2016 year in review

Since I became a full-time traveler trapped in the body of a nine-to-fiver, I’ve had an annual travel routine: one big trip to a place I’ve never been, plus a handful of shorter adventures to familiar places. So, in 2016, I broke the routine. I added a few longer trips to places I’ve already been, plus an unexpected house move that threw everything into chaos, but ended up having a pretty interesting year all the same.

My “year of reruns” was, in fact, a year of making better friends of old acquaintances. I discovered familiarity gave me a new perspective on a place. Since I wasn’t overwhelmed with novelty and navigation, I had time and brain capacity to see the details, what makes a place more unique, and why residents and return visitors love a place. 

New York (For the twelfth-ish time)

By my calculation, this was my twelfth trip to New York and I still can’t get enough. I had a great time, introducing more friends to the joys of winter travel in NYC. We shopped for K-beauty products in Chinatown, and had a blast at legendary craft beer spot Blind Tiger, taking up position next to their fireplace during a snowy lunch.

We also heard a truly crazy story from a server in a different bar about how the bar’s neighbour stuffed shoes in the sewer pipes and watched the Superbowl (again) at our regular spot in the East Village. In a trip of many highlights, a top treat was seeing the amazing Alan Cumming Sing Sappy Songs (and tell saucy stories) at Carnegie Hall. CARNEGIE HALL!

alan cumming carnegie hall february 2016

SSSS TSA Screening

The only lowlight of this year’s NYC trip was being designated “SSSS” when I tried to check-in for my flight to the United States. SSSS is some kind of US TSA/Homeland Security code for wasting American taxpayer money on excessively screening a 42-year zero-risk woman traveler from smalltown Canada who’s never gotten a speeding ticket. If I am what America considers a risk, America, you in danger, girl.

This was mostly a pain because I ended up in “enhanced screening” for both legs of my flight, even within Canada, which added all kinds of things I do not enjoy to the trip: long waits and wasting my time. Guess what they found? NOTHING.

Just to make sure you know how absurd and wasteful this is, I now call this “Super Scary Spinster Screening.”

SSSS tsa screening boarding pass

London (For the second time)

My triumphant return to London in the spring was an absolute delight, with lots of craft beer, a random royal sighting at the Tower of London, and exploring some places I hadn’t been last time, like Camden Town and Shoreditch. Of course, in the year of reruns, there was a return to places I did know, like The Mall leading to Buckingham Palace. london england the mall buckingham palace

A highlight was chasing gigantic butterflies around the butterfly house at the Natural History Museum (you know, along with the other children), and freezing like a statue on the rare occasion one would actually land on me.

These random wanderings were among my favourite memories from the trip, including the two hours I spent walking along Regent’s Canal in Camden Town, before kicking off my Last Day in London DIY craft beer tour.

camden town london regent's canal

In my writing about the trip, I never got around to covering my day trip out to Bletchley Park to explore the world of secret World War II codebreaking. Once I got over the thrill of being on the same grounds as some badass WWII codebreakers and the father of modern computing, I followed a labyrinthine path through the huts, through carefully-curated rooms with artifacts and audio-visual elements that set the scene. Papers strewn about and motivational posters cautioning against spreading information provide an ominous sense of tone. The highlight was spending some time in Alan Turing’s office, trying to absorb the room’s energy with the hope it would make me a better puzzle solver (it didn’t).

The restoration of the site was remarkable. I continue to marvel at the secret-keeping abilities of the British, since officials didn’t even acknowledge the existence of Bletchley Park until decades after the war, with many people who worked there died with their secret assignments intact (and those still living remain fairly tight-lipped about it to this day).

Vancouver Island, Victoria & Vancouver

This one is a bit of cheat for my “year of reruns.” While I have been to Vancouver before, I had never been to Victoria, Vancouver Island, and the Gulf Islands. I definitely foresee going back for some extended road-tripping and island-hopping. The highlight was a daytrip over to Saltspring Island for their legendary Saturday morning market, then some touring around the compact island for craft cider and beer with my university friends, who hadn’t been together in almost a decade.

The second part of this trip involved another first, taking the ferry from Vancouver Island to Vancouver proper, which was an equally exciting adventure, since at least half of the journey was a slow slalom among the Gulf Islands before heading into open sea, briefly sailing through the US, and back into Canada before arriving at Tsawwassen, a short drive from Vancouver. vancouver island ferry bc ferries gulf islands

Iceland (For the second time)

My return trip to Iceland was the maximum amount of allowable fun, the highlight of which was a ferry trip to the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar). I held a baby puffin and that experience immediately became a top life moment:

iceland westman islands vestmannaeyjar heimaey Sæheimar Aquarium puffin puffling

For a five-day trip, there were ten days of highlights: kicking jetlag’s butt at the Blue Lagoon, a cultural day in Reykjavik, road tripping along the south coast for some serious waterfall hunting, and more skyr and pylsurs (hotdogs) than I can count (more than 5 of each), and loads of craft beer.

The only downside of Iceland is that my Icelandic language skills are still terrible. To this day, my limited vocabulary is from shouting “BLÁBER!” at my friends over blueberry skyr after learning it is both the singular and plural form of “blueberry.”

Montreal & Adele in concert

After nine months of waiting, my friends and I finally got to see the Adele show we bought tickets for in 2015. To amplify the adventure, we drove up to Montreal from our homebase of Halifax, which was a pretty classic road trip experience, including unusual roadside attractions and choruses of “ARE WE THERE YET?!”

Our long weekend in Montreal was full of great food, fun nights out, smoked meat, bagels, and of course, the reason for the trip: Adele’s terrific mix of performance, commentary, and fun.

Looking ahead to 2017

2017 is shaping up to be a pretty terrific year. I’m heading back to New  York in January to *finally* see Hamilton (after buying the tickets in May 2015) and back to London for Adele’s finale shows at Wembley Stadium in the summer. In non-concert and -Broadway travel, I’ll be heading to Portugal for my second Camino de Santiago. And, who knows, whatever else may pop up!

For a lot of people, 2016 wasn’t a great year, and 2017 is teeming with uncertainty, so I want to sign off with a bit of light from my corner of the world in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The Maritime Bhangra Group is gaining attention for their joyful dance videos, filmed in my local area, including local landmark, Peggy’s Cove.

All the best in 2017, I wish you many adventures and terrific experiences wherever life takes you!

Other Year in Review posts

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