As another year comes to an end, Jarrett and I took a moment break from our holiday in London to reflect on our Top 5 Favorite Places of 2017. With well over 20,000 miles traveled this past year, which included traversing the Atlantic on two different occasions and road tripping along the Eastern coast of the U.S. from Maine to Georgia, we have certainly had some pretty amazing adventures. Though each destination has provided us countless memories, it wasn’t hard for us to both agree upon our automatic Top 5 Places of 2017.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Why: Quaint Town, Nature, Wonderful People
What we Did:
- Walked the Bar Island Trail at low tide across to Bar Island: It was so unique to see all of the people come out to enjoy the sandbar. Just be sure not to get caught when the tide comes back in!
- Drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain: We had originally planned to hike it, but the weather wasn’t the best that morning, so the drove to the top allowed us some spectacular views (amidst all the wind and slight drizzle) before hoping back in the car.
- Hiked the Ocean Path Trail and Gorham Mountain Trail: We stopped down at Sand Beach for some pictures. On a warmer day, we would have stayed a little longer, but we decided to beat the crowds and start our hike. The Ocean Path provided idyllic scenery but after less than a mile walk, we found the trailhead for Gorham Mountain. It was a moderate hike with slight incline to the top, which gave you 360 degree views of Acadia National Park.
- Ate at Testa’s, Rosalie’s Pizza, and Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium: We only stayed two nights so the first night we enjoyed some lobster bisque from Testa’s. On the second night, we opted for some calzones from Rosalie’s. We got them to go and sat on a bench in Agamont Park to people watch. We finished the even with some ice cream from Ben and Bill’s.
- Visited Atlantic Brewing Company(at their original location): The day we departed for Vermont, we popped into Atlantic Brewing for a sampler. It was a drive outside of town, but well with it for the atmosphere. We grabbed a 6 pack sampler to go as a gift for our next hosts.
Where we Stayed: Hearthside Inn: We adored this little B&B cottage run by Catherine and Brian. It was centrally located and within walking distance of everything. The rate was fair for the summer and the breakfasts were to die for! Catherine made sure we were well fed each morning before trekking off to explore. After a day out, we returned home to find chocolate covered strawberries and bottle of champagne in our room for our anniversary! That evening we decided to relax in the main living area and ended up spending hours chatting with Brian. It was one of the highlights of our stay!
Québec City, Canada
Why: European Feel in North America, Diverse/Cultural Restaurants, Architecture, History, Canadian Craft Beer, Street Performers
What we Did:
- Walked the City: Due to car troubles, we actually only had one night in Québec City, so after the quick 4 hour drive from Waterbury, Vermont, we checked into our hotel and then headed out to explore. We walked through Parc du Bastion-de-la-Reine, along the Citadel wall, up to the old city gates and down Grande Allée.
- Tried Canadian Craft Beer: On the Grande Allée, we popped into 3 Brasseurs for some poutine and a flight, then over to Brasserie Inox for some more craft beer. From there, we trekked over to The Duchess D’Aiguillon for some to go cans and bottles. The shopkeeper was extremely helpful in leading us to the styles we enjoy and we were not disappointed in our selection (though we did have to carry a box of beer over a mile back to our hotel!).
- Watched some Street Performers: Québec City is known for their street performers, and on a beautiful summer day, you can find some entertainers at just about every park, drawing in crowds of tourists and locals alike to watch the variety of performances, from flame throwers to magicians to dancers.
- Walked the Terrace Dufferin: Even with the wind blowing strong off the St. Lawrence River, the Terrace, set high on the cliff, is the perfect place for a stroll.
- Walked Rue de Petit Champlain: We actually walked this little street four different times. It is so quaint, but can get very busy. We enjoyed it best early in the morning when there wasn’t a soul in sight. Don’t forget to pop over to Place Royale before making the steep climb back to the top (there is a Funicular that can take you up and down for $3.00 CAN).
- Ate at Le Lapin Saute and Le Cochon Dingue: We ate rabbit at Lapin Saute, yes rabbit! And it was so tasty. We then opted for breakfast poutine at Cochon Dingue. Needless to say, in a 24 hour stay, we enjoyed some good French-inspired Canadian food!
Where we Stayed:Manoir Sur-Le-Cap: We are always satisfied with our bookings through Booking.com and this hotel was no different. It was perfectly located with a view straight out to the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac and St. Lawrence River. The room itself was so picturesque and may even be one of our favorite rooms we’ve ever stayed. It was quaint, cozy and had that old-world charm with modern amenities.
Why: Southern Charm, Up and Coming Craft Beer Scene, Great People, Wonderful Restaurants, Walkability, Nearby Beach
What we Did:
- Spent Some Time on Tybee Island: Just a 30 minute drive outside of the city and you will find Tybee Island, a traditional coastal beach town with tourist shops and seafood restaurants, but smaller in scale than most other beach towns. We spent a few hours soaking up the sun before heading into the city.
- Walked as Many Parks as We Could: Savannah was designed by James Oglethorpe, who placed a central square every four blocks. We have tried countless times to visit each one during a stay, but with 24 of them, we have yet to hit them all in one day!
- Visited White Whale Craft Ales: Take a walk through Forsyth Park straight to White Whale Craft Ales for a selection of local brews, and with the passing of Georgia Law 85, those shelves will soon be filling up with some new brews!
