Where to Next?

We’ve been so fortunate to have been able to travel to Europe the past three years. Two summers ago, we took a trip that started in Budapest and ended in Berlin. In between we also landed in Vienna and Prague.

When we arrived in Vienna we dropped our bags in our Ikea-laden AirBnB, peeped the charming view from our balcony, and grabbed a snack on the street before heading to our first activity.

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Funny thing about these first sausages…I research food a little maniacally before we travel. Unless there’s a dire situation (or we’re in London!) we never eat at chains and we try to avoid tourist traps. On this first day, we didn’t have much time and couldn’t afford to veer off to a place I had bookmarked while on our way to our meeting spot. We knew Vienna was famous for their sausages. These first ones we had were just okay. I remember telling my hubs that I wondered where the best sausages were and that I imagined the ones we got were similar to all the almost identical looking stands we passed on the rest of our walk. Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. While all the stands may have looked similar to each other, we learned from a local that the quality of their products vary greatly. A couple days later we were taken to another stand by our friends Melinda and Thomas. There we sampled some of the most delicious sausages we’d ever had in our lives.

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Our only planned activity that first day in Vienna was a bike tour. We had never taken one before and were a bit skeptical; riding bikes in New York City can be super stressful, so it was hard for us to imagine being able to listen to a guide and see a city in a leisurely manner. But, the reviews for the company we chose were really great and we try to be open to new things, so we gave it a shot. Turns out the bike tour was not only one of the best decisions we made, it was also invaluable that we took it on our first day there. Vienna is one of the safest and most wonderful places you can ride a bike. If you’re in a rare area that doesn’t have a bike path, cars expect you to be in the street with them. They look out for you, they don’t scream and beep at you, and traffic seems to just merge together and flow effortlessly. We ended up renting bikes from the tour company almost every other day we were there. We felt like kids again; we had forgotten how fun and free and adventurous life could feel flying around on two wheels.

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We saw and learned so much from our fantastic guide on that first tour. There was one thing he shared with us that I’ll never forget because it set the landscape for so many other things we learned about Vienna later on. At one point we stopped in a huge square called Heldenplatz (Heroes’ Square). Hofburg Palace sits in front and there are a couple of large monuments as well. There were large areas of grass behind all the concrete where people were relaxing with books or having small picnics. Our guide pulled a large photo from his pack and turned it over to reveal an image of the square we were standing in, in 1938. It was Hitler’s ceremonial announcement of Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany. We could see from the photo that thousands and thousands of Austrians were in attendance. Most appeared in good spirits and many were giving the Nazi salute. Our guide then told us that he had been living in Austria for over forty years, but he had never met anyone who was at this Nazi rally, or who had family that was there, or even a neighbor. Obviously this could not be true. Surely he had to have known many people who were there themselves or who were related to people who were there. He said it though to make a point: many Austrians prefer not to acknowledge history they are not proud of. Anything considered shameful–most especially the Nazis, is glossed over, not talked about, and discouraged from being brought up. This attitude became so clear the rest of our trip; there were memorials and sites we would have so easily missed if they were not pointed out to us by our guides; the history is almost hidden in plain sight. As an American, the lack of acknowledgment of history felt completely familiar. But I was glad to see it somewhere else, recognize it, and then contrast it later on when we got to Berlin. Boy do they treat history differently in Berlin!

I consider every little story I have like this part of my wealth. Travel is not only the most wonderful and exciting adventure, it’s also an investment.  I don’t think there’s one day that goes by that I don’t reference something in my memory from a place we have visited. Whether it’s hopping on the 2 hour Megabus to Philly , or flying across the pond to spy the Mona Lisa, getting out of my comfort zone and in a place that isn’t home is one of the most valuable things I can do for my personal growth. Also–wanderlust is real. Every couple of months I get terribly antsy to go somewhere. While I wish our work schedules and budget allowed us to travel that often, I am super grateful we get around as much as we do. Right now, we are trying to decide exactly where our next big adventure will be–and that’s where you come in! We will be traveling sometime in May of next year and have three weeks to work with. We’ve got three main contenders in mind right now, but since I have the most amazing and diverse group of reader/blogger friends, I wanted to hear from you all to see what you think. I know many of you either live in or have traveled to some of the places we are thinking about so I’d really find it invaluable to get your advice if you fall into either of those categories. So far, we are considering… (currently in order of what we are leaning most towards):

