Each holiday season when everyone is sharing their resolutions for the new year I like to tuck in at home with a piping hot pot of tea to review my year in travel. Flipping through thousands of pictures offers a blissful meditation and reminder of how blessed I am to zig-zag around the globe. I love reflecting on where the last 12 months have taken me so I can relive my favourite moments.
This year I made a point of pulling back the reins on excessive international travel to discover more gems in my own backyard. And while I had good fun exploring all that Ontario has to offer I had plenty of time to enjoy jaunts to Europe, Latin America and the pretty Pacific. In 2016 I adventured through 25 destinations and I’ve selected one photo from each adventure that best summarizes my impression of the place. All images were shot on Canon EOS 6D for your hungry eyes, bon appetite!
Here Are My Best Travel Photos of the Year: 25 Postcard Perfect Destinations
My first trip of the year was a jaunt to Hamilton, a city just outside of the GTA which is blossoming beautifully. My favourite moment was captured in this pretty pink room at Dundurn Castle, a 40-room Italianate-style villa built in the 1830’s.
I’m obsessed with any and all food that hails from America’s south. On my first trip to Georgia I instantly fell in love with Savannah’s charming old town and delicious restaurants but it was the photography nerd in me that geeked out at Bonaventure Cemetery. Sun danced through Spanish Moss as stoic Victorian graves left me speechless.
Vancouver, British Columbia
I’ve been to Vancouver umpteen times and it’s the innovative dinning scene found in the West Coast’s capital of cool that has me coming back again and again. It also helps that my sister lives a hop, skip and a jump from Kitsilano Beach. The most memorable moment on my recent visit, a rainy afternoon where we tip toed through Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Classical Chinese Garden. We had the whole place to ourselves, a delightful quiet meets calm in the heart of a bustling city.
Big Island, Hawaii
In March I flew over to Hawaii for the third time to pop my Big Island cherry. I took my friend Nicola along for the ride (a Polynesian virgin) and we delighted in beating our jet lag at the jaw dropping Four Seasons Hualālai. Nicola has a love for sunsets and would set his alarm each day so we never missed the magical moment. I snapped this photo of him relaxing poolside moments before the sun dipped over the horizon.
On my second visit to Oahu I wanted to visit the island’s lesser known gems. The highlight of our trip was a jaw-dropping tour of Doris Duke’s Shangri La. I snapped this picture of the backyard while muttering to myself, “Lord, the things I’d do if I had a cigarette tycoon in my family!” Also, imagine the gay pool parties?
In the Spring I enjoyed a road trip to Detroit with my cousin Chris. We spent four days zig-zagging through America’s car capital where we focussed on sipping the city’s top craft brews and wandering a handful of inspiring museums. The most unique experience for art lovers can be found at the al fresco Heidelberg Project, a community organization designed to improve the lives of people and neighbourhoods through art. A polka dot lovers dream!
Brazil has been sitting on my to do list for years so was delighted to hop on a trip which would allow me to explore three of the country’s top destinations. We started in Floripa, famous for its lagoons, waterfalls, beaches and oyster farms. On a hot sunny day I kicked back with a glass of locally produced sparkling wine while a platter of freshly shucked oysters slipped into eager mouths.
Praia do Rosa, Brazil
Located a few hours drive south of Floripa, Praia do Rosa is a breezy beach town popular with serious surfers. I snapped this photo at the crack of dawn moments after sunrise. I spent the remainder of my day sipping this trilogy of local craft beer while watching sexy surfers bounding across the beach.
Rio truly is one of the world’s most magical cities and I was tickled pink to arrive just a few weeks before the Olympics were hosted here. The best view of Ipanema Beach can be found on the rooftop of the luxurious Hotel Fasano. Quench your thirst on a sweaty afternoon with a boozy lime muddled caipirinha.
I have family who live a stones throw from Niagara-on-the-Lake so have enjoyed spending a lot of time discovering Ontario’s most developed wine region over the years. In May I took my friend Nico on a bicycle tour to sip through my favourite wineries. There’s nothing quite like spinning through lush vineyards as a gentle wind whips through your hair.
In June I road tripped through Normandy with Liberation Route Europe and had the honour to sit as a guest at the Juno Beach Centre (Canada’s WWII Museum) on D-Day. There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd during the hour long ceremony. This photo captures the essence of the event and features the regions three mayors who laid wreathes in honour of the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during WWII, of which 5,500 were killed during the Battle of Normandy.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
There’s no better way to enjoy Italy’s jaw-dropping Amalfi Coast than by sipping a massive Aperol Spritz. The classic Italian cocktail featuring Aperol, Prosecco and splash of soda offers a well deserved thirst quench after climbing up hundreds of steps from Positano to Ravello.
