How on earth are we now reaching the end of 2017? HOW?! I'm sure that I blinked and suddenly we had shot from May to December. 2017 has been a year of very extreme highs and very extreme lows for me but this blog is a happy place used for celebrating the beauty of travel, so I'll only focus on those nice elements! Everyone has a "bucket list" of some description, even if you may not call it that. Some people want to own a Ferrari, others want to get their dream job, I on the other hand want to travel to as many corners of the world as physically possible. This year, I've taken fewer trips but they have definitely been more extensive than in previous years. I was flicking through my Instagram photos recently thinking "wow, I've done some pretty cool things this year", so here's a big old round-up!

Morocco

The first adventure of the year took Callum and I to Morocco which was particularly exciting as it was my first time on the African continent (little did we know at this point that 2017 would feature two Africa adventures)! We were in Morocco for 5 days and every single day was filled with a different adventure; my favourites being:
  1. Camping under the stars in the Sahara Desert
  2. Riding into the Sahara Desert at sunset on camels
  3. Singing African songs around a bonfire in the Sahara Desert with new found friends
  4. Taking a boat ride under the Ozoud Waterfalls
  5. Exploring the gorgeous tiled palaces and architecture of Marrakech
  6. Getting lost in the sounds, smells and sights of the souks (and trying to resist buying ALL of the gorgeous plates)
  7. Taking lots of Instagram shots in the gorgeous Jardins Marjoelle (the previous home of Yves Saint Laurent)
  8. Driving through the winding roads of the Atlas Mountains enjoying the epic views

Isles of Scilly

Next up, two of my friends and I went to visit another friend who was living in the Isles of Scilly. While many won't have this trip on their "bucket list", it was the perfect trip to relax and spend time with some amazing people.
  1. Taking a road trip from the East to the West of the UK with my besties (with lots of singing obviously)
  2. Experience glorious sunshine and clear blue seas which I didn't think were possible in the UK!
  3. Spend some quality time with three incredible people
  4. For once, taking the time to relax and detox
  5. Eating ALL of the amazing food on the islands

Luxembourg

This was our spontaneous trip of the year. With cheap Ryanair flights and a whole bundle of Hilton hotel points at our disposal, we decided to have a quick Summer break to Luxembourg which exceeded all of my expectations!
  1. Managing to book flights and accommodation for a total of £20!
  2. Cycling through the vineyards of the Moselle Valley in the glorious sunshine
  3. Obviously also tasting the wines in the aforementioned vineyards...
  4. Wandering around the picturesque town of Vianden and exploring it's impressive castle
  5. Exploring Luxembourg City in the height of Summer and somehow avoiding all of the crowds (Luxembourg is a hidden gem)!

South Africa

2017 was the year that I became a Chartered Tax Advisor and no longer had to study whilst working full time. You know what this means? More spare time and more annual leave! I hadn't taken a holiday longer than a week for 4 years, so this was a real treat and of course, I picked my #1 bucket list destination!
  1. Loving every minute of 2 days on safari in Kruger National Park
  2. Managing to spot every animal possible (including a few rhinos and a leopard which I didn't think would be possible)!
  3. Road-tripping this stunning country with my #1 travel partner (and developing an unhealthy addiction to the podcast "My dad wrote a porno" during our long drives)!
  4. Exploring SO many gorgeous towns and cities along the Garden Route
  5. Wandering through a forest filled with rescued monkeys
  6. Eating some of the most incredible (and cheap) food
  7. Watching whales in awe while in Hermanus
  8. Facing my fears and zip-lining from mountain to mountain
  9. Falling in love with Cape Town
  10. Taking in the epic views from the top of table mountain
  11. Cramming so much adventure into a jam-packed 2 week itinerary

