Mapping 2015: Highlights and Snapshots

It’s been such a full year I needed to retrace our itinerary to get my head around all that we’ve seen in 2015. Initially, I just wanted to post some random images–previously unpublished–that have stayed with me and could represent this busy year. So I sifted through my photos in Lightroom, and then I referenced our travel reservation history on TripIt. (Both Lightroom and TripIt are essential tools for documenting our whereabouts.)

Now I know why Tom and I are planning to dial back our travel schedule!

The circus in Budapest is a daily affair.

The circus in Budapest is a daily affair and this is normal behavior.

In four major trips over just the past 12 months, we visited four continents and 16 countries, stayed in around 75 different cities, drove about 8,000 miles, and visited eleven United States National Parks and a couple dozen UNESCO World Heritage Sites. All this with amazingly little premeditation.

The map and these pictures are just a footnote to our 2015 posts. But before these memories fade, here’s a collection of a few more favorite moments from 2015.

Cool Guides

Our lively and opinionated guide through Jordan.

Our lively and opinionated guide through Jordan.

We tip our hat to the many excellent guides we had this year. We met Zsuzsanna Gábor randomly through a taxi driver in Jerusalem.  (She’s Hungarian, fluent in Arabic and English.) With a couple of phone calls, it was arranged that she would meet us at the border in Aqaba, Jordan. (We walked across from Eilat, Israel.) All together, we spent three days with Zsuzsanna, touring Petra, Wadi Rum, Jerash, and more.

Surprising Tours

Grácia was once a village on the outskirts of Barcelona, later transformed by the Industrial Revolution, and now a Barce neighborhood.

Grácia was once a village on the outskirts of Barcelona, later transformed by the Industrial Revolution, and now a Barce neighborhood.

Two tours were outstanding for showing us corners of cities we thought we knew pretty well–but learned we have lots more to discover. In Barcelona, we took a Context Travel tour of the Grácia neighborhood, an old Catalan village that is a great backdrop for learning the history of the Catalan independence movement. That’s where I want to stay next time I’m in town. Look for Context’s tour called “Spirit of Catalonia:Gracia and the Catalan Identity.”

Meson del Champiñon: with trays of mushrooms ready to cook and serve.

Meson del Champiñon: with trays of mushrooms ready to cook and serve.

The Madrid Food Tour was delicious and highly informative. We love that the folks at Devour Madrid (also serving Barcelona, Seville, and Malaga) arrange the tours to support small independent and family owned establishments, and to maximize talk time with locals.

Masada, a stop on our day with Green Olive Tours

View towards the Dead Sea from Masada, a stop on our day with Green Olive Tours

With a thoughtful and engaging Palestinian driver from Green Olive Tours we took a day’s private tour of the West Bank, including a drive through Israeli settlements (I call them suburbs), several passes through border checkpoints, and a stop to visit a Palestinian family who keep a record of beatings, poisoned sheep, and waylaid school children tacked to their living room wall. The day included a visit to the Dead Sea and Masada, but it was all about trying to understand what is happening in the West Bank.

Road Trip Highlights

Fishing report posted in a Willow Creek, our stop off Hwy 299 along the Trinity River, northern California

Fishing report posted in a Willow Creek cafe where we stopped for lunch. The Hwy 299 drive along the Trinity River in northern California was spectacular, even as the road was being buttressed and realigned.

One of my favorite days of driving was broken up by lunch in Willow Creek. This town is right to keep its eye on the water flow and the fishing. A few years back it was wiped out by flooding. The Trinity River Valley is impressive, and while Tom slept I drove the curvy mountain highway, losing track after a while if we were doing up or down, just switching back and forth, constantly curving, like slaloming gently down the “Long Way Home” ski run.

Tom and our Egyptian guide–a friend of a friend– supervise while the guys tend to a flat tire. We were returning fro Mount Horab to Sharm El-Sheikh.

Tom and our Egyptian guide–a friend of a friend–supervise while the guys tend to a flat tire. We were returning from Mount Horab to Sharm El Sheikh.

Our trip west to several National Parks will be remembered as the Wildfire Tour of 2015.

Our trip west to several National Parks will be remembered as the Wildfire Tour of 2015.

Museums

Israel Museum Jerusalem

Israel Museum Jerusalem

The Israel Museum of Jerusalem presents an incredible cultural history of the region. Though I selected these cool sarcophagi on display at the entrance to the archeology wing, the huge museum goes beyond artifacts to display modern art, Islamic art, ancient coins and texts, and a special Shrine of the Book, housing the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Aleppo Codex. Spend a full day.

Nabadeaen carving of eagle with arrows

Nabadeaen carving of eagle with arrows

The Jordan Museum is brand new and still expanding. They have the most concise exhibit of prehistory I’ve ever seen. We were lucky to visit the exhibit of the Nabataeans (“Social Transformation in Southern Jordan 4th-2nd Century B.C.”) and to examine some artifacts from Petra. Visiting the Jordan Museum really completes the spectacular Petra visit. Get to the Jordan Museum before or after Petra.

A scene in La Trinxera, a private collection of Spanish Civil War artefacts.

A scene in La Trinxera, a private collection of Spanish Civil War artifacts.

We spent a day touring the Ebro River valley looking at battle fields of the Spanish Civil War. This was the site of one of the bloodiest fights of the war. Some trenches are still intact. War detritus from bullets to buttons have been collected from the fields, much of it ending up in this private museum.

