By any measure, I feel pretty fortunate to have had the year of travel experiences I had in 2013. Seven separate trips covered a bit more than 37,000 km in the air and a couple thousand kilometres more by train and car. There were a few return visits to favourite locales and a couple of trips to places I have wanted to visit for many, many years.
Ahhh, February in Pittsburgh (you won’t see the city selling that as part of their tourism pitch). This travel year started off with an unexpected work trip to Pittsburgh, a place I’ve been a couple of times before and of which I am very fond. I think it’s truly one of America’s most underrated cities. The limited down time on this trip had me reacquainting myself with a favourite sandwich and taking in a Penguins game with Sidney Crosby’s three points leading the Pens to victory.
An early spring trip to visit my sister was next up. This trip was mostly a time to catch up, quite a bit of that being done at her wine club over some great wines. I’ll admit something few Canadians will – I love Toronto (minus its current mayor) and really enjoy visiting the city. A first trip to the Distillery District and a stop for a peameal sandwich, a must on every visit, were a couple of the highlights.
It had been far too long since I had spent any time in Quebec City, so this work-related trip there was very welcomed. I flew in as early as I could to maximize my time there and I let myself just wander this city during conference breaks (and to work off a number of great meals). I won’t let it go as long until I return. I’m thinking the eventual home opener of the Nordiques when they rise from the ashes in a couple of years will be a great excuse for another visit.
Vancouver and Whistler
Early June had me and my wife-to-be off to Vancouver. For both of us, it was the first time on the west coast of our country. This is a trip I had literally thought about for years. A week in Vancouver (amazingly, without rain) had me imagining living in that urban paradise of mountains and a temperate winter climate. There was a bucket list meal at Vij’s, a day trip up to Whistler via the Sea to Sky highway, and superb street food. The city completely captured my heart.
Later in June, my travel companion of the past eight years said “I do” and shortly thereafter we were en route to Puerto Rico for a quick honeymoon. Five days in luxurious surroundings in Old San Juan and a day trip to the El Yunque rainforest was a great way to start married life. Food was a big part of this trip – we did a cooking class and I ate my share of deep fried plantains with a dish called mofongo becoming my new best friend.
Czech Republic and Vienna
This was the “big trip” of the year for us. For two weeks, we took over an apartment in Prague, made off for a short trip to Vienna and took a couple of day trips around the Czech Republic for good measure. What can I say – the beer and food was incredible, Prague is jaw-dropping beautiful, and I finally got to see a European soccer match. Prague more than lived up to being on top of our must visit list for the past couple of years.
Wrapping up the travel year was a work trip, this one to present at and attend a conference in Philadelphia. Philly is a home away from home kind of place for me. Tacking on a couple of vacation days, I got to a hockey game, ate some great sandwiches and a did a tour of public art around the center city area. No Eagles game on this trip, but I did catch a half of their game in Oakland at a neighbourhood bar which was a great cultural experience of its own.
I can only hope 2014 rivals this past year in terms of sights, sounds, tastes and experiences. 2013 will be a tough year to top, but here’s to trying!