  1. Iceland/Ireland/Scotland/England. While we’ve been to London before (and Stratford-upon-Avon), we’ve never been anywhere else in England so we thought we might add one new place to the end of this trip. I am pretty anxious to visit Ireland especially. My mom’s side is almost full Irish and I have this thing about wanting to have my feet in the soil of my ancestor’s home. I have always had this intuition that I would feel something because my blood is there, and I want to find out if that’s true. Plus my hubs is almost 100% Irish on both sides of his family so I think he is game to do a little family history digging as well.
  2. Spain. I visited Spain for a month with my family when I was much younger but I am extremely anxious to return as an adult. My hubs has not been at all so it would be completely new for him. There is definitely the possibility of adding Morocco to the beginning or end of this trip as well which makes it pretty appealing to me. I know how varied Spain is, there is so much to see, so I think we could easily spend all three weeks just there.
  3. Africa. Ok, I know, ridiculous. I just listed an entire continent. I’ve done this though because that is how intimidated I feel by it, I really don’t know where to start. South Africa is at the top of the list. However, if we went all the way to Africa, I definitely would want to spend time in more than one country. I’d like to think I will get to go to Africa more than once in my lifetime, but I know that is not a guarantee. It’s a really important trip for me to take some day for the same reason I want to visit Ireland. I just don’t know if I am ready for all the research and planning it will take. That being said–I know that sometimes there are things we never feel ready for and just have to jump into. Although in the past several years I’ll admit, travel has not been one of those things. Usually we start to get some sort of feeling about where we should go when we really get serious about the planning process.

So, let’s hear it world travelers–where should we go? If you’ve got a three week idea that’s not on this list, by all means, let me hear it!! Even if you’re not especially well traveled–any of these especially high on your bucket list? Would love to hear from you as well. I have a feeling by the end of this that intuitive feeling will start to come over me and the hubs as well. Oh, just an fyi–we are definitely city people! I understand some of the places we are looking might include more rural/nature attributes, and that is fine for part of the trip, but cities with culture, food, and lots of things to do always have to be dominant with us. I try to be more in tune and fascinated by nature but it just doesn’t grab me like cities do. Both my hubs and I connect more to architecture than we do to mountains (although I will give him credit, he’s def more in touch with nature than I am!)

Also, when we do narrow it down, you better believe I will be back for some more narrowed advice. Thanks all!! x 

57 thoughts on “Where to Next?

  1. “sites we would have so easily missed if they were not pointed out to us by our guides; the history is almost hidden in plain sight.” love that line. so often I catch myself not knowing anything about places I walk by every day in the city I live in for 15 years or a new town I visit, but history is in every step, and learning it, well, that can be profound, can it not?

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    1. I know exactly what you mean! The other day my hubs pointed out this cemetery that we walk past all the time. I kind of knew it was there but I never stop to take it in and have never learned anything about it. I am always in such a rush when I go by—sometimes with reason, sometimes just caught up in the energy of the city—in a hurry to go nowhere. I have to remember to look at what I’m seeing more—so much to discover.
      Can’t tell you how glad I am to have your comments here. Hope you come back and share again. Thanks for reading!

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  2. I won’t be any help, but figured I will respond anyway. (better late then never). our 2 week visit to London and Paris had me wanting more time there. Sounds like the same for you. We did a few of the have too and lots of the want too, but there is still so much TO do. Ireland, is home for me too and I loved stepping back to the culture, If you do Ireland, make sure to take the train up to Belfast, Northern Ireland too. It is a modern, tidy, very cultural city. I have to agree with Spain. It holds a place in our heart. We lived there for 4 years and the culture is so welcoming. And as suggested above, investigate La Ferias. Ill bet in NY you could find a place to take a Sevilliana classes before you go. The beaches in southern Spain are amazing. Check out Tarifa if you want to try wind sailing at one of the best places in the world to do it. And yes, as above, Cadiz! Africa is a bucket item for me too. I know you will keep us in the loop. it will be fun to see how you narrow down. Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.

