-one’ package deal.
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens were gorgeous and in full bloom in July, but of course the highlight was experiencing the JFK Museum at Dealey Plaza, especially for Heather who is a huge history buff and JFK fan!
8/10 – Although we only experienced what we would consider as ‘tourist attractions’, it was nice to walk around downtown and explore more of the city than we were able to on our first visit to Dallas.
8. St. Louis
We have been to St. Louis on numerous occasions but this year we decided to visit on a couple of occasions to explore ‘off the beaten path‘. We all know the iconic reasons why people visit St. Louis, but what about those hidden gems such as Laumeier Sculpture Park and diverse neighborhoods such as The Hill and Delmar Loop where you will always stumble across something worth experiencing.
The Botanical Gardens in St. Louis offer a different experience away from the hustle and bustle and if you are really looking to get away, perhaps taking a hop across the river to the historic town of St. Charles will interest you. We did both and enjoyed every minute in both locations.
2015 was also the year that we ventured into videography. Our second video to go live featured the beautiful St. Louis Zoo which is undoubtedly one of the best zoos around, especially given that admission is free.
8.5/10 – Conveniently location for us, but with so many free attractions St. Louis is an attractive destination for everyone.
Travel begins at home…at least that is one philosophy we are trying to get across to our followers in an attempt to inspire everyone to at least look outside their front door and see just how much there is to do there! For us, Memphis, Tennessee is right on our doorstep as it is only a short 50 minute drive from Arkansas across the Mississippi River.
Weekly trips are common but in 2015 we decided to dig a little deeper. We wanted to find the ‘real Memphis’ and experience some of the hidden neighborhoods that many tourists likely never see. From the South Main Street arts district to the Cooper-Young district, we explored 5 areas that we believe everyone visiting Memphis should consider experiencing.
We are proud that the post we wrote on the ‘Top 5 Memphis Neighborhoods You Need to Know About‘ went viral and was by far our most popular post in 2015! This will certainly inspire us to keep exploring more cities beyond the tourist traps but if you plan to visit Memphis, be sure to check out these districts.
9/10 – Our ‘second home’ or so it feels given the frequency we visit Memphis, but 2015 was different for us as we explored more hidden spots that really helped show us the real Memphis experience.
6. Utah’s National Parks
The Mighty 5 National Parks in Utah make this state one of my favorites, especially after our epic road trip over Memorial Day that saw us visit three of us. After exploring the stunning Grand Canyon (more on that later) in Arizona and heading into Utah, we visited Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and finally Arches National Park near Moab.
Each of these national parks has unique natural characteristics that makes them each stunningly beautiful. Words fail to express the beauty throughout Utah so hopefully our pictures will help do the landscapes justice. If not…well you will just have to take our word for it and head on over to Utah and appreciate this beauty for yourselves!
9.5/10 – Utah is unlike any other state I have visited (and we have now experienced 46 of the 50 US states) and is definitely in my top 3 favorites! The geographical phenomena throughout each of the national parks is a true stunning sight to behold.
A trip to the Emerald Isle over Thanksgiving gave us the opportunity to spend a couple of days in Ireland’s capital city, Dublin. Exploring the historic Book of Kells and Old Library inside Trinity College were memorable experiences but of course visiting Dublin wouldn’t quite be the same without sampling some of Ireland’s finest brew.
Experiencing the Guinness Storehouse tour in the heart of Dublin is definitely worthwhile but perhaps touring around the ancient churches and cathedrals inside the city would interest you more.
9.5/10 – Dublin is a beautiful city and sampling some typical Irish stew combined with a pint of Guinness is a perfect way to end your day exploring Ireland’s capital.
4. Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is unsurprisingly one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. We visited this wonder for the first time over the Memorial Day weekend and we were not disappointed. The views across the South Rim are awe-inspiring and the number of trails are endless.
