Looking Back: 2014 Travels
As 2014 comes to an end, I am looking back at the trips I took this year. All in all, it was quite a year of travel and I honestly enjoyed every minute of it!
La Paz, Bolivia
I celebrated the New Year in La Paz, Bolivia and it was really such a fun night. It was the last official night of our South America tour, so our group got the nicest hotel we could find (FYI, there are almost no luxury hotels in Bolivia) and celebrated into the wee hours. I knew 2014 was going to be an amazing year because I ate 12 grapes at midnight and made 12 wishes per Bolivian tradition. ;)
New Years Day, I flew to Colombia and was ready to make the most of my 15 hour layover. My friends and I wandered around La Candelaria (Old Town Bogota) and saw as much as we could see before it got dark. The city was eerily empty since nearly everything was closed on New Years Day - we didn’t plan that one very well! Once darkness fell, we actually were warned by local police to leave the area and took that as a sign to spend the rest of our layover in the safety (but incredible boredom) of the airport.
Amazingly, I managed not to have a single trip in February. This was the only month this year I didn’t at least travel somewhere either by car or by airplane and I’m honestly kind of miffed that I missed getting somewhere every single month!
New York, NY
I met my travel buddy extraordinaire (aka Chris) at the end of January. By mid-March, we decided we were ready to travel together. On an incredible whim, we booked insanely cheap fares to New York and hit the road. Chris was clearly trying to impress me and used one of his United 1K upgrade certificates to get us fully lie-flat seats for our red-eye flight out. From there, we had such a great time. We got into the city so early the next morning that there was no way we could check in to our hotel. Instead, we went to the Google New York office and rode scooters and explored for a few hours - our favorite part of the trip! We were also able to meet up with a friend of mine and a friend of Chris’ and have some very delicious food (I really cannot say enough about how amazing Briciola is).
It was in Vancouver that Chris and I really hit our traveling stride. This was another trip we booked on a whim and we did it solely because Vancouver’s tourism board was promoting some really great hotel rates and because Chris had never been (despite being Canadian). We burned some miles and headed up for one of my favorite weekend trips. We stayed at the Fairmont Waterfront and the amazing Shangri-La (still one of our favorite hotels in the world), did some shopping, saw another friend of mine, ate more delicious food, and biked around Stanley Park. I even threw together a city guide when we got home. We’ll be back for the amazing city and the amazing Shangri-La!
I traveled to Arizona, my home state, for the wedding of one of my favorite friends from college. She and her husband had the most beautiful ceremony and reception at the Arizona Biltmore and after, I was able to spend a bit of time with my family before heading back home.
Neither Chris nor I had ever been to Portland, but all I hear is how amazing that city is! Since we were behind the curve, we decided to check it out but honestly, we didn’t love it. For me, if I wanted to go to the Pacific Northwest, I would rather head to Seattle or Vancouver. That being said, we did a lot of eating, visited Multnomah Falls, the Portland Japanese Garden, walked around Pearl Street and the Saturday Market, and drank a lot of beer. I threw together another city guide based on our experiences.
Los Angeles, CA
I headed to Los Angeles to spend the weekend with some wonderful friends from high school and celebrate one who was graduating from USC with her Masters degree. We checked out the Andaz West Hollywood while we were there.
San Diego, CA
The weekend after we had been in LA, we went back down south to San Diego. I’ve been a hundred times, but Chris had only been once and didn’t have much time to see the city. We checked in to the Andaz San Diego and I took Chris to Coronado Island and La Jolla and then up the coast via the Pacific Coast Highway all the way to Huntington Beach. The next day, we caught a Padres game at Petco Park and met up with a friend who was in town. Our last day, we visited the USS Midway and my favorite restaurant in Balboa Park. With many visits to San Diego under my belt, I threw together another city guide when we got back home.
To maintain our crazy travel schedule and spend our third weekend in a row on the road. We headed back to Arizona for another dear friend’s wedding, which was held south of Tucson. We nearly melted in the almost summer Arizona heat, but had a great time in the desert at the Westin La Paloma Resort.
San Juan, PR
San Juan was one of our two crazier trips this year. Per usual, we flew out on a Friday night and returned on a Sunday night. In case you aren’t aware, San Juan is over 6,000 miles from San Francisco, so needless to say - it was a quick trip. We checked in to the Ritz Carlton San Juan and worked on getting in as much beach and pool time as possible. We also managed to check out Old Town San Juan, which is absolutely perfect. For some reason, there tend to be a lot of cheap flights to San Juan, so I think we’ll be back!
Big Flat, CA
By the time we got around to looking at flights for 4th of July, everything was astronomically expensive. Being the problem-solvers and travel fanatics that we are, we had to do something and finally decided to go “glamping”. After searching low and high, we settled on renting an adorable little cabin on the Trinity River up north in the middle of nowhere. Strawhouse Resort was an incredible find and we spent three days doing a lot of reading and enjoying the quiet.