Rome is full of enchantment and a seriously dreamy destination for photography fans. The city is full of notable art and architecture so strap on your comfy shoes and prepare for a cobblestone street marathon. My favourite moment in Rome was on a bustling weekend when I visited the ancient Pantheon. One can’t help but feel angelic as a warm ray of light shoots through the oculus above.
Catholics with a penchant for the Pope arrive in swarms over the summer to the world’s smallest nation, The Vatican. A visit to The Vatican Museums is a must (plan for a whole day of art-ing) where you’ll come face to face with Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and Raphael’s The School of Athens. The tour ends at St Peter’s Basilica, one of the world’s most celebrated architectural wonders.
Norfolk County, Ontario
Just a short drive from downtown Toronto, Norfolk County overlooking Lake Erie offers plenty of fun for foodies. Enjoy a blissful moment of calm at Bonnieheath Estate Winery and Lavender Farm where a glass of cool vino is best sipped while sniffing through aromatic lavender fields.
I grew up in Ontario cottage country and my fondest memories as a wee one always involved summertime spent splashing through freshwater lakes in Muskoka. In August my sister and I enjoyed an afternoon paddle along Millionaire’s Row in a bright red canoe while staying at the luxurious Taboo Muskoka Resort.
The Big Apple is best enjoyed during the summer months when locals soak up the sun in Central Park and restaurant patio’s spill out onto the street from dawn until dusk. If you’re looking to get a birds eye view of Manhattan your best bet is to shoot up to the top of the Empire State Building for a view that will leave you breathless.
Whenever I visit Brooklyn I make a point to wait in line at Grimaldi’s Pizza. The iconic pizzeria recently moved a hop, skip and a jump from the Brooklyn Bridge so its an ideal reward after marching over from Manhattan. The famous pizzeria serves up huge, finger-licking-good pies on classic red and white checkered tablecloths.
This summer I was keen to check out a region of Ontario that I’d not yet visited. After I wrapped up work at the Toronto International Film Festival I embarked on a road trip with my dad to Tobermory. The wee town is a great launching point for those that want to hike the Bruce Trail and offers some of Ontario’s most inspiring scenery.
Prince Edward County, Ontario
I arrived in Prince Edward County smack dab in the middle of harvest season, just as the tree’s were beginning to turn pretty yellow, orange and red. My mother joined me for a winery hopping tour which included unforgettable sips in the lush garden at award winning Closson Chase Vineyard.
Wolfville, Nova Scotia
In the Fall I flew to Canada’s East Coast to cover Devour! The Food Film Festival in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. It’s the perfect holiday for foodies who love film. I spent my mornings rolling up my sleeves at hands on culinary seminars, afternoons featured stellar films about food and each evening an epic feast was prepared by a team of famous chefs at the Farmers Market.
Finca Rosa Blanca, Costa Rica
I ended the year with a Latin American adventure which began at Finca Rosa Blanca in Costa Rica. Located a short 15 minute drive from the San Jose Airport, Finca Rosa Blanca is a luxury ecolodge located on an organic coffee farm. Each morning I woke up to the chirp of tropical birds while sipping coffee on our suites spacious patio with offered a spectacular view of the jungle below.
Kura Design Villas, Costa Rica
Our second home sweet home in Costa Rica was at Kura Design Villas, a luxurious boutique hotel perched over the Pacific. The petite resort is located a short 15 minute drive from seven local beaches. My favourite was Playa Ventanas as it features a rustic beach surrounded by jungle as well as caves which adventure seekers can walk through at low tide.
Cartagena on Colombia’s Caribbean coast offers visitors a perfect balance between beach holiday and a city filled with history. I loved how I could be walking through Cartagena’s old walled city while spotting modern skyscrapers along the the horizon. A perfect harmony of old meets new. You’ll see Cartagena’s dichotomy best while perched over the Convento de la Popa, an ancient Catholic convent which offers beautiful views at sunset.
My final adventure of 2016 took place in Colombia’s often misunderstood capital. I spent 10 days slowly getting to know Bogota, quickly falling in love with the city’s inspiring museums, world-class graffiti and impressive dinning scene which on weekends quickly turns into a late night bacchanal. My favourite moment was spent at the W Bogota Hotel’s hip lounge where I sipped through a trilogy of cocktails prepared by dapper bartender as the hotel’s resident DJ spun Latino loving beats.