Lifestyle & Culture

Jackie Harding: Three new destinations, three happy returns as I plan post-pandemic travel

Travel seems so unrealistic at this stage of the global coronavirus crisis, and I’m, as I am sure are others, yearning to feel that excitement you feel as you plan for a future trip. Unfortunately, the likelihood that we will be vacationing internationally any time soon seems doubtful. So I have set myself a challenge – I am creating a list of six post-pandemic travel destinations for the future – three re-visits and three first-visits.

My re-visits were difficult as you often feel a sense of loyalty to the places once travelled to, almost like an old familiar acquaintance. Hopefully they all provided you with joy, excitement and pleasure and deserve a revisit, as it’s unlikely we managed to see everything each location had to offer!

The first-visits obviously offer unending potential for excitement and adventure.

My First Visit list looks like this (but is continually expanding)

Finland

I grew up reading the gloriously magical Moomin books written by Tove Jansson and I’ve always wanted to visit the lakes and islands in Finland, which make this a summer vacation. The idea of sailing around the islands, stopping to hike and pick cloudberries and lingonberries by the bucketful, and lighting a fire on a remote beach to cook dinner sounds pure heaven.

You could literally stay awake all night as the sun barely sets!

Finland’s “Everyman’s Rights” mean that you can venture just about anywhere in the 40 national parks as long as you respect the nature and tidy up after yourself. I am also hopelessly fond of Christmas so a winter visit to Lapland would also mollify my Santa Claus dreams and then there are the Northern Lights. The only way to top that would to be to see it all via a dog sled.

The city of Helsinki is a coastal town and a hub of design, culture, art, history and food. After a massive fire in the 1800’s the redesigned city now has neo-classical boulevards and is extremely easy to explore whether by public transport or by foot.

Finland is the “World’s Happiest Country 2020” so why on earth would I not go?

Romania

My Romanian friend often tempts me to visit her country with photos of vacations on Facebook. Romania appears a relatively affordable destination with great restaurants and shopping.

Geographically the country has rolling hills, rugged mountains (Carpathians), the Black Sea and forests aplenty, so something for every taste.

With the temperate climate, the summers are hot and apparently the best time to visit is early April to October. Although Romania and Count Dracula go hand in hand, I think there is more to this country than vampire stories, such as fascinating cities, medieval fortresses and unspoilt countryside such as the Danube Delta.

Of course my motorcycling husband votes to ride the famous Transfagarasan Road in the Carpathian Mountains, 150kilometers of
waterfalls, lakes and mountains all to be seen, if you dare look, from dozens of hairpin “twisties.” The highest road in Romania is the Transalpina, 2,145 meters at the highest point, 145 kilometers of endless “twisties” through forests and alpine peaks. I guess some negotiation on modes of transport for this visit might be on the cards.

Corsica

As the place that Napoleon Bonaparte called home, it has always seemed a location that offers more than your typical Mediterranean island. A mountainous island offering hiking, but with beaches offering places to relax and forget the stresses of every day life, in temperatures that demand long cool drinks and lazy days….what more could I want?

Food!

With Corsica being a French island near Italy the food could only be heavenly.

Bonaparte’s home is now a museum in Ajaccio, but the island hosting invading Greeks, Romans, Moors and Goths means there is plenty of early history to explore too. Corsica reads as an adventure in every article I found, and all inspire me to visit.

My Re-Visit list looks like this….

Croatia

My visit to Croatia last year was wonderful and I fell in love with Istria and the lovely city of Rovinj. The crystal clear, blue, sea and stunning views along the coastline are firmly imprinted on my memory. The region of Istria definitely calls out for more exploration but I would also like the opportunity to visit more of the islands dotted along the coastline.

I didn’t get to Dubrovnik during my visit and, although I still don’t fancy the crowds that go along with being one of the most popular locations in Croatia, I would like to visit for a day or two just to see what all the fuss is about!

Switzerland

Another country that I feel I only touched upon was whilst on a motorcycle tour with a group of expat riders. The thing with travelling with bikers is that they are there for the riding of course. But as a passenger I often pass through a town and think, “Ohh that looks worth exploring”, and then pass on through.

Switzerland was not at its best during my most recent visit, with grey skies, rain and gloomy days but the kicker was it was still beautiful. Imagine what it looks like when the weather is perfect. The area of The Engadin calls to me for hiking and picnicking, as does the opportunity to ride through the mountain passes for my husband, as most were closed to late season snow on our trip.

After my trip I read a book called “The Slow Train To Switzerland” by Diccon Bewes, the book retracing the steps of one of Thomas Cook’s first conducted tours. I spent most of the book enviously looking at Google Earth at the places visited.

Most definitely some re-visiting required now.

Provence, France

My summer vacation in 2017, based in the ancient city of Arles, was slightly hampered by the extremely high temperatures France was suffering with at the time. Most of our exploration of the stunningly picturesque hill towns was dominated by searching out places to refill our water bottles and our routes dictated by patches of shade!

I really loved the area though and we certainly only touched the surface of towns and countryside to explore. We were so keen to fit a serious amount of exploration into a week we didn’t even visit any vineyards.

Lesson learned.

Next time I want to travel more inland to the city of Avignon, the picturesque Lourmarin once loved by Churchill and maybe a side trip to Cassis.

So whilst a trip anywhere, anytime soon seems unlikely I am going to pander to my imagination and allow a dream or two of unexplored beaches and towns, perspiring glasses of local chilled wines and plates heaped with local delicacies.

Why don’t you tell us where you are planning to visit during your post-pandemic travel, either in the future or in your dreams? After all, you can go anywhere in your imagination … no passport necessary!

JACKIE HARDING IN PROVENCE

About the author:

Jackie Harding was born in the United Kingdom. As a longtime expat, she’s lived in Boston for 12 years and in the Netherlands for the past nine years.

Trained as a nurse in the U.K., she worked for nine years in the United States as a special education teacher’s assistant. Since moving to the Netherlands, she has discovered writing and photography.

Writing for Dispatches since 2016, Jackie has written about her travels around Europe as well as about expat life and issues.

She also covered the Women’s March Amsterdam.

She’s married to British businessman Martin Harding and is the mother of two international adult children.

You can read more of Jackie’s work for Dispatches here.

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