UK

Of course, this year hasn't only been filled with travels, here's some of my favourite things that I've got up to in the UK during the course of the year...
  1. Finally taking a trip to the Peak District whilst visiting some amazing extended family.
  2. Revel in the masterpiece that is the Lion King on the West End (and continue to sing "He lives in me" for months afterwards)
  3. Finally experience the West End performance of Aladdin and have it exceed all of my expectations my miles - the Genie in particular!
  4. Pleasing my sweet tooth at the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Afternoon tea at One Aldwych
  5. Helping a childhood American friend re-explore London
  6. Visiting Grace at uni in Portsmouth and having the MOST touristy fun-filled weekend possible!
  7. Having the most Instagram worthy afternoon tea at Sketch!
  8. Meet a whole bunch of new travel blogger friends in Leeds at the Ice Lolly "Blog at the Beach" event (and win a trip to Ibiza)!
  9. Taking a chocolate making class in London (and getting very messy)
Where have you travelled to this year? Has 2017 been fab for you?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

     

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Luxembourg Card - Grund Luxembourg Card - Vianden Scenery Luxembourg Card - Free Entry to Vianden CastleLuxembourg Card - Free Bike Rental Lots of cities have passes whereby you pay a fixed amount to gain entry to a number of attractions in that city. Most of the time, I don't think that they are worth the money but of course, there are some gems if you look hard enough! When I visited Salzburg in 2016, we purchased "The Salzburg Card" and I was very impressed with the value for money - you can read my full breakdown of the costs here. So, when I was planning my three day trip to Luxembourg and found that they had an even more impressive card (The Luxembourg Card), you can only imagine my excitement!

The Basics

Let's get things straight, this isn't a "city pass", The Luxembourg Card is available for use over the whole COUNTRY - exciting right? As you would expect, a large number of the country's main attractions (including some lovely hidden gems) are free with the pass (or give you a discount on entry costs). However, the thing that really excited me was the fact that ALL train and bus lines in the country are free with the Luxembourg Card. Coming from a country like the UK where train costs are astronomical, this is completely mind blowing for me. If the UK had an equivalent all encompassing pass, I would be buying it every weekend! I won't list all of the available attractions here, but if you are interested in taking a look, they can be viewed here.

The Price

A card that encompasses an entire country including all of their transport links must be very pricey right? Think again. The card can be purchased for one, two or three days and there is an option for individual cards (1 person) or family cards (2 - 5 people). These prices are correct as at November 2017:
Individual (1 person) Family (2-5 People)
1 Day € 13.00 € 28.00
2 Days € 20.00 € 48.00
3 Days € 28.00 € 68.00
If you had a family of 5 visiting for 3 days, the cost would therefore be as little as €4.53 per person per day!

How Much Did We Save?

Below, you can see a breakdown of all of the things we did (over three days) and how much they would have cost without the card. All transport costs are taken as estimates from Rome2Rio.
Detail EUR
Travel (Hotel to Vianden) € 5.00
Vianden - Chairlift € 4.50
Vianden - Castle € 7.00
Travel (Vianden to Hotel) € 5.00
Travel (Hotel to Grevenmacher) € 5.00
Grevenmacher - Bike Rental € 12.00
Grevenmacher - Wine Tasting € 9.00
Grevenmacher - Butterfly House € 8.00
Travel (Grevenmacher to Hotel) € 5.00
Travel (Hotel to City) € 1.00
City - Bock Casemates € 6.00
Travel (City to Hotel) € 1.00
Total € 68.50
We travelled Luxembourg at a relatively relaxed and slow pace. We could have done so many more activities (e.g. there are so many museums in Luxembourg City that we never visited - we aren't big museum fans after all), so you could easily save even more money!With the Luxembourg Card costing €28 per person for three days and us completing activities worth €68.50, we managed to save a whopping €40.50 per person! If that's not a bargain, I don't know what is! If a group of 5 adults completed our exact itinerary using the group/family Luxembourg Card, the Card would cost them €13.60 per person saving an incredible €54.90 per person! If you want to read about all of the things we got up to in Luxembourg for this price, make sure you read these blog posts:

Where To Buy / Other Benefits

The Luxembourg card can be purchased online here as well as at many locations throughout the country. Along with the card, you should receive a VERY helpful leaflet outlining all of the attractions that are free or discounted - use this as your bible! We saw so much in the leaflet that we didn't know existed and could have easily spent another three days exploring other areas of the country!

Should You Purchase The Luxembourg Card?

