When it comes to traveling — for me, at least — every year creates a hard act to follow. As a young writer back in the 70s, I declared, "You can never exhaust Europe of what it has to offer." For more than 30 summers I've been lucky to "live" that statement, and keep up with my own challenge.
In 2012, my focus was on Europe's blockbuster cities. That year we produced 10 TV shows that pulled together the best of London, Paris, Venice, Florence and Rome. This past year, 2013, had me more in the fringes. While I enjoyed plenty of Italy and France, I got to broaden my field of vision with adventures in Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Russia, Scotland and Iceland.
And now, with the holidays behind us, I get to set my sights on 2014.
It's a tradition for me to start my planning by sitting down with our annual tour catalog. It's filled not only with three dozen "best of" itineraries, but also gorgeous photos of my favorite destinations, and the smiling faces of our travelers embracing the good life on the road. It's a print version of what Parisian shoppers call "window licking." Paging through it, my imagination gets to try on different vacations.
I'm tempted by Portugal's mix of hard-scrabble cities, sweet Port wine, inviting cobbles, wistful blue tiles, and weather-beaten faces. The people and places of Eastern Europe beckon, too, with a charm and confidence that happily knocks their tumultuous 20th century firmly into the past. Sicily, the island that cranks-up Italy's playful chaos to a cultural torrent, is high on my list, too: I dream of being back in the markets of Palermo, savoring a montage of singing merchants, feisty old widows in black who gossip with little more than winks and hand gestures, and a cuisine that seems to say, "We Sicilians may be conquered time after time, but eating well is the best revenge."
While my wanderlust is pulling me in lots of directions, I also need to factor in my work load (poor me). I'll need to spend several weeks with my TV crew, producing six new shows, covering Amsterdam and the Netherlands, Prague, Berlin, and Italy's Veneto and Cinque Terre.
Being pulled in so many different directions, where will I go to just have fun? Maybe back to where I made that opening statement, when I was trying to design the best three-week experience that Europe has to offer. My classic Best of Europe in 21 Days tour is still that.
This year I may just hop aboard one of those trips, and ride along with a happy gang of first-time travelers to Europe. Now that would be a tough act to follow.
And where will your travel dreams take you in 2014? This month's Travel News offers a few ideas and tips, including the latest on Europe's low-cost airlines, my takes on Iceland and Sevilla, readers' weirdest food experiences, and my video on Copenhagen cruising. Enjoy the ride.
All of us here wish you a Happy New Year, with travel dreams that come true in 2014, and new ones that follow for many years after.