I am asked this question almost immediately after I tell someone that I am a travel advisor. If you are curious as to my answer, keeping reading below.
1. USA Proud
My favorite destination is my home sweet home of America! I know you were probably expecting something really exotic like Africa or Australia. I will always be in love with our country. Think about the song where it says “from sea to shining sea”. Between those oceans is a vast amount of land and people. The reason I love travelling in America is all the different people, cuisines, and landscapes.
I’d say my favorite things to see are our national parks. My dad was always bringing my sister and I to a new national park. Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Mt. Rushmore, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain National Park, Redwood Forest, and Mesa Verde just to name a few! I’m a nature lover by heart, so take me outside and I’m a happy girl.
I know there are several cities too that are worth mentioning! I’m partial to my West coast cities, but East coast has plenty to love! Portland, Chicago, Des Moines (that’s where I live!), San Diego, Denver, Nashville, Tampa, New Orleans, San Antonio, New York City and Washington D.C. Do you have a favorite city you like to visit??
I could go on and on about how much I love travelling America, but this blog would get WAY too long!
My very first time to Mexico was to the Tijuana area, just south of San Diego. I was 16 years old. You are probably thinking “what the heck is a 16 year old doing in Tijuana!!??” Don’t worry, I was there doing mission work with several of my classmates. Growing up in Iowa, I obviously didn’t know too much about the world yet. While the Tijuana area is VERY rough, the people there captured my heart. Even though we were building them a HOME, they had the best attitudes. Not much could get them down. As long as they had their family and their faith, they were doing well. I truly admired their hardwork. I couldn’t wait to go back to Mexico. Which I did one more time for a mission trip, then a few years later for work!
It only took about 10 years to visit Mexico again, but it was still the same amazingly friendly country. It was my first time back to Mexico as a tourist/work trip and staying at an all-inclusive resort. I stayed at the Secrets Playa Mujeres just north of Cancun. As I flew into Cancun, I couldn’t believe how BLUE the water was! I had never seen water that gorgeous! Except maybe Crater Lake in Oregon. As a work trip, I was lucky enough to visit several resorts in the Cancun area and I was happy to learn more about each one. Each resort has a beautiful white sand beach and even gave us a welcome drink! Again the people in Mexico are the reason I will keep going back.
I’ve also been to Puerto Vallarta on the West side of the country. It had a totally different feel for me. It’s got mountains to the East and the ocean to the West. It’s just beautiful! I would say that although it doesn’t have the white sand, its golden sand and its sunsets make up for it! The water isn’t as blue, but to me that didn’t matter too much. I got more of the authentic Mexico feeling from Puerto Vallarta. Which I love!
3. The Netherlands
The Netherlands has a special place in my heart. I’m sure most of you wouldn’t put this on your list, but you should! I’m connected to Holland because I am half Dutch and I’m from a town called Pella. Pella is full of Dutch people and we celebrate our heritage with Tulip Time every year. Side note: Put this on your Iowa To Do list! It happens every May!
I studied abroad in Leiden, Netherlands for 3 months in college. Needless to say I got to know the country pretty well over those few months! My boyfriend (now hubby) was also there with me. He proposed during our time there! Anyway… Amsterdam is usually the key spot for most travelers. Amsterdam has some great historic sites as well as art museums. Anne Frank House, Heineken Brewery, Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuesum are some of my favorites! For those that dare–you have to check out the Red Light District!
Other places to see while in Holland include: Leiden, Texel Island, Maastricht, Aalsmeer Flower Auction, Keukenhof, Delft, The Hague, Rotterdam, and Alkmaar. The Dutch are a proud people and they will tell you how it is. They don’t beat around the bush. They are also very kind and will help you when you ask for it. When you visit make sure to go to market. While at the market buy some fresh tulips and a stroopwafel! Stroopwafels are a very thin waffle filled with caramel. You can buy a fresh, hot one for 1 Euro! Frites (fries) with frite sauce (mayo) should also be on your list. The other delicacy in Holland…..herring with onions…..cold…. yuck. That is one thing I didn’t eat!
Ahhhh… Italia e la dolce vita. Italy is the sweet life! Italy is something special. While I haven’t been all over Italy, it’s on my list! I hit the big 3 when I visited; Rome, Florence and Venice. For your first trip this is the itinerary I would generally suggest. One week isn’t even enough time to visit these three! Rome should be on everyone’s bucket list. You can read all you want about Roman times, but you need to visit these historic sites to really get the feeling. Visiting the Colosseum and Roman Forum are humbling and educational experiences. Some of our ancestors lived, worked and walked in this city. You can walk on the original grounds they did. It’s amazing! Other sites that are MUSTS: Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, St Peter’s Basilica, Pantheon. Also spend the day in Vatican City!
You have to visit Venice, before it goes underwater (global warming sucks!)! When we were there in March, it snowed! Yes. It snowed in Venice! It was pretty funny. Venice can be super confusing with all of it’s canals and tiny streets. A map will be your best friend. Sites to see here: Piazza San Marco, Rialto Bridge, Doge’s Palace, and St Mark’s Basilica.
Florence was our final stop and it was another picturesque city! We stayed just a few blocks away from the Duomo which is the center of the city! It’s just beautiful. It towers over the city, so you can see it from everywhere. Ponte Vecchio is another fun place to go. It’s a very old bridge that is full of little shops you can look at and it has a nice view of the river. Florence also boasts some awesome art galleries that hold some of the most famous statues and artworks! Galleria dell’ Accademia is home to famous David statue and the Uffizi is home to the works of Raphael, Da Vinci and Botticelli.
Italy is obviously a huge country with coastal towns and the wine countryside. You cannot go wrong when you travel here! Oh! And the FOOD is another IMPORTANT part of Italy! Pizza, pasta and gelato were our go-to foods. There is nothing like eating gelato while looking at the Trevi Fountain or walking the streets of Venice. Each region has something they specialize in, so just ask the locals what their favorite thing is!
Bonjour! First tip for travelling in France… try to learn some key phrases in French! They can speak English fairly well, but they do appreciate you at least trying to speak French. Take a little book that can give you some good key words or phrases. I haven’t seen all of France of course, but this country is just so… adorable! Obviously Paris is a must see. There are so many museums there that you can’t miss. Some are even free! You also have to visit the Eiffel Tower.. I mean come on. If you don’t, did you even go to Paris?! Some of my favorite spots were Sacre Cour (sunsets here are to die for), Versailles and The Louvre.
France also has the best food! I loved having a baguette with cheese and spending time walking around the Eiffel Tower. If you are brave, you must try escargot (snails)! It’s not as bad as you think… I promise! Also spend time eating in sidewalk cafe drinking coffee or an espresso. Quintessential France.
As an American seeing Normandy Beach was humbling. The beach itself is so quiet as others spend time with their thoughts. Then spending time in the cemetery there really shows you how many died there. Rows and rows and rows of white tombstones are a site to behold. I feel lucky to have been able to have paid my respects to those great men.
Another favorite site for me was going to Mont Saint Michel on the coast of France. This is an island just a mile or so off the coast. It has been around since the ancient times and was part of the monastery for a long time. When I went it was only accessible during the low tide, so you were limited on your time there. I think there is now a bridge that will take you there all the time. Being on the island is just like being immersed into the middle ages. It’s stone walls are something to behold. It’s also strangely peaceful even though it’s full of tourists.
So there's my list! I couldn't pick just one city in one country.. So I had to pick several countries! Each one is so different and they all deserve to be on this list. However, I love travelling and this list could grow and grow as my life goes on!