Travelooney’s Random Travel Awards 2017 – Part 2

Travelooney Travel Awards cover 2

2017 was a busy travel year for me and I’m many European memories and experiences richer as I start off 2018. Therefore I’d like to “reward” some of the destinations and locations I’ve been priviledged to visit in 2017, with my own Travelooney Travel Awards. I call them random as I naturally just choose between places I’ve been visiting throughout the year, but I think they could still inspire you to pack your bags and book that ticket here in 2018. So take a look…

Historic attraction

Tintern Abbey, Wales

The term ‘historic attraction’ covers quite a lot, but one historic place that really stuck with me last year was the ruins of Tintern Abbey in the south of Wales. Not the ruins alone, but the entire scene surrounding them, with tree covered hills wrapping this place in natural beauty. A place where you really feel the long history’s presence, and a spot that shouldn’t be missed when exploring the lovely land of Wales. You can reach the village of Tintern by a short bustrip from Chepstow.

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Exploring the ruins of Tintern Abbey in Wales

Coolest accommodation

Marktgasse Hotel, Zürich, Switzerland

From hostel dorms to guest houses. From mountain retreats and luxury hotels. I tried quite a few different forms of accommodation during my travels in 2017, and I love when places have a unique feel, like when I spent a night on a hostel boat in Bristol Harbour. But it’s difficult to beat my stay at Markgasse Hotel in the historic Niederdorf neighbourhood of Zürich, where I had my own little suite, including a private rooftop terrace with amazing views to the city’s skyline and the River Limmat below. A modern hotel housed in a historic building that recently went through a well balanced restoration.

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The junior suite’s private rooftop terrace

Best train journey

West Highland Line, Scotland

Happiness is a scenic train journey. Simple as that! And in the spring of 2017 I got the chance to follow the tracks along the West Highland Line in Scotland. A trip that definitely finds itself among the top railway experiences in Europe, and that I would love to take again someday.

You can set off from Edinburgh, but the route officially starts from Glasgow‘s Queen Street Station – and leads to two different destinations on the coast of the West Highlands. Mallaig in the North and Oban further South. But the real highlight is the hours you spend on the tracks, as you roll past towering green hills and enormous sun-reflecting lochs.


Like ducks in a pond – colourful boats in the harbour of Mallaig in Scotland

Most tasty pizza

Fire and Brew, Bath

You don’t necessarily have to go to Italy to find a good pizza. I found a delicious and highly addictive pizza in England last summer, in my temporary neighbourhood of Oldfield Park in Bath. On a corner of the local high street Moorland Road, a relatively new pizzabar-concept called Fire and Brew offers mouthwatering pizzas, and combined with an interesting selection of artisan beers – this place is a big hit with the locals.

A place that is definitely worth the walk – or the short busride – from downtown Bath. The menu is changing frequently, but the ‘Moorland’ pizza with pepperoni, chorizo, red onion, fresh parsley and chili flakes seems to be going strong. You can even order sweet dessert-pizzas!

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‘Moorland’ is my favourite pizza at Fire & Brew in Bath, England

Best road trip

Picos de Europa, Spain

Like with a scenic train journey, there are few better activities in the world than a good road trip that leads to new adventures – and last spring my girlfriend and I took the car from Madrid to the North of Spain. Not to the beaches, but to the Picos de Europa mountain range, which is a surprisingly underrated area of stunning natural beauty.

Picos de Europa is protected as a National Park that stretches across three different regions – Asturias, Cantabria and Castilla y León – and impresses visitors with jagged mountains, wild rivers and rustic mountain villages. Take me back please!

Picos de Europa

The views are stunning along the roads when you travel around Picos de Europa

Most impressive religious building

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain

The iconic cathedral of Santiago de Compostela has through hundreds of years been the goal to reach for pilgrims that walk Camino de Santiago – or the Way of St. James as it’s called in English. A route taking them from Southern France to the northwestern Spanish region of Galicia, where they end their pilgrimage at this historic landmark.

I would personally like to give it a go one day, especially since my girlfriend’s family is from Galicia, but last year I arrived the easy way – by car. Still it was a great experience to walk into this religiously important city and to enter this impressive cathedral. Maybe next time I’ll arrive with sore feet?

Santiago de Compostela

A look inside the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain

Coolest jazz café

Café Latino, Ourense, Spain

I’m getting more and more fond of jazz clubs these years. There is just something magical about these classy musical hubs, where the walls are often adorned with black and white photographs of jazz’ greatest musicians. Like walls of fame. Besides, jazz musicians seem incredibly passionate about their music and their instruments. It’s inspiring to sit back with a drink or a cup of coffee and just forget the world for a while.

During a short stay in the Spanish city of Ourense in Galicia (which was a big positive surprise in itself), my partner and I had the pleasure of catching the last few tunes of a free concert at Café Latino – which has been in business for more than 25 years. We also dropped in again next morning, for a light breakfast including some tasty churros. A highly atmospheric café with that unique jazz club feeling.

Cafe Latino

You can almost feel the jazz in this shot from Café Latino in Ourense, Spain

Most memorable exhibition

The Family of Man, Clervaux, Luxembourg

Sometimes you leave a gallery or an exhibition without being affected at all, other than having had some brief entertainment – like having eaten a tasteless meal. This is certainly not the case with The Family of Man, which is a permanent photo exhibition by Edward Steichen, housed in the beautiful Clervaux Castle in Northern Luxembourg.

The collection consists of 503 black and white “everyday photos” from 273 different photographers around the world, and it was created to show the world how similar we humans are no matter where and what we come from. It was originally on display at MoMA in New York from 1955, before it travelled the world and ended up here in Clervaux. And not surprisingly it’s listed by UNESCO as a World Memory. An experience that stays with you for a long time and it’s definitely worth checking out if you find yourself visiting the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

Family of Man

Plan a couple of hours to take in ‘The Family of Man’ at Clervaux Castle, Luxembourg

Best “underground” experience

Gough’s Cave, Cheddar, England

This was my best underground experience during 2017 – literally. The village of Cheddar is mostly connected to the famous cheese originating from there, and you shouldn’t miss out on a piece or two from The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company when visiting, but Cheddar is more than meets the nose.

The village is located on the edge of some spectacular British nature, both above and under ground, which is an attraction by its own right – like Gough’s Cave that takes you underground to a magical world of limestone stalagmites and stalactites, as a part of the whole Cheddar Gorge & Caves experience.

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A replica of ‘The Cheddar Man’ is one of the treasures inside Gough’s Cave

Best Christmas atmosphere

Vienna, Austria

The last few years I have had the pleasure of visiting a lot of European cities and capitals during the Christmas season, but few are as beautiful as Vienna that I visited this past December. A city that’s a stunning sight all year around, but even more so dressed in twinking lights and a large number of Christmas market stalls. The only challenge is to choose which ones to visit – but I did check out my fair share of them.

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Vienna is definitely one of Europe’s best Christmas destinations

See more awards in part 1 here

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By Brian Schæfer Dreyer