If you’ve followed The Travelling Boomer during 2016, you know that it’s been quite a ride. I’ve taken you on a trip that covered four continents, 15 time zones and climates ranging from tropical heat to Arctic chill. It’s no exaggeration to say we’ve been all over the map.
It’s been a memorable year, possibly one that will never come again. So I thought it was worth taking a look back, at the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen in 2016. Here’s The Travelling Boomer’s year in review, with some of the highlights (and a couple of the lowlights). See if it brings back a memory or two.
January: Ecuador and the Galapagos
At long last, I had the chance to visit one of the world’s great natural wonders. Thanks to a Delta Air Lines voucher from my 2014 trip to Beijing, I was able to fly to Ecuador and spend a week on the famous Galapagos islands. And it was just as advertised. Sea lions slept on park benches, and blue-footed boobies hobnobbed with Galapagos penguins on rocky shorelines. I saw giant tortoises, photographed exotic birds and got mired in the mud on a misty mountain trail. It was an adventure like no other.
Back on the mainland, I headed for the high Andes. Quito, the city in the clouds, was just as quirky as I remembered, with its steep streets and colonial architecture. A trip to the Mitad del Mundo let me straddle the equator. And a few days in the mountain town of Otavalo, with its amazing native market, was a fascinating look at life among the native Quechuas.
April: Cruising the Danube
Viking River Cruises was good enough to offer me a second cruise on one of Europe’s great rivers. This time, I chose the Danube. In late April I flew to Munich, but before meeting the ship, I took a little side trip to Saltzburg, Austria. The birthplace of Mozart is one of Europe’s most charming cities. A few days walking its cobblestone streets and exploring beautiful palaces put me in the mood for a European adventure.
On to my ship, the Viking Freya, in Passau, Germany, for an 11-day voyage along the river that links Western and Central Europe. We visited small places like Cesky Krumlov, with its Robin hood-looking castle, and Melk, with its huge medieval monastery. And we spent time in two of Central Europe’s great cities, Vienna and Budapest — where I stayed for a week. A quick jaunt to Zagreb, Croatia, capped a trip that stands out as one of the best, despite some bone-chilling weather..
May: Point Pelee, Ontario
Back from Europe, and just in time for the spring bird migration at Point Pelee, Ontario. This is a yearly highlight for me, and for my friend Dennis, and we were happy to hop in his car for another birding adventure. Point Pelee is where the birds land when they fly across Lake Erie on their way back from their southern wintering grounds. And if your timing is right, you can see scores of different species in only a day or two. This year we hit it right on: there were lots of birds, including looks at rare black terns and some baby great horned owls. Despite some camera problems, I came back with great shots for my collection.
July: The Arctic
Soon after returning from Europe, I got a surprise: a message from Nikon Canada, inviting me on a voyage to the Arctic with Adventure Canada. And in early July, I found myself on a plane to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, for two weeks spent cruising under the midnight sun. The trip started with a cruise through the dramatic landscapes of Sondrestrom Fjord, and a visit to Greenland’s capital, Nuuk.
Then we headed across the Davis Strait to explore the southern coast of Baffin Island and the northern headlands of Quebec. Highlights included photographing cliffsides lined with thousands of thick-billed murres; discovering the art and culture of the Inuit in Cape Dorset; and cruising through the aqua blue sea ice off the Arctic coast.
August: Quebec City and the Charlevoix
I had just shaken off the chill from my Arctic voyage when it was time to go again. Early in the year I had booked a ticket to Quebec City (thanks to another airline voucher). And thanks to a little planning, I was also booked for a trip to the Charlevoix region, on the mighty St. Lawrence River, for some Quebec culture and whale watching.
Quebec City was a wonder, rivalling the historic cities of Europe. The Charlevoix was spectacular, too, including my stay at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, the classic hotel that Tourisme-Charlevoix had booked for me. The whale watching was a success, with good looks at several whale species and huge herds of grey seals. And the scenery: if there’s a place whose landscape says “Canada” more vividly than this, I haven’t seen it.
The year was almost over. I had been from the equator to the Arctic, and right across the Western hemisphere — I needed one spectacular trip to make the year complete. The answer: Vietnam. So in late November I booked a bargain flight to Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City. For two weeks I dodged motor bikes, ate the noodle soup called pho, crawled into Viet Cong tunnels, toured ancient palaces, shopped at night markets, explored cave systems — a whirlwind of activity.
I admired the magical lights of Hoi Anh, spent the night on a boat in the famous Halong Bay, and finished with a drink in the rooftop bar of the Rex Hotel in Saigon, scene of the daily press briefings during the Vietnam War. There was no time for a trip to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat, and the trip home was the proverbial flight from hell. But Vietnam was such a fascinating destination, and the Vietnamese people so welcoming, that all the effort was worthwhile.
So there it is: 2016, the year in review, and a year that will be a hard act to follow. But I still have some places on my bucket list, and I’m sure you do too. So there’s still time for us both to make some of our travel dreams come true, no matter how young or old we are.
Finally, I want to end by wishing you all a happy New Year, and thanking you for following The Travelling Boomer throughout the year. I hope you’ll all come along as we embark on new adventures in the year to come. Let’s drink to it.