Favourite experiences of 2013

Travel, whether near or far, never fails to reward me with stories, sounds, smells and a whole host of memories that I cherish… memories that I wouldn’t trade for any material possession.  Some travel experiences are small things – a chance conversation, a taste of something my palate hasn’t had before, or just a feeling from being somewhere that moves something inside me.   Looking back at 2013, these are the five experiences that were the most memorable.

1. Sea to Sky Highway road trip

It was a sunny Sunday morning in June, we had picked up a cute Fiat with a sunroof and about twenty minutes after leaving downtown Vancouver, we were on the Sea to Sky Highway.  To say that it was a scenic drive would be a massive understatement.  Perfect blue skies, snow-capped mountains and crystal clear water formed the backdrop to this road trip.  Whistler was the end destination, but it was the journey that is burned in my mind.  I felt alive and giddy behind the wheel anticipating what was around the next bend of the highway.

2. Visiting the birthplace of pilsner

When we booked our tickets to Prague, there was no doubt I’d be visiting Plzen, the birthplace of pilsner.  Here, underneath the Pilsner Urquell brewery, I got to taste the original pilsner, brewed the way it first was in the 1840s.  It was the most pure, fresh and unique beer I have ever tasted.  The photo on the right is one of my all-time travel favourites.  My wife can’t drink beer, but she took a glass.  I got to have two pilsners, and our exchanging of glasses to make it look like she was enjoying her beer still brings a smile to my face.

3.  Meeting an Eagle

It was the last day of a conference on my umpteenth visit to Philadelphia.  After lunch, I came across Jason Avant (one of my favourite Philadelphia Eagles players) sitting at a booth for a Philadelphia-based health centre and medical school.  With no one else around, we had time for a nice chat and got to talk about the thumping the Eagles put on the Raiders the previous night in Oakland.   Now, each time Avant makes a play, I turn to my wife and let her know it was because of a few tips I passed on to him.

Me and Eagle Jason Avant

4. (Finally) seeing a soccer match in Europe

Do you remember how excited you were as a kid at Christmas?  That approximates how excited I was to see my first European soccer match in Prague.  There were armed guards in the subway station, competing chanting and singing between the ultras sections, flares and smoke bombs.  All of this, and the home team won by scoring four beautiful goals, sending everyone home happy.  To date, this is the most unabashedly fun thing I’ve ever experienced while traveling.

5. Saying goodbye in Quebec City

Quebec has charged memories for me: childhood family vacations, some early freedom in what back then felt like a big city, a trip with my Dad to see a Nordiques game.  All of those memories revolved around family friends, one of whom passed away after a multi-year battle with an illness just a week before I arrived in the city.  Taking a seat in the bar in the Chateau Frontenac, I raised this glass to his memory and spent some time in front of a roaring fire remembering all the good times in Quebec.

An old fashioned

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