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  3. I don’t think I can do a better selling job of South Africa than charliesbird already did in the comments but if you get to Cape Town and need some tips (or someone for a run with!) then let me know! If you do make a trip to South Africa give yourself at least three weeks as there is so much to see and do…

    As a proud Welshman can I also add that if you’re doing the UK tour don’t disregard a trip to Wales – even if it’s just to have a day out in Cardiff. It’s an amazing city with friendly people. I haven’t spent much time in Ireland but I worked in Glasgow for about four months and it’s a truly brilliant place.

    My trips to Spain have been confined to Barcelona but I would also recommend it as a city – one of my favourite places to visit. Extraordinary food, amazing architecture and so much to explore.

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    1. Wasn’t charliesbird’s rundown amazing? It really made me think more seriously about Africa. It’s definitely going to happen, even if not this year.
      I loved reading your last post cause I got a better idea of your whole background in the UK and all. It is looking like we are leaning towards that trip so I will definitely look into Cardiff, you’re not the first person to mention it!
      I just talked to my boss and I think I might be on this job longer than I thought which means we will prob be traveling in July rather than May. I think that rules Spain out for this trip as I’ve been told it’s dreadfully not during that month!!
      Thanks Nik!

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  4. Another vote for Iceland, it’s an amazing place, Reykjavik is so cool, the people so friendly. I’ve been 4 times so have good recs for places to stay and to eat. I did my first marathon there JUST SAYIN’, although that’s in August.
    I know what you mean about feeling you belong to a place. I am 1/64 Spanish by family inheritance but my genetics are 10% Iberian and I feel in Tunisia that I am very much at home, so I reckon some ancestor was a North African in Spain!

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  5. qplourde

    I’ve been to England and Scotland. I did these as separate trips. Scotland is amazing, and you can easily travel to Glasgow & Edinburgh if you want to stay in the cities. There is a lot of amazing rural scenery in the Highlands, but if that’s not your thing you can skip. This past May I went to Iceland and did the stopover so I could spend some time in England and went to London & Brighton. It was a great time of year to visit the UK, lots of daylight and it wasn’t quite the busy travel season. I’ve never been to Ireland – I’m hoping to go some day. I thought about including it on my Iceland trip, but I felt there was just too much to see in a shortened amount of time. I think I would need a whole week in Ireland. Good luck with your vacation planning. It’s one of my favorite things to do as well.

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    1. Hey lady! Yes, Edinburgh and Glasgow were def at the top of the list, but we definitely are open to including a bit of time in the Highlands as well. We both definitely appreciate nature and natural beauty, just tend to prefer to spend more time in cities! Can either Edinburgh or Glasgow act as a homebase for daytrips out to more rural beauty, or do you think we have to get a car and stay for shorter times in different villages?
      I am happy to know that you traveled to some of these places in May and it wa a good time! Usually we travel closer to summertime–I know everyone always advises against that, but schedule wise it is just what has worked the past few years. Would be nice though to not totally hit the busy travel season!

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      1. qplourde

        When I went to Scotland, it was August, but that is of course the busiest time to go there. I think May would be fine – might be a little on the chilly side, but just be prepared for it. I would spend more time in Edinburgh than Glasgow. You prob only need one day in Glasgow, and I would travel from Edinburgh instead of staying overnight. It’s not a bad train ride. I think you can use Edinburgh for a jumping off place – but if you travel north to the Highlands you may want to stay overnight up there a day or two. I believe when I stayed, I was near Fort William? I was with people and staying at someone’s home, so I’m not 100% on that. But that was a nice area, and not too removed from anything. We did some really great kayaking in a loch. Let me know if you have any other questions.