Heading out of the national park on the East Rim drive offers a myriad of Grand Canyon lookout points to continue the natural beauty. Let’s be the honest…it’s a never ending experience and certainly a part of the world that you won’t want to leave!
9.5/10 – The Grand Canyon is one of those natural wonders that you just have to visit. After experiencing this for the first time, I can attest that this is not one of those overrated tourist traps. Instead, it is an attraction that we are already looking forward to a return trip!
3. Road Trip – Salt Lake City to Glacier (and back)
One of our most ambitious trips in 2015 was a road trip from Salt Lake City to Denali National Park over a long Labor Day weekend. After flying into Salt Lake City, we spent some time exploring Grand Teton National Park and the stunning Yellowstone National Park. Encounters with wildlife, watching geothermal activity and perusing over beautiful panoramic scenes are all available inside Yellowstone.
After passing through Wyoming and Idaho, we arrived in Montana, home of Glacier National Park. Our time in Glacier was limited, not only because of our time constraints but because the weather closed part of the Going to the Sun Road. Despite the adverse conditions, we enjoyed Glacier and hopefully a return trip can be arranged in the not too distant future.
The drive back to Salt Lake City saw us pass through Washington and Oregon so that we could experience part of the Oregon Trail and of course visit the remaining states in the Pacific Northwest.
10/10 – We love road trips and this is certainly the most ambitious and exciting that we have encountered so far. Yellowstone is stunning but so are the other national parks in this part of the country.
TBEX Europe in Lloret de Mar, Spain gave us the opportunity to spend a couple of days in Barcelona prior to heading over to the Costa Brava for the conference. Exploring Gaudi’s finest examples of architectural brilliance and of course watching the mighty Barcelona at the Nou Camp were key highlights of our experience in Spain.
Our final day prior to heading over to TBEX saw us take a trip outside of Barcelona to Montserrat and visit the historic monastery there. The views are spectacular and hiking to the top overlooking the monastery is certainly worth the effort.
10/10 – Barcelona is a beautiful city and we can highly recommend taking a food tour here with Devour Barcelona food tours. Sampling Catalan’s finest cuisine along with stumbling across some hidden gems make this tour well worth the time.
1. European Rail Adventure
We mentioned at the beginning of this post that we wanted to save the best until last and this is exactly what we did in 2015. Prior to Christmas we headed to Europe armed with our Eurail Global Passes giving us access to 28 different countries. Of course with limited time we had to establish a more realistic route to see as much as possible. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing many of our stories from our trip but this was definitely the perfect way to end an amazing year.
Here is a quick summary of where we went. We started in Stockholm, Sweden and spent 48 hours there. We took the train to Copenhagen, Denmark before flying to UK to spend Christmas with my parents on the Fylde Coast. December 27 saw us fly from Manchester to Hannover where our European adventure really started.
Hannover to Berlin to Dresden to Prague to Vienna to Bratislava to Budapest to Zurich to Strasbourg to Luxembourg to Brussels and our final stop in Amsterdam. Technically speaking our 2015 travels ended in Budapest where we enjoyed New Year’s Eve in the Executive Lounge of the Hilton Budapest City!
10/10 – Traveling around Europe is definitely something that everyone should do. The BEST and ONLY way to achieve this is using the awesome train service that runs throughout Europe. Our Eurail passes made this experience seamless and painless. So many amazing cities and so many stories to share!
So there we have our 2015 year end review! It was another spectacular twelve months and we have experienced so many new and exciting places, many of which we can’t wait to return to. I can openly say that we visited so many destinations and very few of them were we disappointed with. Perhaps this is because we visit every new spot with an open mind and look for ways to enjoy the location.
What does 2016 have in store for us? Many more exciting travels! We already have a few trips booked including TBEX North America in Minneapolis over Memorial Day weekend, TBEX Europe in Stockholm in July and then the Ryder Cup in Minnesota in late September.
When you reflect on your 2015 travels, which destinations and trips stand out as your favorites? We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences so feel free to share them below!