The short answer - yes! The long answer - If you plan on exploring more than just Luxembourg City, this card will be perfect for you. Saving money is obviously a great advantage but it also means your plans can be more spontaneous. With the ability to hop on any bus/train and just see where the day takes you is fab (and saves time queuing/paying for tickets). However, be aware that a vast majority of the attractions available on the Card in Luxembourg City are museums and if you aren't big museum fans (like us), a pass may not be worth it if you are only visiting the City. Have you ever found a great city/country pass? Let me know where - I'm a big fan!

Disclaimer: While I was kindly gifted Luxembourg Cards by the Luxembourg tourism board, all opinions are my own and I certainly would purchase Luxembourg Cards for future trips. Danielle1

     

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Luxembourg City Man Painting Cute Street "What is there to do in Luxembourg City?" "Is it worth visiting?" "How long do we need in the City?" were all questions that rattled around my brain after spontaneously booking £20 flights to Luxembourg in the Summer. During my research, I ended up getting pretty damn distracted (typical) by the possible day trips from the city. I fell in love with the idea of visiting Vianden and the Moselle Valley which left us with one day to explore Luxembourg City. Luckily, one day in the City is a perfect amount of time as it's very small and easily walkable.

9am

As with the rest of our days in Luxembourg, we made sure to stock up on a huge hotel breakfast at the Double Tree Hilton before hopping on a bus into the city centre. Normally I like to be up and out before 9am on a short city-break but we noticed that most things didn't open until around 10am, so enjoyed the lie-in! Luxembourg City Notre Dame Entrance Luxembourg City Notre Dame Stain Glass Windows

10am

Our first stop was to admire the Palais Grand-Ducal (or Palace of the Grand Dukes) for a quick photo session and look around. We quickly learnt that if you are visiting in the Summer months, you are able to book guided tours inside the Palace, so we made sure to book a tour for later on in the day! The Cathedrale Notre Dame opened at 10 and we swiftly entered before a large tour group to admire the very impressive stain glass windows. While the Luxembourg "Notre Dame" may not be be the most famous "Notre Dame" in the world, it's definitely worth peaking inside (don't miss the crypt also!)

RELATED: If city sightseeing isn't for you, don't worry, Luxembourg still has so much to offer! Maybe head to the Moselle Valley for wine tasting instead?

Luxembourg City Place De La Constitution Statue Luxembourg City Girl Looking at View Luxembourg Place De La Constitition Gardens

11am

After stumbling around the Palace and Cathedral, we headed to the Place de la Constitution for that postcard shot of the gardens from above. If there's one thing that Luxembourg City isn't short of, it's gorgeous viewpoints! When travelling, I seem to forget that I have a completely irrational fear of heights and tend to find myself in situations that scare the living daylights out of me. This obviously happened in Luxembourg when we stumbled across "Sky Village". Before we knew it, we were in a glass 360 rotating elevator heading skywards for better views of the city! Unfortunately Sky Village was only open for 8 weeks in 2017 and has now been dismantled - but if you're visiting in Summer in future years, keep an eye out to see if it will be making a come back! Luxembourg City Judiciary Buildings Luxembourg City Colour Vases Luxembourg City Le Chemin De La Corniche View Luxembourg City Couple View

12pm

With us in the mood for more beautiful viewpoints, we set off in the general direction of Le Chemin de la Corniche but got mightily distracted (and/or lost) along the way. First up on the list of distractions was Cité judiciaire (Judiciary City) which is the home of the judiciary and governmental buildings in Luxembourg. Of course, you can't enter these buildings (unless you're an important person), but the area is gorgeous and lovely to have a walk around. Now, Le Chemin de la Corniche is referred to as "The Balcony of Europe" and is supposed to have the most spectacular views of the city but I was just as impressed with the walk there! We stopped regularly to take photos of the dramatic city scenery (preferably under trees/various other shade giving obstacles as our day in the city was BLIMMIN' BOILING). Luxembourg City Cute Streets

1pm

Lunchtime! After a morning of wandering around in the boiling hot sun, we hobbled over to the closest food establishment that we could see (hopping and skipping through the shadiest areas as best as possible - almost acting as if the non-shaded floor was lava). Unfortunately this means that we ended up in a pub/bar type place with London themed decor - as I am in London on a daily basis, this wouldn't be my usual choice of restaurant when abroad but hey, it did the job!