- Ate at The Bier Haus, Tequila’s Town, and Goose Feathers: For traditional German food and an incredible beer list, The Bier Haus is the place to go. A little bit of a walk from the center city, but well worth it. Tequila’s Town still holds dear in our heart with the $7 lunch special and the best Happy Hour drink prices in town. Goose Feathers is also perfect for breakfast, with most dishes costing under $7, and they do fill you up!
- Quickly Walked River Street: It’s worth seeing and you can find some artisan shops in the converted shipping buildings, but River Street does get quite touristy. Best to see it first thing in the morning to just take in the views before the crowds come.
Where we Stayed: B Historic Savannah. Another Booking.com find. Great price for summer. Large rooms and an indoor pool and gym.
Why: Seafood, Nature, Great Coastal Drives, Trad Music
What we Did:
- Visited Glanteenassig Forest Park: Before actually arriving in Dingle, we stopped off at Glanteenassig Forest Park for a leisurely stroll around a lake framed by the Ice Age. The boardwalk path was quite nice!
- Drove Through Conor Pass: Well, technically Jarrett drove through Conor Pass but I was so proud of him! It is definitely a thrill of a drive along a cliff edge through a mountain with an epic view point from the top.
- Visited Slea Head Beach: The rugged cliffs and rocks that frame this beach makes you feel like you are on another planet (part of Star Wars was actually filmed nearby on the Dingle Peninsula). Another beach where I would want to come hang out on a warmer summer day.
- Walked Dunquin Harbor Path: We were lucky to find this iconic path empty as we strolled along the winding stone surface to the sea.
- Hiked Mount Eagle: Straight into the clouds! As the path weaved along sheep pastures, we could see clear out to the Atlantic and we watched as The Gulf Stream blew in clouds that soon devoured us at the top.
- Listened to Music at An Droichead Beag: Trad Music in an Irish Pub was half the reason for heading to Ireland, and this place topped all the others with great live music in a cozy pub with a pint of Murphy’s.
- Ate at Sheehy’s Anchor Down Restaurant: For fish and chips and mussels, our go-to Irish seaside meal to share.
Where we Stayed:Dingle Harbour Lodge. Another find from Booking.com with a great location that was still walking distance to town, but far enough away from the crowds when the pubs got a little crazy at night. We were also delighted to get an upgrade to a harbor view room with an amazing window ledge that became my favorite spot to cozy up and watch the world go by.
London, United Kingdom
Why: Holiday Markets, Less Crowds (yes, this is true), Great Public Transportation System, Craft Beer!, Easy Day Trips
What we Did:
- Day Trip to the Cotswolds and Bath: A slight drive west from London was well worth seeing Castle Combe after a snow dusting. Even in the winter, it was a tourist hotspot with people crowding the streets and cramming into one of the two restaurants found on the little block, but we had the best meal of the trip at The White Art. From Castle Combe, we headed to Bath just before sunset and automatically fell in love with the town. Still filled with the holiday spirit 3 days after Christmas, Bath boasted numerous pedestrian only streets. We weaved our way through the crowds and alleys and just took in the beautiful Christmas lights strung from Roman architecture.
- Day Trip to Sussex and Brighton: Just an hour south of London and you will find yourself in South Downs National Park, 1,600 square KM of English countryside dotted with idyllic towns. We stopped into Devil’s Dyke but the wind drove us straight back into the car after a quick glimpse of the scenery. Within 15 minutes, we were driving through Hove and into Brighton. We opted not to stop on this trip as we wanted to see the Seven Sisters cliffs before the rain came in, and we made it just in time. After a bite to eat at the Smugglers Inn, we made a final stop at Bodiam Castle. Due to timing, we actually got in free! This castle definitely made my Top 3 and was the first we’ve visited with an actual moat!
- Explored Neighborhoods in South London: On our previous visit to London 3 years ago, we stayed in the heart of the tourist attractions, which made getting around on foot very easy, but for this trip, we were delighted to discover some of the neighborhoods south of the Thames, including Camberwell (home of Stormbird), Brixton (for Ghost Whale), Clapham, and Earlsfield. Each neighborhood had its own vibe and was filled with shops and restaurants.
- Embraced the English Craft Beer Scene: Just like craft beer has exploded in America, the same rings true for England. London alone has 74 breweries, with the whole UK boasting 1,424 breweries after 204 more were opened in the past year! We didn’t actually get a chance to visit any of the breweries due to holiday closings, but we were able to enjoy some craft beer at The Hop Locker (The Bar Under the Bridge) on the Southbank, We Brought Beer, Stormbird, and Ghost Whale. Every location proved once again how amazing the craft beer culture is as we automatically struck up conversations with strangers, initially over beer, but then turning to life, work, and football (both English and American!). Our favorite moment of the trip was when Jarrett posted a video of the inside of Stormbird on his Instagram story and a follower screen shot part of it, sharing that those were two of his best mates in the bar! Sure enough, we made our way over to them to share beer and great conversation.
- Strolled through Markets: London has markets year round, including Leadenhall and Borough, but during the holidays, the city sets up Holiday Markets. We enjoyed strolling along the Southbank and Bankside ones, even with the chill off the Thames.
- Relaxed with Friends: No matter where our travels take us, the most rewarding part is being together and being with friends, old and new. We enjoyed our holiday with our two close friends, their two sons, his Scottish parents, and their Swedish friend. We said goodbye to 2017, counted our endless blessings, and rang in the New Year, excited for all of the adventures to come…
Where we Stayed: With friends! Best way to travel!