Here it is, the list of my Top 14 Travel Highlights of 2014. I had an AMAZING year filled with great experiences big and small. I lived in three different countries (Germany, the US, and now the UK) and I visited eight different countries. From walking down the red carpet to seeing the sites of my boyhood dreams, 2014 was a FANTASTIC year! For more stories like this and all my upcoming shenanigans in 2015, follow me here on my blog, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google+. Keep your eyes open for my upcoming Pintrist account and Tumblr account in 2015! Without further ado, here are my top 14 picks for this year:
14. Seeing George Clooney and Matt Damon at the Berlinale
While I did not get to personally talk to them, seeing both of them in person was quite the spectacle! Even more amazing was the crowd’s reaction when George Clooney stepped out of his car onto the Red Carpet. The whole crowd of Germans yelled, “George” and pushed forward as one! This experience took the cake of amazing at the Berlinale 2014!
13. The London BFI Film Festival
If you have the chance to attend a film festival in a big city, especially one of the “big ones” I would say buy your ticket! The movies will have a much wider apeal than your typical hollywood stock and they often seek to transcend some barrier in film. The London BFI -British Film Institute- Film Festival lived up to these standards. I got to enjoy festival atmosphere, see a great documentary without any narration on Ukraine and the Ukraine crisis, and eat at a very yummy cafe in the BFI building! To read more about my experience, click here to go to the story!
12. Dinner in Strasbourg
One of my most enchanting evenings of the year was enjoying dinner at a magical canal side resturaunt in the very picturesque city center of Strasbourg, France. The resturaunt, Restaurant La Corde à Linge, was posh and elegant, and it served amazing cuisine! It featured a fantastic array of French wines. It was magic in all the right ways when you think about eating at a little French resturaunt.
11. Touring the Vatican
I have been wanting to tour throught the Vatican for years now. So when I decided to go to Milan for a concert, I included plans to visit the Eternal City. I spent the good part of a day enjoying the Vatican Museum. The Sistine Chapel was so full of people and the collection of the museum galleries was magnificent! After we spent several hours in the museum, we returned to St. Peter’s Square and saw that the line for St. Peter’s Basillica -which had been insanely long earlier in the day- was non-existent. So we were able to walk right into the Church, there was almost no crowd and it was really wonderful to walk through one of the the most ornate buildings in the world!
10. The Hamburg Fischmarkt
Going to the Fischmarkt is a rite-of-passage of sorts. The idea is to go out clubbing all night on the Reeperbahn then walk over to the Elbe at the crack of dawn to enjoy a Fischbrötchen (fish on a roll), live music, and shop for fresh produce, meat, and cheese! The shopping bit is important because the Fischmarkt only happens on Sunday morning, and Sunday shopping is verboten (forbidden) in Hamburg at any kind of retail or grocery store, so the Fischmarkt is a great way to stock up for the day!
9. The World Cup
Sadly, I was not in attendance at this years Soccer World Cup in Brazil, but I was living in Germany throughout the World Cup. I was in Germany in 2006 (my first time abroad) when they hosted the World Cup and I have been hooked ever since. Sadly, Germany lost in the semi-final in 2006, so that is what made them winning in 2014 so wonderful! I think it was one of the best expereiences I have ever had to bear witness to the national joy that overcame the entire Reeperbahn when Germany beat Argentina in the final match!
8. Attending a Taped Concert for my Favorite Band
My favorite band, Within Temptation, released a new album this year, Hydra. I attended many shows on their world-wide tour, but one of the most exciting highlights for me was getting to attend two soldout shows in a row in Amsterdam, their home city. The fans were awesome, I got to meet the band after both shows, and it was taped! I am on their DVD!! I was so excited to get my copy and see myself at the show!! That concert will be a memory that I will always cherish very deeply!
7. Moving to Canterbury
Coming to Europe, I had planned on getting two MA degrees. My plans were to live in Hamburg or Berlin, then Paris. I did not get into the school in Paris, but I did get into my program here at the University of Kent with a second year in Brussels. Despite the disapointment of not getting into the Paris school, I have had a BLAST in Canterbury! I love this little city and all the wonderful people I have met at this school! I cannot tell you all how excited I am for my next school year in Brussels! Anyways, let’s raise another Kent Cider to the rest of the time in Canterbury! Click here to read more stories about Canterbury!
6. Magical Ice Kingdom, London Winter Wonderland
A blend between a German Christmas Market and a county fair, the London Winter Wonderland was a spectacle in and of itself. However, the Magical Ice Kingdom was a step far above any I was expecting. I love ice sculptures, and all the ones here were fantastic! Even though it was -8°C (17.6°F), it was well worth it to walk through, take a picture on the massive ice thrones, and then step back into the night. It was so cold inside that by the time I had stepped out into the cold night, it felt like summer!
5. The VIP experience at the Rupaul’s Drag Race Season Six Finale
After my weekend in Amsterdam with Within Temptation, I attended the Rupaul’s Drag Race Season Six Reunion Taping at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, California. I got to come in on the red carpet, sit in the VIP seating, and meet the entire cast of season six after the show! I got to take pictures with almost all the queens of season six and some of the previous queens as well! I was even more thrilled to see that I was on the aired version of the reunion!! Score! All in all, it was my first, but surely not my last Hollywood Red Carpet experience 😉
4. Siam Park Tenerife, Spain
I think one of my best experiences of all of 2014, and all my life, was getting to go on holiday in Tenerife. One of the seven little Spanish islands off of the coast of Morocco, Tenerife is amazing! It is a part of Spain, and thus a part of Europe, but it is so exotic and wonderful! It was a blend of how Santa Barbara California feels with something new and distinct. One of my favorite points of my Tenerife trip was going to the water park known as Siam Park. The best attraction was the Tower of Power, a water slide over 28 meters/91 feet high that shoots you through a shark infested tank! It was absolutly terrifying and deliciously thrilling all at once!
3. The Colosseum and Palatine Hill
I cannot remember how young I was when I decided I needed to see the Colosseum in real life. And in 2014, my boyhood dream came true! I was so excited to go to Rome and to see the Colosseum in real life. It was everything I had hoped it would be. What I did not account for was the vast array of ruins offered at the Palatine Hill. The Hill is littered with the ruins of old Imperial Roman buildings including the Emperor’s palace. Down the hill, there are ruins from the forum of ancient days. I was blown away by the grandiosity of the experience!
2. Meeting my Biggest Celebrity Idol
I will always remember 2014 as the year I met my biggest celebrity idol, Sharon den Adel. Not only did I get to meet her once or twice, but six times all together! Even more exciting, she got to know a little bit about me. She got to know me by a first name basis and I successfully had small talk with her!! 😀 There are no words to express how kind and wonderful she is with her fans despite 15+ years of stardom in the rock music scene! I cannot wait to see her perform again in 2015!
1. Receiving an Unexpected Song Dedication from my Favorite Band
My number one travel moment of 2014 was suprisingly one that happened closest to home! During the final show I attended of the Hydra World Tour in San Francisco, California, Sharon den Adel dedicated one of my all time favorite Within Temptation songs to me! She held her hand out to me, held onto it when I tried to pull away, and looked me right in the eye and said, “this one was for you.” A song about freedom of speech and expression despite whatever odds might face you was the perfect song for them to dedicate to me. It is a song of empowerment and rightly titled, “Stand my Ground”. Click here to read my story about that fateful San Francisco concert!