RELATED: Not all of our days in Luxembourg were quite so warm! Read about our day trip to Vianden which was absolutely beautiful despite the drizzly weather!

Luxembourg City Map Luxembourg City Casmates du Bock Canon

2pm

Next up on our list of hot-spots was the ever-popular Casemates du Bock, a series of tunnels and look out points weaving through the city's fortified walls. While the tunnels aren't as extensive as I first thought they would be, this certainly isn't something that you should miss on a trip to Luxembourg! The fortifications were built in the year 963 (which is pretty damn impressive in itself) and give a good insight to the history of the country. The Casemates are free to enter if you have the Luxembourg Card (which I highly recommend for any trip to Luxembourg)! Luxembourg City Grund Viewpoint

3pm

We had some time to spare before our tour of the Palace and after spotting many gorgeous Instagram shots of the "Grund" area, obviously this was my next place of choice. As you can see, this day was adopting a bit of an "Instagram worthy viewpoints" theme and I am TOTALLY okay with this. At this point, the relentless sun still wasn't easing up. The obvious solution to this was to enjoy the view with an ice-cream and a drink! Grund can be accessed via a long walk down from the main city centre or a few elevators down to the lower level. We decided to be lazy and take the elevator down from the Cité judiciaire and back up again to make sure that we could get back to the Palace in time for our tour! Luxembourg City Grand Palace Luxembourg City Grand Palace Hot Chocolate House

4pm

It was finally time for us to take our tour of the Royal Palace. Unfortunately photos aren't allowed inside, so I can't show you just how lovely the Palace is - but that means you just have to visit it for yourself! The Palace is only open to the public during the Summer months and I definitely recommend visiting if you are able to! Never fear, if you are visiting in Winter instead, apparently the City has fabulous Christmas markets, so you won't be missing out! Opposite the Palace is the famous Chocolate House! If the day was cooler, we would have definitely been popping in for a luxurious hot chocolate. Instead, we just had a look around and took some photos - the cake also looks incredible!

5pm

And with that, we grabbed some food and headed to the airport for our evening flight home! While Luxembourg City is small, you won't run out of things to do if you are only spending a day or two here. We decided to skip all of the museums because of our limited time frame. As it was such a hot day, we were travelling at a snails pace compared to normal; taking time to sit and drink/spend some time in the shade was very much needed during the day - you may be able to fit much more into a day than we did! Have you ever been to Luxembourg City? How did you spend your time there?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. However, I was kindly gifted a Luxembourg Card by the tourism board. Danielle1

   

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View from Vianden Castle Girl Vianden Scenery Vianden Luxembourg Walkway A picturesque town with an impressive castle? Get me there immediately. As soon as our trip to Luxembourg was booked, Vianden was on my radar and I couldn't wait to explore!

How to Get There

Despite our first day in Luxembourg being the gloomiest of them all, we set off early with high spirits. As we were staying at the DoubleTree by Hilton which is slightly outside of Luxembourg City centre, we walked to the Dommeldange Station (rather than a station in the city centre) and hopped on the train to Ettelbruck which takes a quick 30 minutes. On arrival at Ettelbruck station, there are three separate bus stops, so be sure to stand at the correct one ("routriere 2" if I remember correctly) before hopping off the bus at Vianden Bréck. There are a few bus stops  in Vianden but this one was in the perfect place to get off and explore!

RELATED: Train and bus travel is extraordinarily easy and efficient. If you're looking for another day trip from Luxembourg City, I highly recommend a trip to the Moselle Valley!

What to Do 

Vianden is another area of Luxembourg where I would highly recommend using the Luxembourg Card! Not only was our transport to the town completely free, so were most of the attractions! If you plan your day in the same way we did, you'll only end up paying for food and drinks during the day!

