The Editor (finally) updates his diary, taking a look back at the stories and adventures that made 2016 a pretty good year for Urban Travel Blog, if not the rest of the world…
So it’s finally over. It’s safe to say 2016 will be filed in historic terms as a cultural and geo-political disaster, but hopefully on a personal level it wasn’t so bad for you guys, our dear readers….!?
For Urban Travel Blog and myself it was one of growth and adventure, much of it with a distinctly Spanish theme. We started the year publishing the stories that I was able to research on the back of our #VivaValencia blogtrip. The trip enabled me to get under the skin of the city, indulging for example in a bike trip up and down the entire length of the serpentine Turia Gardens (the home of the famous City of Arts & Science), sampling some of the best paella in town – and exploring the dish’s mythical home, the Albufera lagoon – as well as check out the hipster Russafa district and update our Valencia weekend break guide. To be given the freedom to explore a city in detail and report back what I find, is my dream ticket as a travel writer, and hopefully provides you guys too with the in depth stories you come here for.
Making For Menorca
The success of this trip must have caught the attention of the Spanish Tourist Board, because they got in touch asking The Travel Mob if we’d like to come to Menorca and find out what the island has to offer beyond the beaches. And so off Urban Travel Blog set, in sunny Spring, to try a bit of sea kayaking, hiking and gin tasting amongst other pursuits. My mother actually emailed me before I set off to tell me of her own holidays there in the late 60s, and amazingly I ended up at both the same beach – and even the same nightclub – that she had visited some 50 years earlier. Of course, I wanted to check out the island’s towns as well, so I spent an extra day off the itinerary ambling around the charming capital of Mahon. You can read my weekend guide here.
The Camino Calling
The love in with Spain continued as Urban Travel Blog was invited to journey across all four regions of North Spain along the route of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimmage. Indeed we hiked several stretches of this breathtaking (literally) walk across the lush landscape of what is known as “Green Spain”, and I even became rather jealous of those hardcore hikers who were doing the whole 800km start to finish. Our itinerary rather took us to some highlights of each region, whether that was Bilbao and birdwatching in the Basque Country, the coastline and cave paintings of Cantabria, the fishing villages and cider of Asturias or the beaches and basilicas of Galicia. An amazing trip and I do recommend you consider this unspoiled stretch of Spain’s coast in your future travel plans.
Every year we point our readers in the direction of some more superb short break destinations around the world, and of course 2016 was no different. As we’ve covered many of the world’s major capitals already, we’ve started to cast our collective eye over some exciting second cities, neglected conurbations, and hip towns that deserve the urban traveller’s attention. Check our out guides to Venice, Verona, Brighton, Newcastle, Lyon and Eger for some inspiration.
And as well as give you the lowdown on individual cities, we’ve also started to organise our favourite destinations by theme, such as Europe’s most affordable breaks and the best destinations for lovebirds. Expect some more of these compilations in 2017!
More Cool Things To Do
One section of the blog that I’m very keen to keep expanding are our series of Secret Sevens by local writers. The concept is simple. To delve a little deeper than the mainstream sights and deliver tips for making your travel experience as original and authentic as possible. In 2016 we wrote about cool things to do in Seville, Budapest, Barcelona, Sydney and New York. And we’ll pen many more in 2017.
And Much More!
Of course that wasn’t all we did in 2016 and just a few more of my favourite stories were Olivia Toye’s foray into the Seoul nightlife, Jana Markova’s rundown of Paris’ best bakeries, Jeroen Kleijne’s guide to the resurgent North Amsterdam district, Anya Wassenburg’s report from New York’s famous Harlem ‘hood, and Giulia Riva’s horse riding adventure through Rome. And just as it all started with Valencia, so it ended… with Sam Howe’s wonderful account of what it’s like to experience Las Fallas festival. Chaotic and surreal might sum it up!
Every now and again a company sends me a product to review, and that product sits on my desk unused for about 6 months. But when I did finally unpackage my PowerCube by allocacoc, I liked it’s usability. It’s a canny travel adaptor that allows you to plug in multiple devices at one time, handy if you travel with camera, phone, laptop etc all at once. And it looks pretty swish too. You can read more here.
Goodbye Pop Giants, Rest in Peace
Whilst I was writing this post the news that George Michael has died just broke. In a year that saw the untimely deaths of Bowie and Prince as well, it was a disastrous time for pop giants and their fans… I grew up listening to all three of these artists non-stop and in fact Bowie is from the same part of South London as me. After his death, there were moving tributes left in the local park and pub where he once gigged in the late 60s, and he clearly meant an awful lot to many of the people who live around here, changing the lives of many, inspiring others and bringing colour and hope to a generation of music lovers.
All three have given me immense enjoyment via their music, so I’m gonna sign off with one from each of these music legends. Rest in peace gentlemen.