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    1. Canada will happen eventually. Growing up in Michigan, I feel like Canada got a bad rap because when we were young, we just thought of it as the place we could cross the border to drink in legally at 19! I’ve really never explored it at all and it is on the list. When we were traveling in Portugal earlier this year we met two guys who were studying abroad in Europe and were from Canada and they really did it up and told us how amazing a few places were and made us swear we would get there. I will be coming around for more advice when that one comes up for sure ;).

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    1. Love Amsterdam!! Went almost three years ago–I agree, it’s really wonderful. When we were in Prague last year we met and American couple living in Copenhagen and they def convinced us that that is also somewhere we need to visit. The world is magnificent isn’t it? So much to see!! Thanks Paul!

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  6. Spain… you have Bilbao with its Guggenheim museum and beautiful architecture in the city. Valladolid with its old castles and monasteries. Santiago de compostela with its cathedral and pilgrims. Leon, Salamanca. The north coast offers both nature and cities, with excellent food and wines.
    In the south Granada and it’s Alhambra. Seville, Malaga, Cadiz. Barcelona, Valencia on the east coast.. Madrid.. and the list could continue 😉

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    1. Yes!! So happy to hear a STRONG voice for Spain. I have no doubts that Spain has everything we could want in a trip–it’s definitely not if we go, it’s when! I have been to just a few of the cities you mentioned and although I was very young, I still have amazingly vivid and wonderful memories of them all. Thank you for your other suggestions as well! If we do not use them this time, trust they will eventually be put to good use!! x

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  7. Hi Cat. They all sound like good trips. So I’ll just give you my experience. I’ve been to Iceland and Scotland. Ireland is still on the to-do list.

    We really liked Iceland, did a 5 day stopover enroute to Scotland. Aside from Reykjavik, its a very rural place (total population is around 300K). That said, its fascinating historically, and geologically. You can see where very early government was set up, where tectonic plates are moving apart, the geyser that named them all, and volcanoes, too! unlike you, I like the country and my people in smaller groups. R is a pretty happening city, too. We rented a car and spent a few days exploring, with our lodging set–an elementary school converted to b and b. Lots of hot springs, too, although as I recall, water isn’t your favorite element.

    Scotland is fabulous. As other commenters have mentioned, go to edinburgh. And there are all manner of islands and wild places that you can run.

    As far as I’m concerned, any of your choices sound fascinating. My niece loved Spain, she spent a semester there in college, and has been back to visit since then, primarily around Barcelona.

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    1. So much of what you’ve said here appeals to me Steph. Funnily enough too, even though i am not a huge water person (although the hubs is, he grew up near the ocean and loves it), the hot springs in Iceland are one of the big draws for me. Now I am even more interested with what you’ve said about it’s history and early forms of government. With all the advice we have been getting though, we are now wondering if it might be better to go to Iceland on another trip–one that we won’t be having to do so much traveling around. It seems like all the cities and villages in Ireland and Scotland are places that you don’t stay in for that long. I would not call us backpackers. We like to have a bit of a homebase for a nice chunk of time and explore and do daytrips from there. Not sure if these places really offer that. Looks like we might have to travel around more and just thinking that adding the extra flight with Iceland might make it all more exhausting (not that our Europe trips are ever “relaxing”). Not sure if I am explaining myself very well, lol.

      “Wild places that I can run”. I like the sound of that! Hoping we narrow it down soon, I LOVE the travel planning process!

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      1. I hear you, Cat. That said, you can do a fair amount of the Iceland stuff I mentioned as day trips from Reykjavik, either driving or with a small group tour. When we were heading to Scotland, it was a nice stop enroute, as we got over our jet lag (we are 2 hours west of you), and noodling around in hot springs was a nice way to adjust to the time change. If you’re flying Icelandair, you can stopover up to 7 days without charge on your airfare.

        You really do have an embarrassment of riches in travel choices–its exciting. I love travel, and not sure what my next will be.