The Vianden Chairlift

Vianden Chairlift View of Vianden Castle It's no secret that I am scared of heights, but I had been told by many reliable sources that the views from the chairlift were unrivalled and I will do anything for some good scenery (it's all about that Instagram grid after all). Sweaty palms and a fair amount of squealing later, we were off and it wasn't that bad after all! My hands were steadily gripped to the safety bar, so my photo taking abilities were somewhat hindered but I did it! The views definitely live up to the hype from both the chairlift itself and the viewing deck at the top!

RELATED: Do you push your fears while travelling? My fear of heights is always tested while travelling - it's safe to say that dinner in the revolving restaurant at the top of the CN Tower was an experience!

Woodland Walk to the Castle

Walk to Vianden Castle The chairlift actually takes you above the height of the castle and therefore you need to walk downhill slightly to reach the castle's entrance. Approximately 33% of Luxembourg's land is covered by beautiful woodland and this walk is no exception! It's an easy downhill stroll, however it's probably a good idea to wear sensible shoes to conquer the dirt path! But as it's such a pretty walk, you won't mind taking your time in unsuitable shoes! Catching glimpses of the castle getting closer through the trees is also exciting!

Vianden Castle

Vianden Castle Roleplay Vianden Castle Couple Undoubtedly, the castle is the main reason that most people visit Vianden! You are free to explore the castle at your own pace, so there is no reason to wait for a guided tour etc. When entering the castle, we didn't notice the audio tour headsets but they would have been helpful at some parts of the visit - predominantly the museum element where signs for items on display were in French. The castle is absolutely gorgeous and definitely worth your time if you visit Luxembourg!

RELATED: I seem to find myself always visiting rural castles in Europe - have you read about my trip to Burg Eltz?

Take a Wander Around the Town

Vianden River Scenery Vianden Sculpture While the castle steals the limelight and is the reason most people visit Vianden, the rest of this little town is definitely worth your time too! Vianden is filled with picturesque little streets lined with gorgeous buildings and plenty of colourful flowers. The houses in Luxembourg are unlike anywhere I have ever seen before. While many of the houses don't depict a particularly modern style, you can tell that this is a very rich country and most of the houses are maintained to perfection.

Eat All the Gorgeous Food

Banana Nutella Crepe As with most picture perfect towns, there are lots of cute little eateries lining the streets. We opted for a crepes - obviously!

The Things We Didn't Get To Do

As with anywhere, there were a few bits that we didn't get to do which may spark your interest:
  • Trinitarian Church - After searching TripAdvisor before our visit, a quick look inside this church was on my to-do list but we ended up accidentally walking straight past it - oops!
  • Adventure Park Tree Climber - If you're from the UK, think "Go Ape" - this would be a great idea to keep the kids entertained after dragging them round the cultural sights! We definitely would have joined in if we were suitably dressed.
  • Maison de Victor Hugo - A small museum about the French novelist Victor Hugo, set in the house that he lived in for a short period in the 1870s.
Have you ever visited Vianden? Did you have a good time?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

      ESCAPING ESSEX - Looking for a good day trip from Luxembourg City? Vianden is the place to be! With an impressive castle and gorgeous side streets, it is the perfect place to explore!
Moselle Valley View of River Our trip to Luxembourg was filled with sunny weather and long relaxing days, one of which took place in the Moselle Valley region of the country. We were stuck for ideas for the last day of our trip (we had already decided to dedicate the other two days to Luxembourg City and Vianden), but when colleague of mine suggested a day in the Moselle Valley region - I quickly fell in love with the idea after a quick google image search!

Where Is It?

The Moselle Valley is a region in Eastern Luxembourg, North-Eastern France and South-Western Germany, so if you are crossing borders between these three countries and happen to do so through the Moselle Valley area, make sure you stop and explore! The area centres itself around the Moselle River and has jaw-dropping views no matter which way you turn. But alas, pretty views aren't the only draw to this area - the Moselle Valley is also famed for being a producer of high-quality white and sparkling wines (yippee)!

RELATED: I've visited the Moselle Area of Germany previously - have you read about my trip to Burg Eltz? It is the most beautiful castle! 