Light show Tower of David Museum-1

The Night Spectacular at the citadel of the Tower of David Museum tells the history of Jerusalem via a light show projected onto the walls.

One of the biggest trends in public art and museum tourism is producing big light shows to display on building exteriors.  You may not be looking for color and thrills in the middle of Florence or Athens, for example, but you’ll likely see the lightworks, anyway.

Around Towns

This gentleman introduced us to the displays along the walls of the Grand Synagogue of Bucharest, one of two still standing in the old city.

This gentleman introduced us to the displays along the walls of the Grand Synagogue of Bucharest, one of two temples still standing in the old city.

Bucharest is a difficult city to get to know. Large swaths were destroyed by an earthquake, and even more by Nicolae Ceaușescu, the former Romanian Communist leader. Most restaurants still allow smoking, sidewalks are hazardous, and rebuilding has hidden some of the architectural gems. But keep looking.

Athenee Roman Concert Hall, Bucharest, Romania

Athenee Roman Concert Hall, Bucharest, Romania

Beautiful inside and out, with its copper dome and frescos depicting Romanian history, the Romanian Atheneum concert hall is home to the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra. A guard showed us in and then gave us all the time we needed to gape and shoot pictures.

The French are always so fashionable.

The French are always so fashionable.

Traffic

River traffic on the Neckar River in Heidelberg, Germany

River traffic on the Neckar River in Heidelberg, Germany

Lodging

lodging wadi rum-1

Our lodging in Wadi Rum was a Bedouin camp for visitors, where the red sand meets the white sand.

We didn’t get the clear night sky we’d hoped for when we stayed overnight at the southern edge of Wadi Rum, but we ate well, slept fine, and took an early sunrise walk.

All Nations

These haystacks In the little village of Plopsi, next to one of the tall-spired wooden churches of Maramures Romania, are typical of the region.

These haystacks in the little village of Plopsi, next to one of the high-spired wooden churches of Maramures Romania, are typical of the region.

Agriculture is a common thread around the world, of course, and I’m always curious to see how small farms are managed. Open burning around Romania was discouraging, but couldn’t stop admiring these haystacks. I’ve decided haystack formation relates to national identity.

This chapel was built with donations from many countries. This section honoring the French contributions struck me, as we visited the week of the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris.

The All Nations Church was built in the 1920s with donations from many countries. This chapel ceiling honoring the French contributions struck me, as we visited the week of the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris.

The Church of All Nations in Gethsemene, Jerusalem.

One of two somewhat successful selfies we took this year. People look askance when we refuse their offers to take our picture.

One of two somewhat successful selfies we took this year. People look askance when we refuse their offers to take our picture, but it’s rare we want to intrude on the scenery.

14 Comments

  1. Michael January 2, 2016 at 10:14 am - Reply

    Wow!! You both must still be in your twenties…….

  2. Janet Hogshead January 2, 2016 at 11:22 am - Reply

    Well, I keep saying, “Beautiful!” and “I wish we had seen that!”
    More words can’t convey much more. We have enjoyed your travels all the years you have been “Past Fifty.”
    Keep Going! There are a lot of places still that we want to see through your eyes.
    Thank you both!

  3. Kristin Henning January 2, 2016 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the kind comments! They DO make a difference and encourage us to keep going!

  4. Andrew Darwitan January 2, 2016 at 11:48 pm - Reply

    Great year there. =)

  5. Anita January 5, 2016 at 8:50 am - Reply

    Love your descriptions, along with tantalizing pictures. Every one made me want to “go there and see it for myself”!

  6. Heather Cowper January 5, 2016 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    What a full year – the Madrid food tour and the West Bank tour both sound great experiences although for different reasons – food for the intellect and the stomach

    • Kristin Henning January 5, 2016 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Heather. Posting this piece made me want to go back and write more about the West Bank tour on its own. It was an extraordinary day.

  7. Anita @ No Particular Place To Go January 7, 2016 at 2:37 am - Reply

    Wow! After reading through your list of travels I can see why you might consider slowing down but I’ll be disappointed as I enjoy reading about your travels. We have one or two trips to Spain planned for this year and we’re going to start doing more reading about the Spanish Civil War. I’m so glad your recap included the Ebro River valley battlefields of the Spanish Civil War as well as Trinxera with its private collection of Spanish Civil War artifacts. Those seem like fascinating places to visit and we’ll be adding them to our plans.

    • Kristin Henning January 7, 2016 at 9:28 am - Reply

      Glad to hear it, Anita. I’m thinking of writing another post just focused on the top tour days–and the Ebro Valley was one of them. Message me and I’ll send you more details about our guide, who is really in the wine business.

  8. Corinne January 9, 2016 at 6:26 am - Reply

    What a busy and fun year you had! I hope that your 2016 is just as fun. I think that is one awesome selfie.

  9. Irene S. Levine January 10, 2016 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    Visiting 75 cities in a year sounds mind-boggling! — in the good sense:-)

  10. Mary Mack January 24, 2016 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    What a fabulous year you had! Your photos are delicious – especially the ones of food! We aspire to follow in your foot steps! Looking forward to reading about your 2016 adventures.

  11. Kristin Henning January 24, 2016 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Mary. It was pretty incredible and we’re still regrouping for the next phase. We’ll keep an eye on your progress, too. (And we may get to Ashville one of these days to see family.

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