Los Angeles, CA
At the end of July, it was back to Los Angeles for the third wedding this year. This time, we celebrated Chris’ boss and his wife in Topanga Canyon. We spent the morning before the wedding on Malibu beach and spent the day after at the Getty Museum and walking along Venice Beach.
This was one of my favorite trips this year. Chris wanted to plan a “mystery trip” and did the most amazing job! I had absolutely no idea where we were going until we arrived at our gate in Los Angeles – we were going to London! This was another crazy trip – this time we had a three day weekend, but we flew out Friday night and returned home by Monday night. We stayed at the Intercontinental London Westminster and I wrote a couple of recaps here and here. We fit in as much as possible including the British Museum, Covent Garden, Hyde Park, seeing a friend of Chris’, Buckingham Palace and even Google London.
September was another month chock full of travel. We flew to Washington DC for the first of two east coast weekends in a row and stayed at the lovely Park Hyatt Washington D.C. As expected, it was incredibly hot and muggy, but we met more of my friends for brunch, went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, had a special dinner at the hotel restaurant, and rode bikes along the Potomac to take in all the monuments.
The second weekend in a row flying from west to east, we ended up in another incredibly hot and muggy location – Miami. We had reservations at the SLS Hotel South Beach and spent time getting rained on at the beach. Later, we ate Publix subs, had another memorable dinner where it began pouring rain into the restaurant (which had a false roof), and spent the next day in Miami’s arts district and at the Wynwood Walls.
At this point in the year, it was time for my annual “big” trip. Chris and I used a ton of miles and points to experience true luxury travel to and from Asia. We flew out to Tokyo in Singapore Suites and stayed at the iconic Park Hyatt Tokyo. While in Tokyo, we experienced extreme rush hour on the Tokyo Metro (where I was more squished than I have ever been in my life), explored the many neighborhoods of Tokyo, visited Meiji Shrine, saw a show at the infamous Robot Restaurant, and took a tour out to Mount Fuji and Lake Ashi in the countryside. I also wrote a recap here.
Seoul, South Korea
From Tokyo, we flew to Seoul. We visited the Demilitarized Zone at the border of North and South Korea, sampled some Korean barbecue with a very exasperated waitress, got completely soaked in the pouring rain, took refuge in the War Memorial of Korea, and took in several of the city’s famous palaces.
Hong Kong and Macau
Hong Kong was our final stop on our trip and was our favorite of the three cities. We killed it with the planning and took early morning gondolas to the Big Buddha on Lantau Island, managed to see the view at the top of Victoria Peak, took a sunset cruise on a traditional junk boat in the harbor, visited the highest bar in the world, then figured we’d detour to Macau for a day where we saw China’s version of Las Vegas. Finally, we took another amazing flight home in Cathay Pacific’s First Class.
Los Angeles, CA
We took another weekend and went back to Los Angeles just to go to Disneyland. I have a soft spot for Disney and love visiting, so I try to go at least once a year to either Disneyland or Disney World.
After carefully planning my first ever visit to Asia, I returned just a month later! I hadn’t planned on it, but this time, it was for work. I checked another Park Hyatt off my list, the Park Hyatt Shanghai and only had one day free for sightseeing. I was still able to see the Yu Garden (my favorite garden maybe ever), go shopping in Xin Tian Di and Tian Zi Fang, and check out a few Chinese factories (this was the work part). The best part of being in town for work was absolutely the fact that we were on per diem for dinner. That meant checking out Din Tai Fung for soup dumplings, Kagen for teppanyaki, and Mr. & Mrs. Bund for French food with an incredible view of Shanghai.
Again, Shenzhen was for work and here, there was no time for sightseeing. I did see a couple more factories and lots of our products being made! Once work was done, we crossed over into Hong Kong for a last night in Asia (and a last fancy meal) and flew home from there.
Prescott, Grand Canyon and Phoenix, AZ
I brought Chris home to Arizona to experience “American Thanksgiving” as the Canadians call it. We squeezed in a trip to the Grand Canyon and a visit to Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, which I’ve been meaning to try for ages - you MUST go.
Prescott and Phoenix, AZ
Back to Arizona - for Christmas this time.
It was really quite a year and I can say without hesitation that it was my best yet. I met my dream travel buddy, checked 5 new countries off of my list, got a new job in October, and overall visited 7 countries, 5 states, and one US territory. I'm really looking forward to new travels in 2015 and I hope you'll be along for the ride. Happy New Year!
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Just a girl with a full-time job and a full-time obsession with traveling. It's best to LiveTraveled.