Pack The Suitcases’ 2016 travel roundup

Four days in Reykjavik, Iceland | PACK THE SUITCASES

Happy new year to all of our readers! Yes, both of you. This is a travel roundup so pay attention or something.

We thought we’d do a roundup of all our travels in 2016 to finish off the year before 2017 travel kicks off. This is the first blog post we’ve ever written that isn’t a story of one specific destination. So, not sure how this is going to go down but let’s give it a shot anyway… It’s basically a glorified list and who doesn’t like lists?

Where we visited and when

Best new destination

Tie between: Gothenburg (Sweden) and Porto (Portugal)

We kicked off our honeymoon in May with Gothenburg and although we were exhausted from the wedding, we did our usual thing of getting overexcited and walking all day every day trying to take it all in. Already huge Sweden fans, Gothenburg just made us love it even more. It was effortlessly cool, with plenty of new Nordic cuisine, and we had an amazing day trip to the car-free island of Brännö.

Going to Porto in the summer was another highlight. There was perfect weather, street art, modern art, views, tiles, and some incredible food and drink – including the obvious port and the less obvious heart attack on a plate known as the francesinha. It was probably the most relaxing holiday we’ve had for a while but we still crammed loads in and found a fantastic local blog O Porto Cool to help us do our research. We’d been to Lisbon (a few years ago, pre-blog) but we fell in love much more with Porto.

Brännö island day trip - Gothenburg, Sweden | PACK THE SUITCASES

One day in Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto | PACK THE SUITCASES

Best revisited destination

Tie between Madeira (Portugal) and Munich (Germany)

Madeira is always a firm favourite. We just keep on going back again and again. And no, we’re not OAPs…

Ultimate travel guide to Funchal, Madeira | PACK THE SUITCASES

Five years after our first Bavarian adventure, we decided to head back this autumn for another dose of beerhalls, sausages and cosiness. Enough had changed that the city still felt fresh to us, and we’d missed enough out the first time to see new things, too. Last time, we had a day trip to Salzburg and this time, to the extremely cute Landsberg – proving that Munich is one of the best ‘bases’ you can have to get to all sorts of places.

Munich in October: the best autumn break | PACK THE SUITCASES

Best local (UK) destination

Kirkby Lonsdale (England)

This year, we finally got round to visiting adorable Kirkby Lonsdale together, one of Caroline’s childhood holiday destinations. We had a lovely time exploring the little market town and generally overeating. It ended up forming one of our most popular blog posts ever – the public obviously share our appreciation of its cute cobbled streets, typical English cottages and stunning views. Ooh and we even got featured on the Visit Britain instagram account for one of our photographs.

A day in Kirkby Lonsdale - things to do | PACK THE SUITCASES

Best meal

Brunch at Älskade Traditioner, Stockholm (Sweden)

The morning (okay, afternoon) after we’d been to the Eurovision Song Sontest, we had some incredible bacon waffles, milkshakes and kladkakke at Älskade Traditioner. We’ve had lots of gorgeous food this year, from Michelin-standard tasting menus to local street food. But when we were (inevitably) talking about food over Christmas, we both agreed that the best thing we ate this year was our brunch in a cute retro café in Stockholm’s trendy SoFo district. They even had lactose-free milkshakes so Chris was happy.

A weekend of cheap eats in Stockholm | PACK THE SUITCASES

Worst meal

Some indescribable muck in Gaia that we didn’t even mention in the blog because it was so bad

With TripAdvisor and the power of the internet, it’s not hard to eat well nearly all the time. Emphasis on nearly. Sometimes, you end up in situations that go horribly wrong. It’s all part of the fun of travel…

No photos of this meal exist, nor any explanation of what exactly it was that we ate, and that’s probably for the best. We consumed something, looking at a delightful view of a particularly grimy butcher’s shop across the road, while being served by an overly attentive man who obviously hadn’t had customers, or a grip on reality, for some time. Luckily, it was hilarious both at the time and in retrospect.

And nobody died.

Best hotel

Lion + Pheasant, Shrewsbury (UK)

We’ve only just written our Shrewsbury post the other week, so it feels repetitive to mention the hotel again, but the Lion + Pheasant is our clear winner for best hotel this year. It just couldn’t be any more up our street – beautiful grey Scandi interiors, amazing breakfast and really luxurious-feeling rooms without breaking the bank. It’s around £120 a night, which is more than we usually spend on accommodation, but for one night away it’s a lovely treat.

It does work out more expensive when you return home and want to redecorate your entire house in their Scandi style though…

A winter weekend break in Shrewsbury | Pack The Suitcases

Best travel experience

Tie between: Fjord cruise (Bergen, Norway) and the Eurovision Song Contest (Stockholm, Sweden)

We don’t do ‘activities’ on holiday. Or ever, really. Anything involving physical exertion other than riding (horses, not bicycles) or walking (in the non-hiking sense) is out of the question. So when we say ‘experience’, we don’t mean the usual travel bloggers’ ‘experiences’ like scuba diving, mountain climbing etc. We basically mean ‘things we did other than walk round, look at things and eat’.

We did so many memorable things this year, especially on our honeymoon in May. The Norwegian fjords in Bergen were beyond stunning. A river cruise is the perfect way to see them and to get extremely up close and personal with the waterfalls – our boat stopped so close to one that you could fill a cup with the water falling from it! It was also a memorable experience because some Japanese man randomly started doing Tai Chi on the deck, much to the bewilderment/amusement of other passengers.

Our other most memorable experience this year also happened on our honeymoon, and this was going to the Eurovision Song Contest grand final in Stockholm. British people are often horribly snobby and miserable about Eurovision and completely miss the point – it’s meant to be ridiculous, camp, glittery madness. Going to it in real life, you experience an atmosphere like nothing else. Everyone is so happy. Everyone dresses up – and no one does it better than gangs of drunk gay Europeans. There is an overwhelming sense of equality. We actually didn’t blog about the night, but it was one of the best things we have ever done.

Three days in Bergen, Norway | PACK THE SUITCASES

Worst travel experience

Trying to do Reykjavik (Iceland) as a city break

‘Worst’ isn’t as bad as it sounds here, because we were really spoilt this year with absolutely loving the places we went to. Most were just our cup of tea. The city of Reykjavik was about the only one we weren’t enamoured with, although we did see and do some excellent things there and we did enjoy Iceland itself overall. But we don’t really drive and it seems that you need to rent a car to get off the beaten track and away from tourists in spring if you’re staying in Reykjavik. So it just didn’t suit our travel style.

Interestingly, the local press picked up on our blog about Reykjavik that said we had mixed feelings on it. Apparently tourism is a growing problem there and gets a lot of airtime in the press. So our blog went a bit viral! Local residents seemed to be concerned about the effect of tourism on their country and were pretty balanced in their comments. But American fans of Reykjavik seemed to be furious with us for not loving it. Very few of them actually seemed to have read the blog though, just reacted to the article’s headline and didn’t see what we’d really said. A sign of the Daily Mail times that we live in. So we experienced our first internet abuse, which was fun.

Four days in Reykjavik, Iceland | PACK THE SUITCASES

What’s next for 2017?

We’re off to Japan very soon for two weeks! So we’ll be writing up many a blog post from that – our first trip outside of Europe since we started up the blog. We’ve been to Japan before, but this time we’re going to explore some new areas.

Other than Japan and some trips away for friends’ weddings and hen/stag dos, we don’t have anything set in stone yet. But we do have a few chunks of annual leave booked in, so watch this space…

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