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  8. That’s a tough one!
    I’ve been to most and of course you will be pleased with any you enjoy.
    Ireland – I’ve been there twice and for some reason have such a soft spot for this country. The cities are neat, but the country side is really what is the most breathtaking. The people are also SO nice!
    Spain – It’s been about 15 years or so since I was there, but I loved Spain as well. Big fan of Barcelona! Love Gaudi!
    South Africa – This to me was more of a “bucket list” trip than the others, especially because it was a bit farther. We booked through a tour group and spent 5 days in Cape Town and 4 days on safari near Port Elizabeth. Cape Town is such a cool city with plenty to do and of course a safari is breathtaking. I hope to get back to Africa in the future and would love to visit another country next time.
    I’m sure I didn’t help you at all since I basically told you they are all great choices!
    What do you like to do best while travelling? Culture? Nature? City? Anything with a familial significance would of course make a great trip too!
    🙂

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    1. Haha, well Jessica you didn’t help in deciding but you definitely made me even more excited to start planning!! I feel like we’ve narrowed it down to some good choices!! Your soft spot for Ireland is sort of tugging at me–a lot of people have said this. We are def more into culture/cities, but I think it is good for us to get outside of our comfort zone as well so it seems like Ireland and Scotland offer a good mix of nature and city. We will see. Thanks so much for the help!!

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  9. I vote for 1. However, I have not been to Africa or Iceland. Spain is wonderful. You could even do Spain and head to Morocco for a couple days to get a tiny taste of Africa. The places you have listed for the first choice seem most appealing to me. I’ve been to Scotland, England, and Ireland. I’ve been to Ireland six or seven times and it is my favorite place in the world. If you choose to go there, I’d love to offer some really cool places/villages to visit. 😀

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    1. I have to say, Ireland keeps tugging at me and your comment made the pull just that little bit stronger! We are actually rethinking Iceland in the beginning of the trip now. It seems like Ireland and Scotland especially are two places we might have to hop around a bit, is that right? If so, I think I might want to eliminate one extra flight. Our favorite way to travel is to have a main city we can stay in for a bit as a home base , but that we are able to make day trips from. Not sure that will be possible though in these places, sounds like more moving around. Which is fine. Just not as relaxing or able to get that settled feeling.
      Thanks so much for your opinion, so glad to have it. If we decide on Ireland, I would def LOVE your suggestions!

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  10. Hanna

    Oh I am so envious of all your travel adventures, you lucky ducks. I just read a book about the the history of a family separated by the iron curtain for 40 years and it has be itching to visit Berlin.

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    1. Hanna, Berlin is my FAVORITE place I have EVER been to. So much so that I am hoping we can find a way to live there for a year or two. Really, it’s such an incredible place. SO much history, so much honesty, everywhere. I miss it sometimes. Find a way to get there, you will not regret it, I promise!!

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  11. A travel adventure, massively jealous. Haven’t been able to get away at all this year except for visiting and events in my home country. Think next year will be much the same, but I have that wanderlust so strong it bothers me I can’t get my act together to see more! Hoping joining up with the Army reserves will help open this door.
    On the note of visiting my fine and beautiful country though, I have to say it’s a shame you’re not a countryside person, as we have stunning places to visit! However, as far as cities go I would definitely recommend Edinburgh. I’ve been there many times and its history will wow you. A very good friend got married there, as she loved it so much. Stay on the Royal mile and you will not be disappointed! I’ve recently discovered how awesome Liverpool is for its architecture too, beautiful buildings by the docks 😍
    I don’t know Ireland. Shamefully I have to say it’s still on my list to go. So if you do, give me some tips 😂
    All the best with this, look forward to hearing about it 😘 xx

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    1. Hey lady! Yes, Edinburgh would certainly be on the list, interested in Glasgow as well. We’re not opposed to seeing any of the countryside, we’d just get a bit restless if that dominated the trip.
      I have a friend who loves Liverpool as well so I am happy to hear someone second that!
      Hope your Army reserve plans help with the travel opportunities, I am sure it will be an adventure!! x

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  12. With regards Scotland, if you are city people then it has to be Edinburgh, and haggis 🤣. Otherwise if you want to get out of your danger zone of cities, the islands are great and look at hiking routes. Give me a shout closer to the time if need be.