How To Get There

As the Moselle Valley is such a large area of Luxembourg, you will need to decide which town to visit (it's possible to do more than one in a day if you travel fast). We decided to visit Grevenmacher (after some very intricate decision making that revolved around the question "what town can we get the most free things from our Luxembourg Card?") You can get to Grevenmacher using bus 130 from Centre Royal bus stop. The bus runs hourly and you can find timetables here. There are a few bus stops with "Grevenmacher" in the name, we hopped off at Grevenmacher Tanneurs and it was the perfect location.

Our Itinerary

Hire Bikes and Cycle Around the Vineyards

Moselle Valley Grevenmacher Bike Hire Grevenmacher Views Vineyard Moselle Bike Girl Resting Grevenmacher Vineyard Using the Luxembourg Card, bike hire was free for up to 24 hours from a nearby campsite. The bikes were good quality and didn't give me severe bum ache (I have been known to struggle walking after riding a bike before). We planned to do the Circular Walk of Nature and Wine Discovery route but found out after a very steep hill climb that bikes weren't allowed on a certain part of the trail and therefore stuck to the lower levels of the vineyards and the river front. As it was such a hot day and there was very little shade, being on the bikes was the perfect way to get around as it meant you got some breeze! We had a great time just cycling and exploring, this ended up being the majority of our day!

Take Hundreds of Photos Along The River

Moselle Valley Grevenmacher River Photos Moselle Valley Grevenmacher With the sun shining, the river looked absolutely gorgeous and I couldn't help but stop every few minutes to take a picture... or two... or three. I remember thinking the river area of the Moselle was beautiful on our train ride through Germany last year to reach Burg Eltz, so to be able to stop and enjoy the views properly (i.e. not on a train) was great!

Explore the Town Centre

Luxembourg Cute Buildings Luxembourg Yellow House On the hunt for lunch, we wandered into the town centre which is set back from the river and of course, as with the rest of Luxembourg,the buildings were gorgeous! The buildings throughout the entirety of Luxembourg were really stunning, a true mix of old and new styles and everything looked immaculate at all times. Luxembourg is a rich yet small country and this could be seen through the always prim and polished exteriors.

Go Wine Tasting with Bernard Massard

Bernard Massard Moselle Valley Bernard Massard Wines We made a slight error when planning our trip to Grevenmacher by visiting on a Monday. More careful research would have told us that Bernard Massard aren't open on a Monday for vineyard tours and wine tasting (which is free with the Luxembourg Card). However, the extensive shop is open all days of the week and is definitely worth a visit! On explaining to the lovely shop assistant that we were hoping to to a wine tasting and vineyard tour, she gave us an explanation of the wines they have on offer and allowed us to taste a few!

Jardin Des Papillons

Jardin Des Papillons Jardin Des Papillons Luxembourg Butterfies Luxembourg After returning the bikes to the campsite (side note: probably the nicest campsite I have ever seen), we went to the nearby butterfly garden before returning to the bus. Butterflies have a significant meaning within my family, so I loved wandering around and snapping photos of the beautiful creatures.

The Things We Didn't Get to Do In the Moselle Valley

Take a Cruise on MS Princess Marie-Astrid

The Princess Marie-Astrid is a large boat on the river Moselle which offers a wide range of entertainment. From simply hopping on board to enjoy the scenery from the river, to entertaining themed nights and even a good old Sunday Lunch! The MS Princess Marie-Astrid is not open on Mondays, check here for timetables.

The Printing Museum

Also closed on a Monday (top tip - don't visit Grevenmacher on a Monday!) is the Printing Museum which houses items dating from the 1930s used to make playing cards. Entry is free on the Luxembourg Card and the building looked small and worth a quick stop while you are passing by. Are you planning a trip to Luxembourg? If so, be sure to add a day trip to the Moselle Valley!

Disclaimer: In light of full disclosure, we did receive our Luxembourg Cards for free on behalf of the Luxembourg Tourism Board, however all thoughts are my own, as always. 

Danielle1 THE MOSELLE VALLEY - When visiting Luxembourg, be sure to visit the country's wine production area - the Moselle Valley!