I have already talked about some of my worst travel moments of 2016, so I think it’s only fair that the best moments get their time in the spotlight too.
Most satisfying moment: Nashville, Tennessee
When I arrived in Nashville I was in an awful mood. My journey to Nashville was one of my worst travel moments of the year after I missed my connection due to non-existent weather conditions and ended up stranded in Houston for 6 hours. I washed up in Nashville ridiculously late at night, absolutely starving because United Airlines thinks four pretzels in a bag is sufficient food for a flight and with most eating establishments closed or in the process of closing. I managed to find an ice cream shop that I recognised, even in my misery, as being home to some of the best ice cream I have ever tasted (one scoop of coconut cream and one scoop of red velvet cake if you are interested). I was walking back to the hostel eating my ice cream when something pretty amazing happened. For this story to make sense, we need a little context: the weekend I was in Nashville also happened to be the annual Army Aviation Summit (try saying that with a mouthful of red velvet ice cream!). This meant that the streets were flooded with almost 6,000 army and naval officers, all in their uniforms – ooh la la – and all fairly drunk. I was walking down the main strip happily munching away when all of these officers started saluting me. One after the other they would stand to attention and salute me as though I was the First Lady herself. The first few times I thought it was a coincidence but nope, it was every single officer. What was happening – had I somehow been promoted to head of the US military without being told? It was glorious. I had never felt so powerful. I had never felt so respected. I had never felt so in charge. Until, of course, I noticed that they were in fact saluting the high ranking army official who happened to be walking directly behind me (and who, fun fact, was also eating ice cream from the same ice cream shop). It doesn’t matter – for a couple of minutes I felt like the most important person in Tennessee. And you can bet your life that I saluted right back at them.
Most beautiful place: Yosemite National Park, California
I had been so excited to visit Yosemite, and it absolutely didn’t disappoint. Of everywhere I went last year, this is the place I would most want to come back to. We hiked for miles in baking Californian heat (all uphill – naturally) to get to the pool at the bottom of Vernal Falls and I would do it again in an instant because it was quite possibly the most beautiful place I had ever been. There aren’t too many places you can swim through a freezing cold glacier waterfall underneath a rainbow. And there was so much we didn’t get to do! I would love to go to Nevada Falls, climb Half Dome, walk the panorama trail; there were just so many things that we couldn’t possibly have done in a day. If you ever find yourself in California, go out of your way to go to Yosemite. I can’t thing of many things in this world that give that same awe-inspiring feeling as seeing El Capitan up close.
Best night: Las Vegas, Nevada
Is it a surprise to literally anyone that Vegas is a fun night out? Actually it was a little bit of a surprise to me: I expected Las Vegas to be sleazy and tacky and over-rated but actually it was sleazy and tacky and so much fun. We really went all out to have a night that is as ‘Vegas’ as you can get. We rode through the city in a Hummer limo party bus (because how else would you travel?), walked the full length of Fremont Street, fake proposed to each other at the Little White Wedding Chapel, sang along to every song at the Bellagio fountains while sipping Prosecco straight from the bottle (classy), lost our money at Little Caesar’s roulette wheel and drank far too much. Some of us – naming no names – ended up crying in McDonald’s because the chicken nuggets were ‘just too good’ and insisting that the two best Beatles were ‘Jingo and Rorge’. Maybe it wasn’t a wild, Hangover-style night where we woke up with a tiger in the bathroom but I did laugh until my stomach ached, dance until my feet hurt and feel a whole lot worse for wear the next morning.
Most breath-taking place: Grand Canyon, Arizona
I had pretty low expectations for the Grand Canyon. After all – it is just a big hole in the ground, but man is it an impressive big hole in the ground. Our guide couldn’t have done it better: we took a route into the park that didn’t give anything away, we parked quite far away and we all walked to the edge holding hands and with our eyes closed. On the count of three we opened our eyes so we could all see it together for the first time. It took a moment for me to even work out what I was looking at – it was so big that it was almost difficult to process. We walked around the South rim of the canyon and the views were amazing, but nothing could prepare us for what we would see on our helicopter flight over it. That moment when the ground drops out from underneath you and the canyon is just there below you is such an unforgettable one and again I wish we could have spent so much more time here.
Best weekend: 4th of July, Philadelphia
Ahh 4th of July – the most American of America’s holidays. Objectively my 4th of July weekend should have been terrible: it rained, it was cold, the fireworks were a wash out, the traffic was terrible and the parade in Philadelphia was more than a little underwhelming. It didn’t matter though because I got to spend the long weekend with some of my favourite people in the world. We spent a wonderful day at the beach while the sun was still shining, we had a BBQ on a roof and watched the first fireworks go off as midnight came and it was officially the 4th, and with the right people even a freezing cold fireworks show on a ridiculously muddy hill can be a really great memory. Even though 4th of July is essentially an anti-English holiday, I haven’t ruled out a little all-American celebration this year in memory of what were some of my best days of 2016.
Tell me some of your favourite travel moments in the comments!