    Otherwise for South Africa, if you swim with great white sharks ill be even more jealous as I was at your marathon time 🤣

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      1. Cat, I’m rubbish – sorry! Yeah Deeside is amazing October is a lush time to go. 1000s or orange colours; wind, rain, snow, sunshine and clouds all in one day but the night sky is the best …. enjoy!

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  13. charliesbird

    As an African reader – come to South Africa!!!! We are amazing! (despite our horrible president – but then I think yours might be taking lessons from ours) We have so much to offer, and you can honestly see so much of what Africa is about in our one country.
    I live a province called the Eastern Cape and we have the most amazing coastline on our doorstep, called the Wild Coast – incredibly beautiful, quite remote, but with the most awesome people.
    Cape Town is awesome, but very cosmopolitan – there’s winelands, history, table mountain, and sea. Lots of fancy places to stay and eat.
    Johannesburg is our financial hub – great weather, no sea, but easy access to some amazing places like the Magaliesberg (good for a hot air balloon trip) the cradle of humankind – where they have unearthed some of our earliest ancestors, Kruger National Park and all its various private concessions – great animal viewing!
    Durban is a fun place to visit – lots of touristy things to do and see.
    As far as other Southern African countries go – Mozambique is awesome – lots of natural beauty, but still a country recovering from a difficult civil war.
    Namibia is amazing – for stark desert beauty and lots of different animals.
    Botswana is pretty awesome for the animal life in the Okavango Delta area.
    Zimbabwe is in turmoil and very very poor; while tourist places like Vic falls and Kariba are nice, the poverty is devastating. (they are currently in the midst of a peaceful coup…)

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    1. Lady!! You have given me A LOT to think about here. My sister also has a very close friend from South Africa so I know I would have her as a resource as well which is encouraging. Thank you for answering this–not sure what the end result of this exact trip will be but Africa is going to happen, and your response really excites me and make it feel more real. Is it weird that someone traveling to your home feels so enormous? Do you guys feel that way about coming to the US? Just such a long way, kind of an epic trip for us!! Curious if you feel the same about anywhere else in the world.

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      1. charliesbird

        I have yet to make it to the US, but an American marathon is on my bucket list, so I will be there one day. The US feels just enormous to me – I’m not sure how I would even begin to plan a trip! What to do, what to see, what to experience?
        I only developed a travel bug late in my life, so have only recently starting travelling overseas – I have travelled South Africa extensively, been to so many little places that many South Africans have never seen.
        Travel is such a privilege and a blessing – to explore different cultures and see incredible things is just amazing – walking through a church in France and realising that the very staircase I am walking on are older than my (very young) country.
        I am always thrilled when South Africa crops up on people’s travel plans, because, as I said, I think we are just amazing, and want the world to know!

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      2. If you ever decide to plan a trip to the US. keep me in mind, I will help!
        I know it doesn’t seem like we have much to be proud of over here right now–it can be hard to see in the midst of all our division and turmoil. We are finally having to deal with some of our history and it’s ugly and painful–but I believe in us, and I think and hope we will come out better on the other side. Your South African pride reminds me of just how proud I am to be an American. Even in all this–I really am. Hope you visit us someday! x

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  14. Well I’m desperate to go to Scotland, Ireland and Scotland and I e heard Iceland is amazing so I would vote for that trip, but I have a friend who did Africa and said the animals were amazing so if that’s your thing- I’d say go there. Like how I managed to vote for two🤣

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    1. Australia is DEFINITELY on the list–but that’s like Africa to me. If I am traveling that far, I want to make sure we have plenty of time to do it right–it’s not necessarily a trip we will get to do more than once!
      Thanks for your thoughts, happy to have you here :).

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      1. If you time it right in the summer, you can go to a town’s feria (a week long fiesta). We went at the end of May, which was Cadiz’s feria, which pretty far south you can get in Spain (Ferries to Morocco leave near that area). Plus, as a seafood lover, I never had a bad meal there.

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      2. Man let me tell you. We were in the North (Santander) and one the Bf, his friends, and I had a LARGE amount of tapas and wine. For 8 people, the food was about 8-10 Euros a piece. I guess one should consider the cost of living is less than NYC but still.

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